Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the Magical Mouse Pad!

I hope 2015 brings you joy and magic

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Attraction narration and dialog

Throughout the WDW attractions, you can find a variety of familiar voices providing ride-through narration and character dialog.  Some of these voices are classic Disney staples who worked with the Disney studios on a variety of projects -- animations, promotions, commercials, and theme parks just to name a few.  These folks include the likes of Paul Frees, Thurl Ravenscroft, and Pete Renoudet.  Do those names not sound familiar?  Paul Frees is your “Ghost Host” in the Haunted Mansion.  Some of Paul Frees' most memorable voices were for various Disney projects, although he did work with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century.  Thurl Ravenscroft is probably most familiar as Tony the Tiger, “They’re Great!”, but his voice can be found in Magic Kingdom in the Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, and Haunted Mansion.  Pete Renoudet was an American voice actor who provided dialog for a variety of attractions in Disneyland and Disney World.  Most notably, he provided Captain Nemo’s voice for the long extinct, but much loved, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  
In addition to the variety of voice actors Disney studio’s employed in it’s heyday, now you may find more and more “famous” actors being used for narration or attraction dialog.  In many instances the actor IS part of the attraction itself.  Some are well know, others are not.  See if you have recognized any of these famous voices:
  • Spaceship Earth- Judi Dench.  In previous versions of the attraction, Vic Perrin, Walter Cronkite, and Jeremy Irons provided the narration.  
  • Soarin’ - Patrick Warburton is your Flight Attendant.  
  • Canada’s Circle-Vision 360 - As a native Canadian, Martin Short provides the narration to this vivid film.
  • Mission: SPACE - Gary Sinise provides your introductory video and dialog during the ride.  I can’t not think of “Lt. Dan” when I see him!  
Magic Kingdom
  • Hall of Presidents - Morgan Freeman narrates and Barack Obama even provided the voice of Barack Obama.
  • Carousel of Progress - You may recognize Cousin Orville’s voice.  It’s Mel Blanc!
Hollywood Studios
  • MuppetVision 3D - Where would muppets be without Jim Henson and Frank Oz providing the voices of some of these memorable characters?
  • Tower of Terror - While it’s Rod Sterling we see in the pre-show video, the voice we hear is actually Mark Silverman.
  • Toy Story Mania - Mr. Potato Head’s voice is Don Rickles.
Animal Kingdom
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug - You’ll hear a variety of familiar voices in this attraction:  Dave Foley, Cheech Marin, Jason Alexander, Andrew Stanton, and French Stewart.
  • Dinosaur - The lobby announcements and descriptions are provided by Bill Nye (the Science Guy!).  
These are just a few of the familiar voices that provide the backdrop to many attractions and show’s throughout Disney World.  Hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Details

When I talk to people about the Disney World Theme Parks and Resorts, one thing they notice is how emphatic I am about noticing the little details.  It’s the thing that I most enjoy about the parks and resorts and what keeps me coming back for more because every time you look at something you’re bound to see something new.  While most details are bold and grand, like the colors of the castle or the immense look of Tower of Terror, there are millions of subtle ones.  What I find fascinating about these is that to the casual observer they are often overlooked.  But, I wonder if your mind would notice if they weren’t there?!?  

Let me give you an example.  I’m going to take you over to Epcot’s Japan pavilion for this one.  Along the shore of the the World Showcase in front of the Japanese pavilion stands a red torii gate.  A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.  This particular one is a replica of the torii of the Itsukushima Shrine, often called “floating shrine” because it sits in the water just off the island of Itsukushima in the city Hatsukaichi, Japan.  This shrine is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Japanese government has designated it as a National Treasure.  The details and significance of this freature to the Japanese pavilion is fairly obvious.  What is not so obvious is what is found at the bottom of the torii.  Take a look...

