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 factors...it 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 tank...as 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!