Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Electrical Water Pageant

Today marks the 40th anniversary of what I consider a true "gem" at the Walt Disney World Resort, The Electrical Water Pageant.  Jennifer Fickley-Bakes, Social Media Manager at Disney Parks Blog, give us the full story: 
Electrical Water Pageant Celebrates 40 years at WDW

The Electrical Water Pageant hasn't changed much over the years and is a constant reminder of simplicity at it's best.  If you've never seen it, you must try at your next visit to the WDW resort!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fort Wilderness Railroad post - update

On last month's Magical Blogorail Black loop, I posted an article about the Fort Wilderness Railroad that operated in the Fort Wilderness campground from the early 70's to 1980.  I got many wonderful comments from readers and one particularly special comment from David Leaphart.  Mr. Leaphart has written a two volume set on the Fort Wilderness Railroad:  Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1 Fort Wilderness Railroad and The Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion.   He pointed out that several of the "facts" that I had in the article are really mis-information and urban legends that have spread over the years.  I appreciate the comments and I wanted to post an update.  Instead of updating the article in it's entirety, I am going to post his comments here.  The original article can be found here:  Fort Wilderness Railroad.

Comments by Mr. David Leaphart, author of Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1 Fort Wilderness Railroad and The Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion.

"It's great to see such an interest in the Fort Wilderness Railroad. I too have a great interest in the railroad, so much so that I recently released a two-volume book set on it.

I started with the research in 2007 and spent the time since then digging into the story. I thought it was going to be a matter of gathering the facts from various spots, especially Disney, and create a story/photo compilation. Oh boy, I got an education. A lot of the information on the web is pretty shaky. I was lucky enough to be able to work with the Disney Imagineers who built the trains, opened the railroad, and worked out the kinks. In addition, I was able to work with a number of former cast members who worked the railroad.

I found that a lot of the "facts" floating around were just that...ideas floating around. I was able dispel a lot of these. For instance, the railroad operated from 1973 to February, 1980. It was closed with the primary reason being poorly installed track in the beginning. The other reasons appearing on the web weren't really big was the track. The trains ran until about 9:30pm from May, 1976 to the Summer of 1977. This was during the River Country period. Otherwise the trains shutdown in the 4:30 - 5:00 pm timeframe, so reports that the trains kept campers awake aren't really accurate. Reports that the trains were 4/5ths scale came from a cast member of the Fort in a 1977 revision of the Disney Maintenance Manual. According to the Imagineers who built the trains, they are full scale, not 4/5ths. With the size of the tank, the trains did fill on every loop. But, cast members were clear that they could easily make two loops on one long as you watched your steam! The fuel was never an issue. Trains would come on and off the line to care for cleaning and fueling.

Thanks for the article and keeping the news of the railroad alive. It brought (and still does) a lot of enjoyment to a lot of folks."

I remember riding the train in the 70's and it brings back so many fond memories.  Much like the calls from the peacocks that once roamed freely at the Fort,  I can still remember the sound of train whistle.  

Thanks, David, and thank you for keeping me honest! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fort Wilderness Railroad

Welcome to those of you joining me from Unknown Magic Within Walt Disney World and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am the Final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Our topic for this month is "if you could bring back one former WDW attraction, which one would it be and why?"  I thought, and thought, and thought some more about it.  Went through the list of "lost" attractions, as I like to call them because they are only physically gone but remain in our hearts and memory:  Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, 20,000 League Under the Sea, Horizons, World of Motion, etc.  And while these are all good candidates, I can't say I would want to bring back any of these former attractions in their original incarnation.  Their demise was due to a variety of reasons...cost, sponsorship, maintenance, and simply age.  Their presence in the park today, in their original form, wouldn't make too much sense.  So, I'm focusing in on the "bring back one former WDW attraction" part of the question, and that requires a trip outside the parks and into the resorts.  Fort Wilderness to be exact.  

Do you know there used to be a railroad on Fort Wilderness property?  Yes, there was!  Four 4/5th scale steam locomotives and twenty coaches were used from 1973 to about 1977, after which they were used intermittently until the early 80's when the railroad was closed permanently.  The railroad was meant to be used as an internal source of transportation around the campground and the track operated over three and a half miles.  Several reasons are cited for the termination of the Fort Wilderness Railroad -- noise, pedestrian safety, track maintenance, cost, inexperience staff, and limited water and fuel capacity often causing the train to stranded on the tracks when it ran out of "gas".

