Walt Disney World Railroad
|Walt Disney World Railroad|
The WDWRR's No. 2 locomotive stopped at Fantasyland Station
|Opening date||October 1, 1971|
|Attraction type||Railroad attraction|
|Manufacturer||Baldwin Locomotive Works|
|Riders per vehicle||375 per train|
|No. of tracks||Single|
|Track gauge||3 ft (914 mm)|
|Track length||1.5 miles (2.4 km)|
Closed captioning available
The Walt Disney World Railroad (WDWRR) is a 3-foot (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad and attraction located within the Magic Kingdom theme park of Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, in the United States. Its route is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in length and encircles most of the park, with train stations in three different park areas. The rail line, constructed by WED Enterprises, operates with four historic steam locomotives originally built by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It takes about 20 minutes for each train to complete a round trip on the WDWRR's main line. On a typical day, the railroad has two trains in operation; on busy days, it has three trains.
The WDWRR's development was led by Roger E. Broggie, who also oversaw the construction of the Disneyland Railroad in Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The attraction's locomotives were acquired from the Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán, a narrow-gauge railroad system in Mexico. After being shipped to the United States, they were altered to resemble locomotives built in the 1880s and restored to operating condition. Each locomotive was also given a set of passenger cars, which were built from scratch.
The Walt Disney World Railroad opened to the public for the first time on October 1, 1971, the same day that the Magic Kingdom park opened. Since then, the WDWRR has become one of the world's most popular steam-powered railroads, with about 3.7 million passengers each year.
Discovery in Mexico
The development of the Walt Disney World Railroad from the late 1960s to its opening in 1971 was overseen by Roger E. Broggie, vice president and general manager of Mapo, Inc., WED Enterprises' research and manufacturing branch. Broggie previously supervised the building of the Disneyland Railroad in Disneyland in Anaheim, California. From his experience with the railroad at Disneyland, Broggie determined that it was better to use existing steam locomotives, rather than building them entirely from scratch like the Disneyland Railroad's first two locomotives. To this end, he contacted rail historian Gerald M. Best who informed him that locomotives could be obtained at a railroad boneyard in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, owned by the Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán. This was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge system, the same gauge as the Disneyland Railroad. Broggie, along with fellow Disney employee and railroad-building expert Earl Vilmer, went to Mérida in 1969 to investigate. They determined that four locomotives in the boneyard built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, along with a fifth locomotive built by Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works in a park in front of the railroad company's headquarters across the street, could potentially be salvaged.
Broggie paid a total of US$32,750 for all five locomotives ($8,000 for each of the four locomotives in the boneyard plus an additional $750 for the fifth locomotive in the park). The locomotives, along with an assortment of brass fittings and other spare parts given away for free, were immediately shipped by rail around the Gulf of Mexico back to the United States.
Restoration in Florida
Walt Disney World Railroad
The five locomotives and spare parts acquired by Roger Broggie were sent to the Tampa Ship Repair & Dry Dock Company in Tampa, Florida, to receive the aesthetic and mechanical restorations necessary to run on the planned Walt Disney World Railroad (WDWRR). At the time, this was the closest facility to the Walt Disney World site in Bay Lake, Florida with the space and equipment needed to accommodate full-size railroad rolling stock. Here Transportation Superintendent Earl Vilmer, who had accompanied Broggie on his trip to Mexico, along with Project Engineer Bob Harpur and the facility's Machinist Supervisor George Britton were tasked with the project's completion.
The general idea for the restoration was to make the locomotives appear as if they were built in the 1880s. The original, dilapidated boilers of the four locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works were replaced with new, smaller boilers built by Dixon Boiler Works. Their worn-out wood and steel cabs were replaced with new ones made of fiberglass, and they were given new tenders, which used the trucks from the originals. Many of the smaller original parts on the locomotives such as the domes and brass bells on top of the boilers, the wheels, and the side rods were successfully refurbished and retained. The locomotives' fireboxes were also reconfigured to burn diesel oil. Replicas of their builder plates were also made to replace the originals.
The Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works locomotive acquired along with them could not be restored. Built in 1902, this locomotive was the oldest of the five locomotives purchased and was determined to have too many problems to be rebuilt. It was stored out of use in California for a period before being sold to an unknown locomotive broker. Some of its parts were used to help restore the four Baldwin locomotives, including its smokestack, which was fitted to the WDWRR's No. 4 locomotive.
Opening day to present day
The restoration of the Walt Disney World Railroad's four locomotives, as well as the construction of five new open-air Narragansett-style excursion cars for each of them (twenty in total), was completed in less than two years. The first completed set of five passenger cars was delivered to the Magic Kingdom park in April 1971 and the first completed locomotive arrived on May 15, 1971, several months before the park's opening. Like the steam trains running on the Disneyland Railroad during Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955, the steam trains for the WDWRR were the first attraction in the Magic Kingdom park to be finished, and they have been operating in the park ever since it opened on October 1, 1971. George Britton, who was instrumental in getting the WDWRR's locomotives refurbished, became the railroad's foreman from the time the railroad opened until his retirement on June 6, 2006. The WDWRR would eventually become one of the most popular steam-powered railroads in the world with about 3.7 million passengers each year.
For the first few months after the WDWRR opened to the public, Main Street, U.S.A. Station at the Magic Kingdom park's entrance, modeled after the former Victorian-style Saratoga Springs station in Saratoga Springs, New York, was the only stop for passengers along its route, making only complete round trips possible. On May 1, 1972, the first Frontierland Station opened just northwest of Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café in the Frontierland section on the park's western edge. It was one of the last changes made to the WDWRR prior to the retirement of Roger Broggie on October 1, 1973. Frontierland Station was demolished in November 1990 to make way for the new Splash Mountain attraction and was replaced by the current Frontierland Station, which opened in December 1991 just north of the original station site. During construction of the Splash Mountain attraction and the current Frontierland Station, the WDWRR was temporarily renamed Backtrack Express and operated a single train, which only traveled back and forth along the section of track between the Main Street, U.S.A. section and the Mickey's Starland section. Between 1976 and 1977, the Auto-Train Corporation sponsored the WDWRR.
The WDWRR's third station, Mickey's Birthdayland Station, opened on June 18, 1988, in the Magic Kingdom park's brand-new Mickey's Birthdayland section adjacent to the Fantasyland section in the park's northeast corner, and the railroad was briefly renamed Mickey's Birthdayland Express to promote it. In 2004, the station was demolished and completely rebuilt with an identical appearance to the original station. On February 11, 2011, after getting its name changed to Mickey's Starland in 1990 and Mickey's Toontown Fair in 1996, the section and its WDWRR station closed to make way for the new Storybook Circus area, part of a new expansion of the Fantasyland section. The current Fantasyland Station, built on the site of the former Mickey's Toontown Fair Station, opened on March 12, 2012. In April 2012, the water tower and maintenance buildings adjacent to Fantasyland Station were re-themed to match the station's new design. During the WDWRR's 2017 refurbishment, the text on the sign mounted on Main Street, U.S.A. Station indicating a population of 600,000,000 and an elevation of 108 feet (32.9 m) was replaced with the text Est. 1971.
Beginning at Main Street, U.S.A. Station adjacent to the Magic Kingdom park's entrance, the trains of the Walt Disney World Railroad travel along its single track in a clockwise direction on its circular route. It takes about 20 minutes for each train to complete a round trip on the WDWRR's main line, and on any given day, either two or three trains run, with two running on a typical day. Each train is operated by an engineer and fireman in the locomotive, as well as a conductor at the rear of the train who supervises the passengers.