What do you see?  Barnacles and the appearance of high and low tide water marks.  Hmmm...that’s odd, as the World Showcase lagoon is a freshwater lagoon with no tidal influence.  EXACTLY what I mean!!!  As a causal observer you don’t notice that, but if the torii stood freshly painted, at the water’s edge, would you notice the missing detail?  Probably not, but it’s those little details that make the place seem so much more read and vivid to the imagination.  
What overlooked details have you seen the parks or resorts recently?  

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Koutoubia Minaret
of Marrakesh
Quite unassuming on the outside, the Morocco pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot is often passed by for more familiar countries by many guests.  Morocco doesn’t have an attraction, so most people don’t bother with it and that is a shame.  Just inside the walled city, lies an amazing architecture, adorned with beautiful tile work and impeccable craftsmanship.  A walk through the local bazaar (or market place) reveals delightful treasures.  It’s a truly unique shopping experience.

The Morocco Pavilion was the first expansion pavilion to be added to the World Showcase, opening in 1984.  The pavilion is the only one designed with the named government’s aid.  King Hassan II sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the many mosaics and buildings you’ll see in the pavilion.  Due to Islamic beliefs on the content of art, the mosaics contain no representations of people.  To this day, the Moroccan government continues to sponsor the pavilion, while corporations hold sponsoring rights to the other World Showcase pavilions.  

Bab Boujouloud gate
Three cities of this northern African country are represented here:  Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh.  Guarding the entrance to the pavilion is a reproduction of the Koutoubia Minaret of Marrakesh.  This intricately carved tower was built by native craftsmen.  As you delve deeper into the pavilion, you’ll see more exquisite craftsmanship in the gate to the Medina (or old city) in a replica of the Bab Boujouloud gate.  Through the gate, you’ll find the bustling bazaar.  All the shops are interconnected to give you the feel of being in a real outside shopping bazaar and it’s easy to get lost in these shops!  The bazaar is a wonderful place to find unique gifts for that hard-to-buy-for person in your family.  Doesn’t your Cousin Tim need a Fez?  How about a belly dancing video for your Aunt Helen? 

Enter the Fez House to see a representation of a typical Moroccan home.  The tile and word work is amazing.  If it’s quiet, I’m certain you can hear children playing in the distance!

One of many
A flower filled courtyard is surrounded by native plants -- citrus and olive trees, date palms, banana trees, and a fountain.  Some of the gardens are irrigated by an ancient working waterwheel.  

Since these buildings were designed and sponsored by the country of Morocco, they hold great religious significant.  As a result the pavilion is the only one not lit up during the nightly Illuminations performance.  

Lunch at Tangerine Cafe

A final fact about the Morocco pavilion you may not know - The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios is seen at an angle from the Moroccan pavilion.  The top of the Tower of Terror is designed so it blends in with the Moroccan architecture.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Loss of The Lawnmower Tree

I recently found out that the Lawnmower Tree is no more.  Sometime in the last year, it has been removed.  This makes me sad.  I walked past that tree as a kid many times, and showed it to my children.  But, nature has taken it's course as in all things and the tree is no longer.  

I thought I'd publish this article one last time for posterity.  

*****Original article posted in 2012*******

Lawnmower tree, Nov. 2012
On the pathway from the Pioneer Hall to the Marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground can be found an unusual item that has been a fixture at the Fort since it's opening in 1971 -- The Lawnmower Tree.  Almost gone now, the lawnmower tree was a prominent fixture at the Fort in the early days, even marking it onto the original campground maps in the 70's.  So what is the lawnmower tree and how did it get there?

