Walt Disney World Railroad

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Walt Disney World Railroad
Magic Kingdom - Walt Disney World Railroad poster.jpg
Attraction Poster
Reporting mark WDWRR
Locale Magic Kingdom
Dates of operation October 1, 1971–Present
Track gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Length 7,810 feet (2,380 m)
Headquarters Bay Lake, Florida

The Walt Disney World Railroad (or WDWRR for short) is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge[1] railroad in the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort. Operated by Main Street Operations, the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) railroad circles the entire park with stations at Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland, and Fantasyland (formerly Mickey's Toontown Fair). One of the busiest steam-powered railroads, it transports 3.7 million passengers each year.[2]

History[edit]

Walt Disney was an avid railroad enthusiast, who had built a miniature steam railroad, called the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, in his backyard. A full-size, 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad known as the Disneyland Railroad had been included in the design of Disneyland, and would be included at later parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. For Walt Disney World, Disney imagineers Roger Broggie and Earl Vilmer found and purchased five locomotives from Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatan (United Railways of Yucatan) on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula in 1969.

One of the five locomotives, deemed to be in too poor a condition to be restored, was sold and presumed scrapped. The other four were shipped by rail to the Tampa Shipyards in Tampa, Florida and restored by a crew headed by Disney Imagineer and accomplished live steam builder Bob Harpur. New boilers were constructed for the trains by Dixon Boiler Works of Los Angeles, California and the locomotives themselves were cosmetically backdated to appear older; which included the addition of diamond smoke stacks, square headlamps, boiler jackets, crosshead pumps, bright colors, and polished brass. The tenders were also completely rebuilt from the frame up and new fiberglass cabs were manufactured and installed on the locomotives. In addition, a total of twenty open-air excursion cars were constructed at the shipyards, each of which could seat up to seventy five passengers. The trains went into service with the opening of Walt Disney World on October 1, 1971.

Main Street Station

In 1988, a third train station was constructed as part of Mickey's Birthdayland, an expansion to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday. From 1988–1990, different versions of a song called "Mickey's Birthdayland Express" and "Rollin' on the Walt Disney World Express" were played during the trip. Additionally, an automated on-board narration was added to the trains eliminating the need for the conductors to perform the spiel live. After departing Frontierland, the train traveled to Duckberg Station at Mickey's Birthdayland (later renamed Mickey's Starland and finally Mickey's Toontown Fair). During 1990-1991, when Splash Mountain was under construction in Frontierland, the Frontierland Station was closed and demolished, and the line between Main Street U.S.A. & Frontierland was turned from a straight line to a curve line. Temporarily, the train had only one destination: it traveled backwards from Main Street U.S.A. to Mickey's Starland and then forward back to Main Street U.S.A. In 1991, a new Frontierland Station is opened and it allowed the trains to make the full grand circle tour of the park once again.

Over the years, several of the locomotives as well as the passenger coaches have been overhauled and modified. In 1988, the first four rows of seats in the first coach on all the trains were removed and ramps were installed to allow for wheelchair access. In 1999, the P.A. system/conductor's spiel panel was moved from its position on the rear platform of the third car to the rear platform on the last car. This lets the conductor see the entire train at one time which allows for safer operation. In 2006, the side panels were added to the left side of the coaches on all of the trains to keep the passengers from sticking their feet and legs outside of the cars. One set of coaches has their outside-facing panels removed because it is used exclusively for the park opening ceremonies that are held each morning. Characters ride the train to Main Street Station, disembark on the outer station platform and participate in the park opening song and dance performance. In 2012, instead of the fireman standing on the top of the tender by open the water tank lid and drag the spout down by hand. The handrail bars were added to the back to the left side of the tenders to let the fireman open the water tank lid and drag the spout down to the tender by using a fish hook. After filling up, he will lift the spout back up and closed the water tank lid up.

