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AutoMatters & More: A mega-fan’s stunning tribute to Disneyland: the “Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad”

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland
(Jan Wagner)

Disney Parks enable guests to actually experience the magic of Disney live and in-person, and in ways that Walt Disney might never have even imagined. Now, as we continue to adapt to coexisting in a world with COVID-19, the Disneyland Resort has made a spectacular return towards what we had taken for granted before the pandemic forced closure of the Disney Parks and turned our lives upside down. Alongside mega attractions that include my personal favorite: “STAR WARS: Rise of the Resistance,” nighttime spectaculars are back, including the “Main Street Electrical Parade,” the “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show and “World of Color.”

Architect and Disney super-fan Dave Sheegog has done what most of us can only dream about doing. For over 20 years, in his family’s Anaheim backyard, Dave and his helpers have been building and continue to maintain the “Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad” — a magical, Disneyland-themed backyard garden railroad layout that includes exquisitely detailed miniatures of several Disneyland attractions. Perhaps, if he had been so inclined, Dave could have been a Disney Imagineer.

A functional, miniature Von Roll Skyway leads visitors towards the backyard. There you will find the familiar image of Mickey Mouse at the entrance of Disneyland, with the Main Street train station in the background; Sleeping Beauty Castle with the Disneyland Band out front; miniature Disney trains pulled by replicas of iconic Disneyland engines; water features; the Casey Jr. train; the Haunted Mansion; Splash Mountain; the Temple of Doom; Beast’s Castle; Rapunzel’s Tower; and much, much more — even hidden Mickeys!

Miniature Von Roll Skyway enters the Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad
Miniature Von Roll Skyway enters the Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad
(Jan Wagner)

As is explained in Dave’s fascinating 2009 article in Garden Railways Magazine (https://www.cptrr.com/garden-railways), he grew up within walking distance of Disneyland, where he could hear the steam whistles of the Disneyland Railroad as the trains took guests on a “Grand Circle Tour” around Disneyland. He worked at Disneyland’s canoe attraction during summer breaks from college, and had annual passes for many years thereafter. That inspired him to design and construct his own Disney-themed miniature railroad garden, decades later, in his backyard. His professional skills as an architect have, no doubt, informed the incredible quality, attention to detail and accuracy of his amazing creation.

This is very much an ever-changing work-in-progress, as is Disneyland itself. It began with a table-top scale model (one-inch equals one-foot), complete with miniature polymer clay models and rockwork, in the family’s dining room. Using that as a starting point, he then made adjustments to it over time to take into account the topography of his backyard, sight lines for photography, track layout and major plantings, while additionally leaving room for grass and open space so that his family could also enjoy the more-typical uses of a backyard.

Miniature Sleeping Beauty Castle
Miniature Sleeping Beauty Castle
(Jan Wagner)

Photographs on the website (https://www.cptrr.com) show how some of this, including the locomotives, was built. The rock features are made of concrete over foam. The structures utilize a variety of materials, including wood, plaster, plywood, PVC, cast resin and laser-cut acrylic. Techniques were learned to work with all of the varied materials, and to paint them so that they would look realistic, even as they weather over time. Trains were, for the most part, scratch-built — as is explained, along with construction techniques for working with concrete and accommodating water, on the Burnsland modeling forum at: https://www.cptrr.com/burnsland-com-threads. Pumps keep the water flowing, in part to help mask the sounds of traffic on the other side of the painted backdrop. There is an irrigation system for the locally-sourced plantings. Since most of this remains outside year-round, ongoing maintenance is performed.

Miniature Disneyland Railroad train at the Main Street, U.S.A. station
Miniature Disneyland Railroad train at the Main Street, U.S.A. station
(Jan Wagner)

Dave and his family generously invite the public-at-large — of all ages — to visit free-of-charge, during Open Houses that are typically held several times per year (occasionally, small animals visit uninvited). Advance registration is required, and is limited to 250 persons per Open House. Go to https://www.cptrr.com to subscribe to their email notifications list. If you visit, be sure to sign the Guest Book, and pick up a copy of the “The Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad Activity Sheet,” which will prompt you to discover dozens of Disney-themed details that you might otherwise miss.

Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad backyard garden layout
Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad backyard garden layout
(Jan Wagner)

To see videos on YouTube, search for “Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad.” For information about the Disneyland Resort, visit: https://disneyland.disney.go.com.

To see the most photos and the latest text, and to explore a wide variety of content dating back to 2002, visit AutoMatters & More at AutoMatters.net. On the Home Page, search by title or topic, or click on the blue ‘years’ boxes.

Copyright © 2022 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #741


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