Fort Wilderness map, circa 1973

Lawnmower tree plaque
The lawnmower tree is the stuff of "urban legends" of Disney.  According to Disney lore, Bill Bowlegs parked his mower much too close to this tree which quickly grew to encompass Billy's mower.  Don't believe me?  It's written right there on a marker next to the tree.  :)
Too long did Billy Bowlegs
Park his reel slow mower
Alas, one warm and sunny day
Aside a real fast grower

Of course, most Disney lore is a slight stretch of the imagination based on some reality.  Long before Disney World became the theme park mecca it is today, the land was mostly orange groves, farmland, and swamps.  There were a few buildings and some abandoned houses surrounding Bay Lake when the property was bought up by Disney's myriad of shell companies.  Most likely, a farmer leaned an old-fashioned push lawnmower against this tree and left it many years prior.  Why it survived the construction and became a staple of the Fort is classic Disney style.  The designers integrated the tree into the history of the Fort and even crafted the poem you see above.  I often wonder if Disney himself observed the lawnmower tree on one of the early excursion trips to the area.  It is often noted that the decision to build on this particular piece of land was made while viewing Riles Island (now Discovery Island) from the air.  Walt probably did not see the tree before his untimely death, but the allure of that idea is appealing.

Unfortunately, hurricanes and bugs have gotten the best of the tree and it had to be cut down in 1997.  Only about four feet of the original pine tree is left.  You can still see the remnants of the lawnmower at the base of the tree along the quaint pathway.  I'm afraid one day it's going to completely disappear.  I can only hope that it will remain in our hearts much like our beloved River Country, Discovery Island, the Fort Wilderness Railroad, the trams, and the peacocks.
Picture of the lawnmower tree from
early Fort Wilderness guide book

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Experience with Mission Space

There are several rides and attractions at Walt Disney World that I don’t care for:  Magic Carpets of Aladdin, TriceraTop Spin, O Canada, Wonders of China to name a few.  Definitely not a fan of Stitch's Great Escape.  But, I’ll go on these if someone in my group wants to do it.  However, there is one attraction that I will not ride…ever again.  “Again” implies that I have done it.  That attraction is Mission: SPACE.  You’re probably thinking “why”; it seems odd to ban such a popular attraction permanently especially now that there is a tamer version.  My dislike of the attraction has nothing to do with the attraction so much as it as to do with my memory associated with that experience.  
In early 2006, my husband and I took our son, then 3, on his first trip to Walt Disney World.  It was a milestone and one marked equally special when we found out two weeks before the trip that we were pregnant.  I estimate I was probably no more than 6 weeks along.  Nothing too significant to change my stamina or energy level.  Didn’t really think too much about it, to tell the truth.  So when we arrived at Epcot, we knew we wanted to go on the newly opened, much hyped Mission: SPACE.  You see, both my husband and I work at NASA and given the attraction’s collaboration with NASA, we wanted to see what it was all about.  

Despite the caution warnings and spiels prior to the ride, I decided to go on it.  The conversion in my head went something like this:  “you work at NASA, you can do this…no problem”.  What I really should have heard was “you work at NASA as an analyst, you dummy, you’ve never been on a motion based simulator, you don’t touch flight hardware…and oh, besides, you’re pregnant and you’re equilibrium is probably really messed up right now”.  I didn’t listen and went on the full-up motion based ride.  I am proud to say that I didn’t lose my lunch, but it was very touch and go for a while.  I couldn’t get out of the capsule fast enough, and when I did, the ground was not so stable.  Once I found my bearings, I met back up with my son and husband (we had done child swap) in the game area (Advanced Training Lab) to rest my head.  That didn’t help.  Ate lunch.  That didn’t help.  I felt like I had just woken up from a night of excessive drinking.  It was like a really bad hangover and I could not shake.  Awful is really the only way to describe the feeling.  Finally, I went back to the room to sleep it off.  Didn’t help too much, and I remained messed up the rest of the day.  

I should have read Wikipedia’s definition of the ride mechanics:  “The attraction is a multiple-arm centrifuge that achieves the illusion of acceleration by spinning and tilting sealed capsules during the four-minute "mission." Fans blow air gently at riders to help avoid motion sickness, and a magnified display in front of each rider simulates a window to space with high-resolution computer-generated imagery. The attraction exposes riders to forces up to 2.5G, more than twice the force of gravity at the Earth's surface (effectively multiplying a rider's weight by 2.5).”  Yep, that explains it all!

