Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Walt Disney World & Railroading Part 2 - Magic Kingdom

Continuing from our Part 1 on the Wilderness Lodge we now take a resort boat from the Wilderness Lodge across Bay Lake and The Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom where we will encounter our next railroading experience.

Setting The Stage
As you approach the park from the water, bus, or monorail one of the first things that stands out other than Space Mountain and Cinderella's Castle is the Walt Disney World Railroad Main Street station. As you get closer to the park entrance the focus really is on Main Street Station and the Castle / other attractions are hidden. Disney designed this for a reason and the station you could say is the gateway to the experience. The trains run through here every 7 to 10 minutes so chances are as you walk up to the turnstiles and then pass through into the park you will encounter the sight, sounds, and smell of the WDW Railroad.

View of Main Street Station and one of the operating trains making a station stop - took this a few weeks ago on our trip. 
Window Details
One item that alot of people miss on their trip to the Magic Kingdom is the amount of detail and thought that the Disney Imagineers put into the park in subtle places. A good example is the center window in the station as it has meaningful words stating: "Walt Disney World Railroad Office - Keeping Dreams on Track - Walter E. Disney, Chief Engineer." It is hard to see in the photo below which I had taken back in 2009 but I promise you it is there. A neat fact I learned from a cast member is this window sign writing is the only one visible from outside of the park. All of the other window sign writing is on the other side of the station and along Main Street.

Little closer in view of the window and station architecture.

The Railroad Itself
Alot of great information abounds on the web regarding the Walt Disney World Railroad Company. I do not want to detract from this but instead at the end of my post I will have links that you can follow to good sites with good facts / stats about the railroad. This post is going to be from my perspective as a guest in the Magic Kingdom.

The railroad is a closed loop narrow gauge system that circles the outer perimeter of the Magic Kingdom. Towards the northeast corner of the railroad around Fantasyland Station is a spur that leads to the maintenance shop facility where the locomotives and cars are maintained. There does appear to be a simple signal system that you can see as you are at the stations and on the route that keep each of the trains spaced apart. On the loop around the park the railroad operates three stations that allow guest to board or disembark from. You have to wait in line at any of the three stations, but once aboard you can ride the train as long as you would like until it no longer runs at the end of the operating day. I cannot confirm but from my observation the day we were in the park there seemed to be three trains operating which was very fluid and the park was very crowded going into M.L.K. Weekend.

Fantasyland Station - "Walter E. Disney" crew had just completed servicing with water tower peeking out from behind the lead passenger car. (Jan 2015)
The engines on the railroad are steam powered and operate under their own power... no tricks or third rails here. They build steam by burning Fuel Oil that is stored in the tenders along with the water needed for the steam. Their is a water tower and dump pit at Fantasyland Station which on every 3rd or 4th trip required a stop for water refill. Some of the servicing can be observed and not to mention great photographic opportunities on the walkway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. For more specifics on each of the engines please check out the links to different web resources.

Remember that walkway I just mentioned in the paragraph above - unimpeded area to get quick photos of the engines as they startup out of Fantasyland Station. This is the "Roger E. Broggie" taken with iPhone.

On Board Experience
The weather in early January in Central Florida is brisk and requires a light jacket / sweatshirt no doubt. This Friday was extremely sunny with a nice breeze. All three of us boarded the train at Fantasyland station for a round trip around the Magic Kingdom giving our feet a rest and just an opportunity to enjoy one of the original attractions that opened with the park in 1971.

On-board two cars back from the locomotive.
On-board the ride experience is one that you would expect from a steam powered locomotive and the awesome story telling that Disney does so well: sight of the steam, sound of the whistle, classic chuf, and the smell of the fueloil being converted into steam power. There is a great narration on-board that talks about the railroad, park, and different attractions from the "Conductors" point of view. Making the round trip journey we traveled from Fantasyland to Main Street USA to Frontierland to Fantasyland. We decided to stay on for one more leg and get off at Main Street USA, so we kinda did 1.5 trips. The primary single loop trip average to be 21 minutes.

Family fun on the rails - yes that is a Detroit Tigers cap. 
While the railroad does not run after dark I could not miss out on the opportunity to take a photo of Main Street Station from in front of Cinderella's Castle at night, the picture is unique with the sea of black all around the lighting outline of Main Street USA.
Main Street Station @ night from Cinderella's Castle.
I hope you have enjoyed my second post on Walt Disney World & Railroading. If you have a chance to visit the resort and go the parks I highly recommend you take the time to ride the rails of nostalgia, relax, and let your senses do the work. For folks even more interested Disney does host a behind the scenes tour of their locomotive shops with a greater in-depth look at the engines. You have to book ahead, have theme park admission, and there is a cost but on my next trip I plan to do this.

Walt Disney Railroad Information Links
Wikipedia Page
The Disney Wikia Page - alot of the same info from Wikipedia but more pictures

Later this week we will finish up the series with Part 3 - EPCOT


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