After the train departs Main Street, U.S.A. Station, it crosses an access road in the Adventureland section, travels over a small bridge, enters a small tunnel, then crosses a second access road in the Frontierland section. After going through a tunnel through the Splash Mountain log flume attraction, the train stops at Frontierland Station.
Continuing down the line, the train passes the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster attraction and traverses a swing bridge, which crosses a canal that connects the Rivers of America to a boat servicing area. This bridge was originally located in Wabasso, Florida, and was previously owned by the Florida East Coast Railway. The train then runs through an area where numerous static and Audio-Animatronic displays of Native Americans and wild animals can be seen. After that, the train goes under an overpass, passes the spur line leading to the WDWRR's roundhouse where its trains are stored and maintained, and arrives at its next stop at Fantasyland Station.
In the final segment of the train's journey around the park, it climbs a two-percent grade through the Tomorrowland section, passes the Space Mountain roller coaster attraction, and travels over a small bridge before it arrives back at Main Street, U.S.A. Station. This completes what the park refers to as The Grand Circle Tour.
The WDWRR does not run during fireworks shows, given that its track runs close to the fireworks staging area. Since 1999, a separately-priced tour of the WDWRR named Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour has been available once daily, and includes access to the railroad's otherwise-restricted roundhouse.
When working on the line, each Walt Disney World Railroad locomotive consumes 25 US gallons (95 l) of fuel and 200 US gallons (760 l) of water per hour, and each of their tenders can hold 664 US gallons (2,510 l) of fuel and 1,837 US gallons (6,950 l) of water. In the past, all four locomotives received overhauls at the Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Each of the four locomotives pulls a set of five passenger cars with seating capacity for 75 passengers per car, for a total of 375 passengers per train. Steam-driven generators at the rear of the tenders supply electricity to the locomotives and passenger cars. There are no brakes on the locomotives, but the passenger cars are equipped with them.
|Number||Name||Namesake||Image||Wheel arrangement||Date built||Serial number||Passenger cars||Date entered service||Notes|
|1||Walter E. Disney||Walt Disney||4-6-0 (Ten-wheeler)||May 1925||58444||Five red passenger cars
|October 1, 1971||This is the WDWRR's tallest locomotive at 11 feet 11 inches (3.6 m), giving it 1 inch (25 mm) of clearance between the top of its smokestack and the top of the roundhouse doors.|
|2||Lilly Belle||Lillian Disney||2-6-0 (Mogul)||September 1928||60598||Five green passenger cars
|October 1, 1971||After a multi-year refurbishment, this locomotive returned to service in 2016.|
|3||Roger E. Broggie||Roger E. Broggie||4-6-0 (Ten-wheeler)||May 1925||58445||Five yellow passenger cars
|October 1, 1971||Originally planned to be named after Roy O. Disney, but given that he did not want his name attached to the locomotive nearly identical to the No. 1 named after Walt Disney, the No. 4 was named after him instead.|
|4||Roy O. Disney||Roy O. Disney||4-4-0 (American)||February 1916||42915||Five blue passenger cars
|December 1, 1971||Predates the Magic Kingdom's oldest purpose-built amusement attraction: the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, built in 1917. This locomotive's service entry date was delayed until two months after the park opened to make a major repair to its frame.|
The Walt Disney World Railroad utilizes block signals to notify the engineers, firemen, and conductors on each train whether the track segments along the railroad's 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of main-line track are clear or occupied by other trains. The WDWRR's track is divided into seven such segments, or blocks, and each block has a track-side block signal to communicate its status. Block signals are located at each of the three stations, alongside the three main-line blocks between the stations, and alongside the spur line connecting the WDWRR's roundhouse to the main line.
|Block signal light color(s)||Meaning||Action needed
(when two trains
(when three trains
|Red||Next block is occupied||Stop||Stop|
||Next two blocks are occupied||Stop||Stop|
||Next block is clear, but following block is occupied||Stop||Proceed to next block|
|Green||Next two blocks are clear||Proceed to next block||Proceed to next block|
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