On February 12, 2011, Mickey's Toontown Fair station permanently closed to make way for an expansion of Fantasyland. The Toontown Station was demolished and a new Fantasyland Station was built in its place. During construction of the Fantasyland Station, a new on-board narration was introduced, which referenced the Fantasyland expansion and referred to the former Toontown Station stop as the "Watering Outpost" since trains still had to stop there in order to top off the tender with water and maintain the railroad's operating schedule. The new Fantasyland Station opened on March 12, 2012 and is themed to resemble a railroad roundhouse. It features restroom facilities and a children's splash park themed to the Casey Junior Circus Train from the Dumbo animated film.

For the first time since the park opened, the Walt Disney World Railroad was closed on September 29, 2014 for an extensive refurbishment. During this time, almost all of the tracks (which had been in service since the park opened in 1971) were replaced, the blowdown bridge on the spur line leading back to the roundhouse was demolished and rebuilt, the rotating Frontierland bridge was repainted and had its wood decking replaced, the Main Street U.S.A. and Frontierland stations were renovated, the locomotives were cleaned-up, repainted and overhauled, and the fabric skirts around the roofs on all of the coaches were replaced. The newly refurbished railroad reopened and resumed operations on November 9, 2014.

Trains[edit]

The railroad has four different locomotives and four sets of five passenger cars. The four locomotives are 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge locomotives, built between 1916 and 1928 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán in Mexico.

A regular train consists of a steam locomotive, tender, and five passenger coaches with a total capacity of approximately 365 passengers plus 2 wheelchairs. The tender has a capacity for 1,837 US gallons (6,954 L) of water and 664 US gallons (2,514 L) of fuel oil. The tender must be topped off with water every three or four trips (or circuits) around the park, which is done at the water tower located at Fantasyland Station. Prior to the construction of Splash Mountain, the water tower was located at the original Frontierland Station.

Locomotives[edit]

Each of the four locomotives is named after those who greatly contributed to the efforts of the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney World.

No. 1 "Walter E. Disney"[edit]

"Walter E. Disney" at the Mickey's Toontown Fair Station

This locomotive is named after company founder Walter Elias Disney (1901–1966). Walt loved railroads and his parks have always displayed his love for trains.

  • Built: 1925
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler"
  • Serial Number: 58444
  • Locomotive Colors: Red cab with red boiler jacket
  • Coaches Color: Red with red poles
  • Coaches Number Series: 100
  • Coaches Status: Operational
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (1,118 mm)
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80.4672 km/h)
  • Boiler Pressure: 160 Psi (1.10316 MPa)
  • Valve Gear: Stephenson valve gear
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 67,000 pounds (30,390 kg)
  • Entering Service: October 1, 1971
  • Status: Operational

No. 2 "Lilly Belle"[edit]

"Lilly Belle" pulling the "Walter E. Disney's" coaches.

This locomotive is named after Walt Disney's wife Lillian Disney (born Lillian Marie Bounds) (1899–1997). "Lilly Belle" is also the name of the scaled-down steam locomotive Disney ran in his own backyard and the parlour car of the Disneyland Railroad. It should also be noted that Lilly Belle was built in 1928, which would make it as old as Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Since 2004, the Lilly Belle does not run in regular service due to frame issues. Instead, it is used exclusively for the daily park opening ceremonies along with its original set of coaches, the second, third, and fourth coaches had their side panels removed to allow the characters to disembark from the train unimpeded. Unless, they can be used in regular service if any of the engines' coaches are being refurbished. It is also used as a standby locomotive in the event that if any of the other three locomotives should break down. One of the other three locomotives had issues. So, the Lilly Belle would uncoupled from its coaches and proceed to the stranded train where it will then replace the failed locomotive until it can be repaired.