I don’t know if my reaction to the experience had anything to do with the pregnancy, or if I am overly prone to motion sickness (didn’t think I was); but in either case the memory of that experience is so bad that I won’t go on the attraction again; even the Green team version which opened a few months after our visit.  As anyone who has ever experienced it, you don’t want to be sick on a Disney vacation.  Even for a day.  It stinks.  

I am disappointed that my experience was so negative, because from what I recall and can review on YouTube, the attraction is amazingly realistic.  I have been very fortunate to have worked in the mission control center complex during many shuttle flights in the last few years of the Shuttle program.  I’ve been even more fortunate to sit on console with one of the most amazing female astronauts in the astronaut corp.  How she described the launch sequence experience from the crew compartment is very similar to what a guest would experience on Mission: SPACE.  I especially like the detail of the birds soaring over the launch platform just prior to launch.  They do that all the time and are recognized as a hazard to launch vehicles.  Big turkey vultures soar over the launch complex, catching the updrafts of wind.  (Did you know a Space Shuttle has impacted with one during a launch before?  Let’s just say, that’s not a good thing for the bird or the vehicle).  Also, the chatter you hear prior to, and during the launch sequence, is similar to the voice loop chatter that is heard in the control centers.  Everyone in the control centers, whether you are in front room or back room, has a headset and can monitor many voice loops at one time which is why you hear multiple conversions just before main engine start and lift off.  At launch, on the screen, a plume of white smoke billows up from below you.  Your ship is mounted on tons of highly explosive solid rocket fuel, after all!  The whole sequence is amazingly detailed and quite accurate.

The Disney Imagineers collaborated well with NASA to get the experience correct and they did hit the mark on many aspects.  It’s a good attraction and one that shouldn’t be missed if you like thrill or motion based rides.  By all accounts, the tamer version appears to appease those less inclined for a thrill, but who still want to experience it.  For me, for now, I’m going to have to pass on it and hang out in the Advanced Training Lab.   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hoop Dee Doo Revue

The Hoop Dee Doo Revue is one of my favorite dinner shows at Walt Disney World.  The show is like no other on Disney World property, save for the long retired Diamond Horseshoe Revue.  Billed as “an old-fashioned dinner show that includes foot-stompin' music, nostalgic comedy and an all-you-care-to-eat dinner”, the HDDR is the longest running show at Disney World.  I dare anyone to not leave the show without a smile on their face.  It’s corny, silly and fun!

Pioneer Hall
The HDDR takes place in Pioneer Hall at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, just a short boat ride from the Magic Kingdom.  The show opened in 1974 and has run almost continuously since, making it one of the longest running musicals in America theatre history.  The show itself is a Frontier theme vaudeville-style dinner show full of singing, dancing and comedy routines.  Pioneer Hall has a stage at the front of the room, with tables on floor level with additional tables in a balcony that overlook the main floor.  Food service includes an all-you-can-eat salad, ribs, fried chicken, assorted sides and strawberry shortcake served family style at your table in metal buckets which are plopped down in front of you when you least expect it.  Unlimited soft drinks, coffee, tea, milk, beer, wine and sangria are also included.  For the kids that may not like ribs and chicken, typically Disney child-friendly food is available for the asking.

Metal plates, bowls & buckets
It's as big as her head!

HDDR performers
The show consists of the three female and three male character performers: Six Bits Slocum and Dolly Drew (comic relief), Jim Handy and Flora Long (the singers), and Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune (the dancers).  The entertainers interact with the audience throughout the show, and even serve dessert at the close of the show while singing the Strawberry Shortcake song!

The Hoop Dee Doo is memorable because for me it embodies all things “Disney” - great showmanship in a family friendly format.  The characters are memorable (who can't forget the giggle?), the jokes (while corny) are funny, the actors are talented, and the laughter is contagious.  I’ve seen the show 5 or 6 times, as a kid and an adult, and it never changes but is still just as good as the first time.

