Around WDW: Part 1 - The Walt Disney World Railway
Many of you already know that we LOVE Walt Disney World. I mean, we do call ourselves addicts when it comes to visiting the Mouse House. And, we know that since you’re here and part of our community, you do to. WDW offers SO much to enjoy that it’s really difficult for us to pinpoint exactly why we love it so much. So we’ve decided to start a series where we breakdown everything (or nearly everything) each of the parks have to offer. From restaurants and shops, to attractions and shows, we’ll be offering an in-depth dive at the history of these locations, as well as, sharing our own thoughts and experiences! Now, we’re not going to pretend that we are Disney experts or historians, we’re just a family that loves Disney and has been lucky enough to visit many times, so we’ll be collecting information from a variety of sources to put together an assortment of info for you to enjoy (and we’ll be sure to include where that info came from for you to visit as well). After we put up our post, we’d absolutely love to hear what YOU think, so we’ll also be posting over on the FB group something for each of these entries in the series where you can continue the conversation by adding your own pieces of trivia, history, and stories! (and who knows…maybe this could turn into a podcast soon?)
Honestly, we could start anywhere in Disney World and be off to a great start, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, there is only ONE spot in all of WDW that we should start at (as it is where we start every time we visit WDW)... Magic Kingdom. And what’s the first thing you enter once you scan your magic band? The Walt Disney World Railroad train station of course! How many of you have a picture in front of this iconic building (probably second only to Cinderella’s castle itself in MK) from your past trips? We’re willing to bet most of you do!
So why a train station? Well, that’s easy…Walt himself loved trains and it was his fascination with them that many contribute to his desire to create Disneyland and it’s even said that the idea for Mickey Mouse himself came to Walt while riding on a train!
“A noted train enthusiast, Walt Disney built his very first
railroad in his backyard. The Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a
1/8-scale train, debuted in 1950 and featured a custom-built,
steam powered locomotive that encircled his property.
Delighted with his miniature backyard railroad, Walt decided
to share his love of trains with the whole world. The result
was the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, a favorite of guests
since the park opened in 1955.” (source)
This of course carried over to the Disney World and was an opening day attraction, although it was not exactly the same as it is today with only the stop on Main St. The additional stops (in Frontierland and Fantasyland) were added in 1972 and 1988 respectively.
The trains themselves are also more than just a “ride.” The 4 trains that run along the tracks of the Walt Disney World Railway were not originally built for Disney World, but actually were built in the early 1900s. They were purchased by WDW in 1969 after serving in the Yucatan state of Mexico and restored to their “current” look. The locomotives were renamed after different Disney legends including: Walter E. Disney, Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother and partner), Lilly Belle (named after Walt’s wife), and Roger E. Broggie (the Imagineer who worked on the railroads in Disneyland and Disney World)!
The train station itself fits in perfectly with the Americana feel of Main Street USA and passing through its tunnels truly feels like a portal to another time! While the station serves as a physical border between the magic and “real world” outside, it is also essentially the very first attraction you can hop on (something many people pass up as they run to one of the larger attractions inside, but something we highly suggest taking the time to enjoy)! Head up the stairs to the upper level of the train station and you’ll be on the railway platform to board one of the trains on its 1.5 mile, 20 minute, narrated trip around the Magic Kingdom! But don’t just run up stairs to board the train as the building itself has a number of great treasures for Disney enthusiasts to enjoy.
Not only will you find numerous photographs and models of the trains and train stations being built, but Disney has also hidden a number of subtle nods to other properties as well. For example, check out the train bulletin on the first floor; you’ll see one of the lines refers to Rutledge and Medfield, the two colleges from the Disney film The Absent Minded Professor. The bulletin is full of hidden trivia like that (if you want see more check out this post from the official Disney Parks blog HERE).
(NOTE - the Bulletin is digital now!) (Photo Cred)
If you’ve never taken the time to enjoy the Walt Disney World Railway, we highly suggest you do the next time you can. At the time of this writing, the railway is not operational (due to the ongoing construction of the TRON: Light cycle attraction), but you can still access the train station. Disney has also parked one of the trains at the station for people to enjoy and take photos with. Currently the station is also used as a spot for socially-distanced character interactions as a result of the ongoing COIVD pandemic. Various characters will line the upper balcony to wave and talk with guests offering some pretty cool pictures. And when they aren’t there, guests can line the balcony themselves and get some pretty awesome views/pics of Main St. and the castle!
If you’re really into the history of these trains (or just Disney itself) they do offer a backstage tour opportunity! Disney’s The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (which is currently unavailable due to the pandemic) is a 3-hour tour led by the railways engineers. The tour costs $54 per person and requires advanced reservations. To check out more about this backstage tour click HERE.
Thanks for reading along and we’d love to hear from YOU and your stories about the Walt Disney World Railway! Head over to the Facebook group to continue the conversation! Thanks again everyone and See Ya Real Soon!