As of September 2010, the Lilly Belle is currently out-of-service and off-site for a rebuild at the Strasburg Rail Road workshops in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, which was originally scheduled to last 10–12 months. Also, Disney and Strasburg will not said when it will returned to operational due to fanboy mobs from descending upon its refurbishment.[1]

  • Built: 1928
  • Wheel Configuration: 2-6-0 "Mogul"
  • Serial Number : 60598
  • Locomotive Color: Green cab with green boiler jacket
  • Coaches Color: Green with green poles
  • Coaches Number Series: 200
  • Coaches Status: Operational
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (1,118 mm)
  • Top Speed: 45 mph (72.4205 km/h)
  • Boiler Pressure: 160 Psi (1.10316 MPa)
  • Valve Gear: Stephenson valve gear
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 61,000 pounds (27,669 kg)
  • Entering Service: October 2, 1971
  • Status: Out of Service (Undergoing Refurbishment)

No. 3 "Roger E. Broggie"[edit]

"Roger E. Broggie"

This locomotive is named after Roger E. Broggie (1908–1991), who led the effort of acquiring the locomotives for the Walt Disney World Railroad and helped build Disney's own Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Roger Broggie was also the original Disney Imagineer who worked on the EPCOT Project.

  • Built: 1925
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler"
  • Serial Number: 58445
  • Locomotive Colors: Red cab with green boiler jacket
  • Coaches Color: Yellow with red poles
  • Coaches Number Series: 300
  • Coaches Status: Undergoing Refurbishment
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (1,118 mm)
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80.4672 km/h)
  • Boiler Pressure: 160 Psi (1.10316 MPa)
  • Valve Gear: Stephenson valve gear
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 67,000 pounds (30,390 kg)
  • Entering Service: October 3, 1971
  • Status: Operational

No. 4 "Roy O. Disney"[edit]

"Roy O. Disney" at the Mickey's Toontown Fair station.

This locomotive is named after Walt Disney's older brother and business partner, Roy Oliver Disney (1893–1971). Roy came out of retirement following his brother's death in 1966 in order to oversee the construction of the then named "Disney World" project. Roy renamed the resort to "Walt Disney World" in Walt's honor and died shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened.

Roy was offered to have the second 4-6-0 locomotive (which is now the "Roger Broggie") named after him, so that the Walter E. Disney and Roy O. Disney locomotives would be alike. But he humbly refused, stating that he "didn't want to be compared to all the great things Walt had done." The Roy O. Disney was the only WDWRR locomotive that was not running at the park on opening day in 1971. Because, its restoration wasn't finished until December 1st of that year shortly before Roy's Death, thus allowing the company to name the locomotive in his honor.

  • Built: 1916
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-4-0 "American"
  • Serial Number: 42915
  • Locomotive Colors: Green cab with red boiler jacket
  • Coaches Color: Blue with blue poles
  • Coaches Number Series: 400
  • Coaches Status: Operational
  • Driver Diameter: 46 inches (1,168 mm)
  • Top Speed: 55 mph (88.5139 km/h)
  • Boiler Pressure: 160 Psi (1.10316 MPa)
  • Valve Gear: Stephenson valve gear
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 51,000 pounds (23,133 kg)
  • Entering Service: December 1, 1971
  • Status: Operational

Operation[edit]

A sketch of the railroad and monorail systems.

The railroad operates daily, taking on its first passengers at 9:00 AM, year-round. For safety reasons, the railroad is closed during the evening fireworks show due to the tracks' close proximity to the fireworks staging area, which is located approximately 100 yards (91 m) or so behind Fantasyland. Typically, the trains are moved back to the roundhouse one hour before the fireworks show begins. Additionally, the railroad does not operate during special events such as Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. A round-trip on the WDWRR takes approximately twenty minutes to complete.

Crew[edit]

There are three crew members on each train; a Conductor, an Engineer, and a Fireman. The engineer is charged with operation of the locomotive, the fireman is responsible for maintaining the fire as well as the water level in the boiler, and the conductor is responsible for the overall operation and safety of each train.