For the first time guest, I would recommend the HDDR only if you have time.  The show runs close to 2 hours and with travel time; you can expect it to burn an entire evening.  Have an Advanced Dining Reservation and plan accordingly, but give it a try sometime.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Basin White in the Grand Floridian

Located on the second level of the Grand Floridian Resort, just inside the doors that lead to the monorail station, is a bath and body products shop, Basin White.  Basin White is part of the Basin chain with products sold online and at few select locations in the United States.  There is a Basin shop in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. 

Basin White is a premium version of Basin with its product inventory made with higher quality ingredients, as well as unique items that can’t be found in the other locations. 

The store itself is attractive and inviting.  Styled in black and white tile, with the appearance of an upscale Victorian bathroom, the store fits in well with the Grand Floridian theme.  The layout of the store is long and skinny, and filled with an assortment of bath and body products ranging from lotions, salts/scrubs, soaps, and body bombs.  The store is accessorized with sinks, a claw foot tub, white cabinets, and marble counters. 

Basin White offers a large variety of fresh cut soaps, including the popular Mickey ears soap which is sold only at the WDW locations.  Priced at around $6.99 for a slice of approximately 100 grams, these make for inexpensive, unique and functional gifts.  The assortment of fresh cut soaps is amazing, and interesting.  In addition to milk-based and other specialty soaps, Basin White sells fresh cut glycerin soap with a variety of cute designs processed into the soap, most notably being the mickey ears. 

Another product sold only at the Disney locations is the Mickey-ears Bath Bombs.  A Bath Bomb looks like a hardened scoop of ice cream, which when placed in a bath, bubbles and fizzes adding essential oils and aroma to your tub.  The Mickey themed bath bombs include Mickey-ear confetti throughout the product.  Another cute gift at a moderate price for yourself or your favorite cousin, dog watcher, or house-sitter. 

In addition, Basin White sells a variety of spa accessory products, salts/scrubs, lotions, and body perfumes.  Samples are provided throughout the store to “try” the products.  The body salt scrub will make your hands feel so soft and smell delicious!

All Basin White products are made in the US, with no parabens, alcohol, or mineral oils.  Also, their products are not tested on animals.    

If you are a resort guest, you can have your purchases shipped to your room; however, because Basin is not an Disney affiliated store, it will take longer.  Please be sure to ask the cashier.  If you have a concern about what can be returned home with you in your carry-on vs. checked luggage, be sure to ask.  The staff at Basin White are well versed with the TSA rules governing their products. 

I could spend a lot of time and money in Basin white.  The aroma of the store is amazing and relaxing.  If you want an at-home spa experience, Basin White is the place to go while at the WDW resort.  A great place tucked away in the corner of the Grand Floridian, it is definitely worth checking out during a day of resort-hopping on the monorail. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th and the witching season fast approaching.  I thought today would be appropriate to revisit my favorite queue at Walt Disney World -- Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the Twilight Zone television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator car full of passengers to the Twilight Zone and causing an entire wing of the building to disappear.  Disney Imagineers create an atmosphere that transports the guest from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard to the eerily abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel in the Hollywood Hills.
According to Disney lore, the Hollywood Hotel opened in 1919.  It became a famous place for Hollywood and film star elite.  One day, on Halloween in 1939, the hotel was struck by lightning.  Part of the building was destroyed and 5 guests who had just entered the elevator disappeared.  All of the other guests ran out of the building in terror leaving all of their belongings behind. The Tower of Terror is left empty until 1994 when it mysteriously re-opens. To the bellhops and porters that work the hotel, it’s as if the hotel never closed.  While all this is never thoroughly explained during the attraction, you can easily see how the queue and pre-show ties itself into the backstory behind the Hollywood Hotel.  It’s quite an eerie atmosphere.
Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel though the main entrance gate. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel.  The outdoor queue takes you through gardens of broken stoneware and decaying plants.  

