They’re as defining in a Kingdom as the Castle or Main Street Station, they’re the lazy river of any Disney Parks and those very famous narrow gauge railways have been present in every 5 of them since their respective openings! This article is about the 5 Disney Railroads of the 5 Magic Kingdoms.
First, they all bare a different name but two, which are in order of chronogical appearance ;)
The tracks for 4 of them simply follow the berm of the park, making a nice heart shape trip around the Magic Kingdom. Only Tokyo doesn’t encircle the park. As you can see below, it only runs around the Frontierland/Adventureland area. Probably because of some railway Japanese regulations that impose timetable for any railroad deserving more than one stop. Therefore in Tokyo, it is only an attraction, whereas in every other parks it is considerably used as transportation also.
Transportation that was regularly developped. On opening day, Disneyland Raiload only had two stops : Main Street and Frontierland, similarly to its younger cousin in Hong Kong which presently only loads and unloads at Main Street and Fantasyland.
But today the original Disneyland Railroad stops on Main Street Station, New Orleans Square Sation (Frontierland Station until 1966), Mickey’s ToonTown Station (fomerly Fantasyland Station) and Tomorrowland Station. Making it 4 stops whereas in Florida’s Magic Kingdom, only 3 stops are available : Main Street, Frontierland and Mickey’s Toon Town Fair. French Railroad has 4 stations on Main Street, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland which was added 7 months after opening along with a new engine.
All those stations prove themselves very useful for an observation trip around the park as well as a resting way to get from one point to another, especially during Parade hours. But Walt had to plus it and so he did. First, adding in 1958 Grand Canyon Diorama in what used to be a long boring tunnel. This huge gallery allowed guest to enjoy this American natural wonder thanks to Delmer J. Yoakum 306 feet panorama trompe-l’oeil and a bit of taxidermy. Then in 1966 the diorama was extended with Primeval World: another trompe-l’oeil but this time with dinausor Animatronics. Grand Canyon is also present in Disneyland Paris, whereas Tokyo can enjoy the Primeval World scenery on its short track. No diorama for Hong Kong and Orlando though.
Park attractions also come as handy Railroad attracions. Disneyland Railroad and Walt Disney World Railroad pass both through Splash Mountain. Whereas former EuroDisneyland Railroad gives you an inside peek of Pirates of the Carribean.
We can note as well that Tokyo, though being solely an attraction show a lot of detailed scenery along the tracks and stands since its opening as among the most popular attactions of the park !
Because of all those attractions, starting with the arrival of the first diorama, Disney had to improve rider experience and give more credit to the scenery factor. To do so cars with rows all facing the right side of the train have been added. This makes the Disneyland Railroad train car pool very heterogeneous, having cabooze cars as well as passenger cars or even cattle cars on wich in the 50’s you had to stand ! In fact, most car designs we’re gonna discuss below can be found running on the motherpark’s mothertracks.
In Hong Kong Disneyland, you only find cars with rows facing the side, pretty much like Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Wildlife Express. Though all are very similar in design and only different in colors and window shapes, they show some great detail apperciation, from the woodwork to the beautiful stained glass windows.
Disneyland Paris’ cars follow this same detail attention but with a unique seat arrangement pattern. To ease loading and unloading, one side is open, and each cars is segemented into three booths, all filled with a plain U shape bench facing the exit.
Tokyo and Orlando though share a very similar design. All cars are front oriented and opened on both size looking like a succession of wooden bench under XIXth century oil lamps. Those car design, not offering enough decorating material, look pale in comparison with the 3 other Disney Railroad carriages. But to their discharge, they’re very similar to the kind of train cars you could really ride during summer months in early century america.
Maybe we should have started with the engine, but I’m not a train buff at all. Much more information can be found on the internet about the many Disney engines, I’ll try and give you some facts and figures though.
Disneyland Railroad has 5 locomotives whose names are :
N°1 C. K. Holliday
N°2 E. P. Ripley
N°3 Fred Gurley
N°4 Ernest S. Marsh
Those 4 were all past presidents of the Santa Fe Railroad which happened to sponsor the Disneyland Railroad. My guess is Disney let them chose the name of the trains until they terminated the sponsorship in 1974.
N°5 Ward Kimball.
Famous animator from the 9 Old Men with whom Disney shared his miniature train passion. This engine joined the fleet in 2005, 3 years after Ward’s death.
Walt Disney World Railroad has 4 locomotives and 4 sets of passenger cars.
N°1 Walter E. Disney
N°2 Lilly Belle.
Those two are husband and wife.
N°3 Roger E. Bro
He helped aquire the trains for the Magic Kingdom.
N°4 Roy O. Disney.
Walt Disney’s brother and associate.
Disneyland Paris has 4 Engines and 4 sets of carriages. Note that each engine matches its own carriage. Locomotives are named as follow :
N°1 W.F. Cody
The real name of Buffalo Bill !
N°2 C.K. Holliday
N°3 George Washington
This one has been added later on, along with the Discoveryland Station.
Western River Railroad disposes of 4 locomotives and 2 sets of carriage (only 3 or 4 cars are attached at the same time). They’re all named after famous american rivers to follow the line of the attraction :
The later was added in 1991
Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad with its three engines carries 2 sets of carriage.
N°1 Walter E. Disney
N°2 Roy O. Disney
N°3 Frank G. Wells
The later is a very prominent Disney executive of 90’s corporate climax. Frank Wells saddly passed away in 1994 and is the object of many Disney homage since then.
In every park the Place-your-park-name-here Railroad is a very popular attraction, even though only in Tokyo is it so successful that it regularly hits the 3 digits waiting time. For the 4 others it’s never so busy, but is the one thing to do when party members feel a bit lazy. You can stay on as long as you want, and the spiel and scenery of the trip, even without on track attractions, is sure to make your rest appeasing as though very entertaining.
I know I couldn’t spend a day in a Disney Park without riding its Railroad.
On this note, I’ll let you catch the sweeper train. (I’m may not a be train buff, but I did my research ;))
- Gurgi from MiceChat was of great help especially to find the names of Tokyo’s engines.
- The picture of the Orlando & Tokyo train car is from ShutterFlare.com