Additionally, each station is manned by one or two conductors who serve as station attendants. Duties as a station attendant involve keeping track of passenger counts, answering questions and assisting passengers on and off of the trains. While on the train, the conductor runs the spiel box and makes safety announcements. Trains cannot move without approval from the conductor and the station attendant. Once the platform is clear of guests and everyone is seated on the train, the station attendant will shout "BOARD!" and give a hand signal to the train crew to indicate that they are clear to depart the station. The train's conductor will then respond by shouting "BOARD!" and then give 2 short buzzes on the conductor's buzzer, which tells the locomotive crew that they are clear to depart the station. Station attendants must also watch to ensure that no one tries to get off the train as it departs the station. If this happens, the station attendant will shout "STOP!" and use hand signals to instruct the train crew to stop the train.

The conductors work in a rotation, each of which is assigned to a specific train. There are three different rotations to which conductors may be assigned. Conductors are in each position of the rotation for twenty minutes, which is equivalent to one trip around the park. The two main rotations, which are called "Roundhouses", are Roundhouse 1 (RH1) and Roundhouse 2 (RH2). A third rotation, called Roundhouse 3 (RH3), is only added when a third train is needed during peak crowd days at the park. The RH1 rotation is responsible for the Frontierland Station platform, Frontierland Station Greeter, RH1 Train Conductor and RH1 Breaker. The RH2 Rotation is responsible for the Main Street Station platform, the Fantasyland Station (formerly Mickey's Toontown Fair Station) platform, RH2 Train Conductor and RH2 Breaker. When there is a third train in operation, it only requires a RH3 Train Conductor and a RH3 Breaker.

Opening[edit]

Early in the morning, the first train crew arrives at the roundhouse to get the first train ready to depart. The maintenance crew will mark on a board which trains are going to be used and the order they are to be removed from the roundhouse. The first crew will prep and take out the first train listed on the board. Safety and readiness checks are performed by the conductor as the enginemen prepare the locomotive for a day of operation.

As the atomizer requires around 30 pounds/inch² (200 kPa) of steam pressure to operate, a compressed air line must be tapped into the atomizer line when the fire is first lit until enough steam has been raised to re-light the fire atomizing on steam. The conductor, who is in charge of the train and its motion at all times, will inspect the track and arrangement of the switches in the yard outside of the roundhouse to ensure the train will have safe passage from the roundhouse to junction with the main line at the Fantasyland switch.

Once the boiler has reached working pressure and the engineers are ready to depart, they will give two short whistles to indicate the train is about to start moving forward. After a reply from the conductor's buzzer (2 short buzzes) recognizing the whistle signal, the train will proceed out of the roundhouse, the length of one car at a time, so that the maintenance crew can complete the morning inspection of the running gear from a maintenance pit below the train.

At different times during the trip into the park the engineers will test the safety systems on the train. The two main tests include intentionally popping the safety valves and purposely running the train past a red block light. The safety valves are set to release excess steam to maintain the boiler's maximum certified working pressure and running the block light will automatically trigger the train brakes. These systems are tested daily to insure that they are working properly. These two tests are considered the most important to ensure safe operation of these steam trains. After the first train is on the main line, the second train is not far behind. As this process is occurring, other conductors are arriving at the stations throughout the park to prepare for the trains' arrival.

In Service[edit]

When the park opens, the first train departs from Main Street Station. The second will be just behind; at the block signal between Fantasyland and Main Street Stations or at the Fantasyland Station. Typically, two trains are used daily, with a third sometimes put into service on busy days later in the morning.

Each lap around the Magic Kingdom should be completed in approximately twenty minutes. This timing is established and maintained by the first train that is brought out onto the main line in the morning. The second and third trains keep up with the first train as much as possible. The goal is to have the first train arrive at Main Street Station at the top of the hour and at :20 and :40 past. If any of the other trains fall behind, they will need to catch up or drop behind a lap to get the first train back on schedule. This is necessary to facilitate proper closing procedures on the park's schedule.

Block Signals[edit]

The block signals let the engineers and train conductor know the position of the trains on the system. The block signals on the WDWRR resemble a typical traffic light with three lights that are green, yellow, and red. On the main line there are six blocks. Three of them are the stations and include some length of track before the station. The other three blocks are spread out with one between each station.