An empty fountain and cracked fountain awaits you at the entrance to the hotel. In the background you're listening to haunting melodies from the past by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Vera Lynn, and other notables from that era.  And your eyes haven’t deceived you, that is fog rolling through the gardens.  Once inside the lobby, it is dimly-lit and covered in cobwebs and dust. There is a yellowing copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers that appears to be the centerpiece of the room.

Behind the front desk is a broken elevator, a sign still reads "Out of Order". Everything in the hotel has apparently been left undisturbed ever since it mysteriously closed decades ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready yet. For the time being, guests are asked to simply enjoy themselves in the hotel's library. The library is full of not only books, but exotic antiques, a television, and plenty of Twilight Zone memorabilia. Through the window, you observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside.  At this point, the pre-show starts with a lightning strike and the television coming on, apparently of its own accord.  The opening sequence of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode. 
The attention to detail throughout the queue is amazing here.  Even if you can’t or don’t want to ride the attraction, please take time to traverse the queue and watch the pre-show.  Don’t worry, there is a chicken-out door for you.  Just ask any cast member.  As you travel the queue, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered into a hotel that was long since abandoned.  

Do you dare?

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Rest of the Railroads in the World

Wrapping his 3 part series about Railroads in Walt Disney World….

Howdy again all, this is League City Mouse’s brother with part three of my guest post series.  

Where else can you find railroads and references to railroads in Walt Disney World?


The Main Street USA railroad station has a nice collection of railroading memorabilia.  It is located under the station off the tunnel to the right as you enter the park.  In my opinion the paintings are the highlight of the exhibit.

Now on to “the rip roarinist ride in the west,” Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  So hang on to your hats and glasses folks as this train takes you on a ride at break neck speeds around and through Big Thunder Mountain and the town of Tumbleweed.  It is “pulled” by a replica engine, just for show, and guests ride in mine carts on this steel roller coaster ride.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

When you are in Fantasyland check out Casey Jr.’s circus train, but don’t get to close or you might just get wet.

Staying in Fantasyland there is the new Seven Dwarfs Mine.  No engine, but guests ride this roller coaster in replica mine carts that swing back and forth.  It promises to be tamer than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but more adventurous than Goofy’s Barnstormer when it comes to the thrill factor.

Last, but definitely not least, is the “Behind The Steam” tour where you get to visit the roundhouse, hear stories about the WDW railroad and see the engines being prepped for the day, finally taking a private guided ride, all before the park opens.  Something that should be near the top of every Disney railfan’s bucket list, I know it is on mine.

This is not a good sign!

At the Animal Kingdom you will find 2 different railroads.

First is the Wildlife Express Train, the Eastern Star Railway, that works its way through the Africa section on a 1.2 mile 7-minute ride.  The engines are narrow gauge 2-4-2 and designed to look like engines built for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway of England in 1898.  But these engines are diesel hydraulic, not steam.  A diesel hydraulic engine uses a diesel engine to run a hydraulic pump and it is the hydraulic fluid that drives the train.

The second is Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster ride like Big thunder Mountain Railroad, where on the Anandapur Rail Service riders race through and around the mountain and come face to face with the infamous Yeti.


EPCOT only has one real railroading feature and that is the LGB G scale model garden train between the German Pavilion and the Italian Pavilion.


Again not much railroading or railroading references in the Studios.  The only one I can think of is a kiosk on Sunset Blvd designed to look like an old Los Angeles Red Line Trolley. 


Railroading references can also be found at several of the resorts.

Let’s start with the Carolwood Pacific room at the Wilderness Villas.  In this room on the main floor you will find a replica of Walt’s original Lilly Belle, with other Carolwood Pacific memorabilia.

Right next door at the Wilderness Lodge one will find a replica hand cart that is being used to hold fire wood for the amazing Grand Canyon fireplace, a whole another blog post in itself.

