Disneyland Tour: Handcar


He handcar on display on a side track beside Main Street Station has quite a story behind it. The car was built by the Kalamazoo Company (better known for their patented musical instrument, the kalamazoo — later shortened to “kazoo”) and given as a gift to Disneyland in 1956 as a symbol of friendship and railroad ludditism.

At one time, guests could ride the Disneyland Railroad either in a steam engine or as a passenger on this authentic handcar. Because a cast member was required to pilot the vehicle, the handcar had a maximum capacity of one, and attempts to lower the wait for the attraction (by adding a single-rider queue, for example) were ineffective. The attraction was slated for closure, when one of the handcar operators, a cast member named Jonathan Henries, had an idea — they could build a set of trailers for the handcar to tow and he could pull whole groups of guests around the park. Park management was skeptical, but at Henries’ insistence they arranged a contest — he would load the handcar’s trailer up with guests and race a fully loaded Disneyland Railroad once around the berm.

Race day was beautiful. The sun shown down, the sky was clear, and people had gathered from miles around to see this epic battle between man and machine. Then the captain fired a starter pistol into the air and the race was on! The locomotive blew a big gust of steam, blasted its horn, and slowly, slowly began to turn its great iron wheels. But Henries, arms a thick with muscle as a paper cone is thick with cotton candy, flexed his mighty biceps, threw his full weight upon the arm, had a heart attack, fell over, and died.

The handcar has sat unused on the siding ever since.

Coming up next: Lilly Belle private railcar


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