The block signals typically change in this order in both directions: Green <--> Yellow/Green <--> Red <--> Yellow/Red

  • Green Only: The next 2 blocks are completely clear. It is safe to proceed.
  • Yellow/Green: The next block is clear, however, the block beyond is occupied. It is safe to proceed, but be prepared to stop at the next block.
  • Red Only: The next block is occupied and it is not safe to proceed past this point.
  • Yellow/Red: The next 2 blocks are both occupied; it is not safe to proceed past this point.

In a two train operation the conductors will not allow the train to proceed on a Yellow/Green signal. This keeps the trains spaced for more consistent service to the stations and prevents the train from having to stop in between stations. In a three train operation conductors can dispatch trains on the yellow/green signal. The reason for this is because there will almost always be a train in the second block ahead. Four train operations are not possible as there is not enough space on the main line, nor are there enough blocks to do so safely.

Whistles[edit]

As with any railroad, the whistles all have a meaning as they are warning/signaling devices. Many guests are unaware that a train whistles' primary purpose is in fact communication. On the WDWRR, engineers use distinct whistle patterns to communicate while the conductor uses the same patterns with a button which activates a buzzer in the cab of the locomotive.

While the train is operated as a team, the conductor has the final say in the operation of the train; they are in command. At the stations, engineers will request to depart by signaling with two short whistles. The conductor will signal it is safe to do so by signaling to the cab with two short buzzes on the conductor's buzzer. The common whistle patterns used on the WDWRR are as follows:

  • One Short – Attention / It is safe to disembark the train
  • Two Shorts – Forward Movement
  • Three Shorts – Reverse Movement
  • One Long, One Short – Approaching a Station
  • One Long, Two Shorts – Crew spotted along track (also used as a general greeting)
  • Two Longs, One Short, One Long – Public Crossing ahead
  • Two Longs, One Short – Meeting Point (junction)
  • One Long – Stop Immediately / Emergency stop.
  • Four Longs – Train in distress.
  • Two Shorts, One Long, One Short – Engineer is acknowledging the maintenance crew

The locomotive's bell is rung upon the train's arrival at a station whenever the train is due to pick up passengers (therefore it is not rung on the last trip when the station platforms are clear of guests and the welcome show). As with the whistle, the bell being rung is an official and mandatory signaling sequence. The same whistle and bell signaling system is also in use at the Disneyland Railroad.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the engineer would blow the One Long, One Short whistle signal when approaching the Pirates of The Caribbean Tunnel and the original Frontierland Station followed by the Two Longs, One Short, One Long whistle signal when approaching the original parade crossing, which was located near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Following the construction of Splash Mountain and the new Frontierland Station, the engineer blows the Two Longs, One Short, One Long whistle signal when approaching the current parade crossing between the Pirates of The Caribbean and Splash Mountain tunnels followed by the One Long, One Short whistle signal when approaching Frontierland Station. Since September 2014, the engineer blows the One Short whistle signal after stopping at the station to let the passengers and conductor know that it is safe to disembark the train due to the locomotive being halted by its passenger cars and lurched towards them which caused the passengers being startled and falling off the passenger cars and platform.

The #1 Walter E. Disney, #2 Lilly Belle, and #3 Roger E. Broggie locomotives all had Buckeye 3" 3-chime whistles. But they had different tones, Walter's is normal, Lilly's is high, and Roger's is soft.[3] Since Jan 2014, the Roger E. Broggie now had a Crosby 4" 3-chime whistle. While, the #4 Roy O. Disney is the only locomotive to have a deep-tone Crosby 6" 3-chime whistle.

Closing[edit]

At the end of the evening the conductors at each station announce the departure of the last train. All guests may ride until the train arrives back at Fantasyland Station. Upon arrival, the conductors walk the length of the train to clear the train of remaining passengers, and any items accidentally left on board are unloaded and brought to lost and found by the station attendant. This procedure is the same for all trains.