And who can forget the monorail system?


Probably the most notable and infamous extinct railroad at Walt Disney World is the Fort Wilderness Railroad.  Built by Disney, this scaled down real steam railroad ran on a loop through the Fort Wilderness Campground.  Designed and built by MAPO, the railroad had rough life.  Those that designed and built the train were apparently not real versed in railroads for the design was plagued with several issues that eventually spelled its demise.  Those issues were: barely sufficient water for a round trip, too many grade (street) crossings, a track bed set on the soil that lead to the rails shifting causing derailments and using inexperienced cast members to operate the train.  All of these were too much to overcome.

As far as other extinct railroad references when the World of Motion in EPCOT was a first opened it was a tame ride through, not the pedal to the metal Test Track it is now, it took the riders through the history of transportation.  In one scene a train in the old west is being held up by bandits.

And one of my personal favorite railroad encounters in the Magic Kingdom was in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride where after breaking through the crossing arms and turning onto the tack the train “hits” you and you go straight to he…, well you know where.


When at Walt Disney World look high and look low and you can find many references to railroading, one of Walt’s favorite hobbies.

And if you wish to learn more you can seek out Michael Broggie’s book “Walt Disney's Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom.”

Thanks all for reading this and thanks for letting me share some of this knowledge with your readers League City Mouse!

Till next time.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Live Steam in the World

Howdy again all!  This is League City Mouse’s brother with part two of my guest post, "Live Steam in the World"

With Walt’s passing in 1966, it was up to his brother Roy to carry on the torch for The Florida Project.  But one thing was for sure, steam trains would be involved.  Just like Electric Park in Kansas City when Walt was growing up and Disneyland later on, nostalgic steam trains would circle the park.


An opening day attraction, the Walt Disney World Railroad (WDWR) runs on a 3 foot narrow gauge track, the same as Disneyland.  Narrow gauge refers to track being set closer together than the US standard gauge (4ft 8 1/2in).

The track is 1.48 miles long (7817ft) and a full circuit takes approximately twenty minutes.

Originally, there were only two stops on the route, the Main Street USA Station and the Frontierland Station, a third station for Mickey’s Birthdayland, now the Fantasyland Station, was added in 1989.  The next major change was the controversial move of the Frontierland Station in 1990-1991 to make way for Splash Mountain.  Originally one could see all the way to the station when one entered Frontierland from Liberty Square.  This was done deliberately to mimic the fact that as the west opened, often the train tracks and station where one of, if not, the most important structures in these new western towns.  They were the link to the rest of the world.  The station is now, in my opinion, in a far worse location and hard to find.

If one gets a chance take some time and explore the stations as they are full of all kinds of details and nest stuff to find, along with few hidden Mickey’s I bet!

Normally there are only two trains on the route at a time but during especially busy periods a third train can be pressed into service.


WDWR has 4 engines each pulling a tender and 5 custom built coaches that can seat over 300 guests.

The engines and tenders were rescued from the United Railways of Yucatan (Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucat√°n) in Yucatan, Mexico and shipped by rail to the Tampa Shipyards in Tampa, Florida in 1969 where they were restored by Disney.

Engine Number 1
Name: Walter E. Disney
Wheel Configuration: 4-6-0
Color: Red Cab/Red Boiler
Manufacturer: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Year Built: 1925
United Railways of Yucatan Engine Number: 274
Note: This engine is serial number is 58444 and the Roger E. Broggie is 58445 making them “twins.”

Engine Number 2
Name: Lilly Belle
Wheel Configuration: 2-6-0
Color: Green Cab/Green Boiler
Manufacturer: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Year Built: 1928
United Railways of Yucatan Engine Number: 260
Note: The Lilly Belle does not run in regular service, usually it is only used for the rope drop ceremony and if one of the other engines goes down.  Currently this engine is out for service.