The design for the Fort Wilderness Railroad was based on narrow-gauge plantation locomotives that were used in Hawaii to haul sugarcane and pineapples from the fields to the docks. 

The Railroad naturally fit into the theming of Fort Wilderness.   Along the rail, riders traversed diverse forest scenery including magnificent pines and cypress trees.  Riders traveled over canals and through the meadows.  You didn't need a destination, the scenery was worth the ride alone.  It seems to me that a railroad truly belongs in Fort Wilderness with it's rustic theme and frontier genre.  Thirty years later, any of the former obstacles to its operation could easily be overcome by technology.  A Railway between Fort Wilderness and Wilderness lodge would be a beautiful transition between the two resorts, allowing guests to enjoy the amenities of the combined locations.  

You can see artwork like this in the Cabins today

Walt Disney had a great love for railroads which is why you see so much of that reflected in his parks.  At Wilderness Lodge you will find the Carolwood Pacific Room that honors Disney's legacy for model trains.  Bringing that love back to Fort Wilderness would be my vote for "bringing back one former WDW attraction".

Fort Wilderness map showing train route

Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Black this month. We will be back November 8th with an all new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

Friday, October 7, 2011

40th Anniversary Expectations

Last weekend Walt Disney World celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, and leading to the anniversary date, the web was all a tither about what the events planned for the day would be.  Disney was very secretive on what they had in store, and die-hard fans like myself were hopeful to see something big and exciting.  Unfortunately, by all reports (I was unable to attend in person) the day fell short of expectations.  Sure, there was parades, speakers, merchandising, anniversary buttons and pins, and special park maps; but it seems like 40th anniversary message was lost somehow.  It almost seemed like the event was an after thought, spurred by the demand to have some sort of celebration.  

For myself, I had high hopes that 2011 would be a big celebration year for Disney World, ripe with promotional campaigns similar to the “Year of a Million Dreams”, and focus on the 40th anniversary throughout Magic Kingdom.  When news of the “Magic, Memories and You” campaign surfaced in 2010, I was ecstatic.  I thought “this is it, this will be a celebration to remember”.  But sadly, no, it didn’t pan out to be what I thought it could have been.  I know I didn’t want to see the castle donned in pink icing like it was in 1996, but outside of the 40th anniversary merchadise (which, by the way, I love!), there will little in the park even mentioning the anniversary year.  I wanted to be overdosed with park nostalgia.  I needed that nostalgia!  Instead, I was greeted with the usual Disney charm, and talk of the Fantasyland expansion more than anything.  Which was fine, but yet lacking somehow. 
Then I got to thinking, why are we so upset with the lack of focus on the 40th anniversary?  I think it has to do with expectations.  For the online Disney blogger community, I’ve noticed that most bloggers are in the 35 - 45 age range.  We are a base of fans that grew up with Walt Disney World.  Many of our childhood memories are engraved with experiences at Disney World.  We all have, at some point, experienced birthdays, family vacations, high school and college graduations, young love trips, weddings and honeymoons, a glimpse of the park through our child’s eyes, happy celebrations, and sad times at the park.  For some of us, like myself, who turned 40 this year it was a milestone year.  Now an adult with adult responsibilities - career, children, aging parents, home ownership, so too is Disney World.  The park is no longer the immature first grader on the block.  People look to the Magic Kingdom to be the wise one, the tone setter, and the responsible parent of the parks.  It’ll always be the first place we want to see when we get there, and the last place we want to see before we leave.  Our lives have paralleled that of the Magic Kingdom and we expected to see some big recognition of that.  But the reality is, it's just the 40th anniversary of the park's opening.  Just that and nothing more.   

So, yes, I’m disappointed, but my disappointment stems from my expectations.  I can’t fault Disney World for that.  Now we have 10 more years to look forward to the 50th anniversary ,which if the 25 year celebration was any indication, should be a blow-out event of epic proportions!  I just wonder if the WDW Radio gang can stay up for 50 hours at that age! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Walt Disney World!

Today marks the anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World, October 1st, 1971. 

Happy birthday to the "Happiest Place on Earth"!

Events and special happenings at the Magic Kingdom include:  
  • 40th anniversary cupcakes located at the Main Street Bakery
  • 40th anniversary merchandise located at Mickey's Gift Station, Island Supply, Newsstand, Sir Mickey's, Uptown Jewlers and Diamond Horseshoe
  • Artist signings through out the day 
  • 40th anniversary presentation in front of Cinderella's Castle
  • Special "Wishes" fireworks display
  • and according rumor mill, other special surprises await.
The celebration today is expected to be huge.