Why Did Walt Disney Make A Surprise Visit To Chingford?

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By M@ Last edited 19 months ago
Why Did Walt Disney Make A Surprise Visit To Chingford?

In July 1952, an estimated 17,000 people turned out for the annual Chingford Festival. Among them was one of the most famous people in the world, Walt Disney.

The movie mogul was in London on a business trip, seeking to expand his repertoire to non-animated films. He took time out of his busy schedule to visit Chingford, then part of Essex and now within the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Why?

Disney was a huge fan of model trains. This was a man who boasted his own mile-long railway in the grounds of his California mansion. It just so happened that Chingford harboured one of England's best model railways at the time. He duly paid a visit to the track in Ridgeway Park.

Disney's suburban adventure was entirely unannounced and organisers had no idea he would be among the day's visitors. According to some accounts, Disney made his appearance just as the local mayor was set to open festivities. Everyone flocked over to see the Mickey Mouse creator, leaving the poor mayor a lacklustre crowd.

Very little else is known about the visit. Even the year is uncertain, with some accounts giving 1952 and others 1954. The most detailed description comes from the Chingford Guardian. Disney told its reporter: "This is a very fine lay-out they have here... I am very interested in these machines, which are quite a bit smaller than those I run in the States.”

London would go on to feature in several Disney classics, including Peter Pan, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Mary Poppins.

Ridgeway Park still maintains its miniature railway, now over 70 years old. Chingford & District Model Engineering Club open the trains for public rides  on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoons between April and the end of September from 2pm to 5.30pm.

Last Updated 27 March 2017