Engine Number 3
Name: Roger E. Broggie
Wheel Configuration: 2-6-0
Color: Red Cab/Green Boiler
Manufacturer: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Year Built: 1925
United Railways of Yucatan Engine Number: 275
Note: Named after imagineer Roger E. Broggie.  This engine is serial number is 58445 and the Walter E. Disney is 58444 making them “twins.”

Engine Number 4
<insert photo>
Name: Roy O. Disney
Wheel Configuration: 4-4-0
Color: Green Cab/Red Boiler
Manufacturer: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Year Built: 1916
United Railways of Yucatan Engine Number: 251
Note: This was the only engine not operational at opening day.  Roy Disney was offered to have engine number 3 named after him, it being the “twin” to the Walter E. Disney, but he deferred saying he "didn't want to be compared to all the great things Walt had done."

There was a 5th engine purchased but it was determined to be too far gone and was sold and eventually scrapped.


Starting at the Main Street USA Station the route is a clockwise trip around the Magic Kingdom.

View of the Seven Seas Lagoon as
the train is leaving Main Street
As the engineer sounds two short blasts of the whistle, indicating he is ready to depart, the train pulls out of the station.  To the riders left, since the station and train are two stories above the lagoon, is a wonderful panoramic view of Seven Seas Lagoon and the associated resorts.

As the train chugs out of the station you proceed thru the ever increasing “back jungle” of the Jungle Cruise, mostly bamboo.  When you hear the engineer sound two long, one shot and one long blast of the whistle you know you are about to cross Caribbean Way, the access road for Pirates Of The Caribbean and Jungle Cruise.

Next we come to the first of two tunnels; this one is disguising the Pirates Of The Caribbean building.  As  you go thru the tunnel it you are actually traveling over the ride.

Ever wonder what that drop in Pirates is all about?  That is it - to get under the railroad tracks.  Most of the actual Pirates attraction is outside the perimeter of the railroad tracks and the flume drop is the mechanism to get the guests to that lower level.

After exiting the tunnel back out into the Florida sunshine, or rain, or night, again it is only a short jaunt before crossing the road going into Frontierland where the Magic Kingdom parades originate.

Into another tunnel, this time going under Splash Mountain before emerging for a stop at the Frontierland Station.

View of BTMRR from the train
As you leave the Frontierland Station, one of the other WDW railroads is on the right, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR).  At the base of Big Thunder Mountain is the hamlet of Tumbleweed, population “dried up.”  The train is a great way to see the many things going on there as it travels at a much more leisurely pace than the manic BTMRR.

As a side note my sister and I have often have wondered exactly what is the hand of the cards left on the table in the Miner’s Hall?

Leaving the great Southwest behind we cross the swing bridge that lets boats onto the Rivers of America and off into a trackless forest wilderness.  On this section you may see the steamboat plying the Rivers of America, an encampment of Native Americans, some very stiff deer, a shack on the river and the infamous “burned out” house.

As we come around behind Fantasyland you get to enjoy some “native” Florida with lots of pine trees, sloughs and swampy areas.

Crossing under Center Drive you approach the “Y” that leads back to the roundhouse, which is reality not round, and then the Fantasyland Station.

After a stop to pick up passengers and provisions you are once again on your way.

To the right one will see the racers dueling it out on the Grand Prix Raceway indicating we are moving into the future.  And speaking of future ahead and on the left is Space Mountain.  The train goes under the Tomorrowland People Mover but over the entrance to Space Mountain, that is why when entering and leaving Space Mountain you go down then back up.

As you continue your journey thru a nicely kept and cut lawn area you can see to your left the Contemporary Resort.

And for the last time you cross another access road, this one going to cast parking behind Main Street USA and Tomorrowland.

Finishing up your trek you pull back into the Main Street USA Station, completing your grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street Station circa 1989


The WDWR was at various times a “C” or “D” ticket attraction when there were ticket books.

Next time, we finish up with other WDW railroads.