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 Yucatán) 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment