On this day in 1955, the Casey Jr. Circus Train attraction opened. While Walt Disney hoped the attraction would debut when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it was delayed by two weeks to allow for additional safety measures to be installed.
Joe Fowler, the man in charge of Disneyland’s construction, recounted to Disney biographer Bob Thomas that he was forced to break the bad news to the boss: “We had the little Casey Jr. train and he loved it. And just before we opened, this was the first time the train had come back, down from the Studio, and we ran it around and it was top-heavy. I told Walt, ‘Walt, I’m sorry but we just shouldn’t run that train for the public until after we get some keepers on it so that going around the curves or if she’s loaded on one side or the other, it won’t tip over. Otherwise very frankly, it would be very dangerous.’ He said, ‘All right, Joe,’ and he walked away. And I heard afterwards he was very disappointed. But that’s all he said. In two weeks we got the keepers on. And that was all there was to it.”
Disney artist Bruce Bushman drew Casey Jr. Circus Train concept art pieces in 1954. At the time, Bushman – who was a longtime studio employee specializing in art direction – was tasked with developing attraction concepts based off of Disney’s film catalogue. Both the trains and train station depicted in Bruce’s artwork are largely reflected in the updated version of the attraction that exists today.
The laying of the rails and construction of the locomotives was done by the Arrow Development Co., an amusement park ride manufacturer based in Northern California that helped construct five initial Disneyland attractions. Arrow constructed the base vehicles, which were then painted and decorated by Disney employees at the studio.