After the train is cleared for departure, the conductor will signal the engineers with the reverse movement signal, at which time the train departs backwards stopping just short of the Fantasyland switch. The conductor will then step off and throw the switch to allow the train to back onto the roundhouse spur. At this point the engineer relies on the conductor to guide the train to back towards the roundhouse, which they do from the rear platform of the last coach. If other trains are still in operation, the fireman will throw the Fantasyland switch back to the main line to allow trains to continue running; otherwise the switch is left aligned for the roundhouse spur. At each switch and grade crossing the conductor will signal to let the engineer know that the train successfully cleared it and can continue backing up. This continues until the train is backed completely into the roundhouse.

Other information[edit]

  • The Walter E. Disney and Roger E. Broggie locomotives have serial numbers that are sequential (58444 and 58445). These locomotives were on the shop floor at the same time in 1925 as they were being built for the United Railways of Yucatan and still operate together to this day. Because of this, they are referred to as the "twins".
  • During locomotives or passenger cars refurbishments, it is not uncommon to see the passenger cars from one locomotive being pulled by another. While most guests don't notice such a switch, WDWRR cast members often refer to these trains with a hybrid name amongst one another. Examples include - "Roger Disney”, "Walter Broggie", "Walter Belle", and many other confusing combinations.
  • The Magic Kingdom offers a behind the scenes tour of the Walt Disney World Railroad on select days of the week, called "The Magic Behind our Steam Trains Tour". It is recommended that guests reserve spots in advance if they wish to attend (park admission is required).
  • Originally, a fifth locomotive was brought up from Mexico. It had been displayed in a park across from the railroad tracks in Mérida and brought to Tampa with the other four; however, it was found to be in poor shape and was not restored. It was sold to a party in California and it is presumed that it has since been scrapped.
  • In 1995, Southern California railroad enthusiast Bill Norred traded his 1927 Davenport locomotive (a 2-4-4 Forney type) to Disneyland in exchange for the five retired clerestory-roofed "Retlaw One" coaches. The locomotive was instead sent to Walt Disney World after it was deemed too large to operate in California and was dedicated as #5 "Ward Kimball". The WDWRR, however, felt that its four engines were sufficient for regular service, and expressed little interest in acquiring a fifth. Moreover, the #5 was found to be far too small for operation on the WDWRR. As a result, the engine never operated in regular service and, except for being displayed at Epcot during Black History Month in 1996 for a short time, remained stored in the fifth bay of the WDWRR enginehouse.[citation needed] It was traded in 1999 to Cedar Point for a smaller Forney locomotive which was restored and now operates as the #5 "Ward Kimball" on the Disneyland Railroad.
  • Previously, before the Fantasyland expansion, "Night Fire Dance" by Andreas Vollenweider and "Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby" could be heard during the trip from Mickey's Toontown Fair to Main Street, U.S.A. as could "Caderas" during the trip from Main Street, U.S.A. to Frontierland.
  • Several show scenes were built specifically for viewing from the trains, including a jungle-themed railroad crossing in Adventureland (along with a hidden Mickey on left side of the tracks are three wheels on the ground - they are between the road and the barrel.), the flooded town of Tumbleweed on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a Plains Indians camp and various small vignettes featuring woodland wildlife such as deer, moose, alligators, frogs and rattlesnakes. Just before arriving at Frontierland Station, trains pass through Splash Mountain, where the ride's finale scene (along with a "Hidden Mickey") can be seen from above through a large plate glass window.
  • The former Mickey's Toontown Fair was demolished to make way for a new expansion of Fantasyland. The new Fantasyland Station was built on the former Toontown Station site and opened on March 12, 2012.
  • A new on-board narration debuted in December 2010 which features a new narrator (who replaced Corey Burton and Ron Schinder), eliminates the themed music, references more attractions within each land and highlights the new Fantasyland expansion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]