THE Chingford Festival has always attracted thousands over the decades – but organisers in 1952 were stunned when a particularly special guest visited, as DANIEL BINNS discovered.

Chingford Day on Saturday July 12, 1952, was always going to be an exciting day for Chingfordians, as the Guardian reported at the time.

Then in its sixth year, the event had steadily been growing in size and popularity, and sure enough a record 17,000 people turned out in force to marvel at its grand parade and huge variety of stalls and activities.

It was also a boom for businesses. As the Guardian breathlessly reported, one stall even made £81 in just one day.

But what was not expected was a surprise visit by global entertainment megastar Walt Disney.

Disney was in Britain on a business trip related to his company's expansion into non-animated films, but was drawn to Chingford when he found out about its acclaimed model railway.

He had been fascinated by trains from a young age. His uncle was a steam engine driver, while a teenage Walt had a summer time job selling food to passengers on a local line.

As his empire and wealth grew, Disney was able to indulge his lifelong interest by constructing his own intricate 5,000 feet long model railway track in the garden of his Californian home in 1950.

So when he found out about the track in Ridgeway Park,which was top of the range at the time, having only opened a few years before, he could not resist taking a look.

The Chingford Model Engineering Club, which maintained the track, had no idea about the surprise visit and were stunned when the millionaire tycoon suddenly joined the queues of residents waiting for a ride.

However many failed to recognise the superstar in their midst, and few were aware he had even attended until articles about his visit appeared in newspapers.

But the railway enthusiasts were thrilled- as well as impressed by Disney's detailed knowledge of model trains.

The feeling was mutual. Disney told a Chingford Guardian 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.”

The track has, of course, continued to attract thousands more people over the years, and recently celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009.