All aboard! Not quite yet, but very soon, we’ll be able to board the Walt Disney World Railroad for a trip around the Magic Kingdom. On December 3, 2018 the Walt Disney World Railroad suspended service due to the construction of the new Tron coaster coming to the Magic Kingdom. Disney is taking this opportunity to update the railroad in a variety of ways. What changes could we expect to see when the Walt Disney World Railroad reopens? Grab a hardhat we’re heading into the construction zone.
Disney Railroad History
No story can begin without a little backstory. Walt Disney is known for Mickey Mouse, animation, and the parks he created. A lesser know fact about the man behind the magic is his affinity for trains. Walt’s love for the railroad started at a young age and carried throughout his life. He brought his love for trains to both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. When the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, the Walt Disney World Railroad opened as well, with the 1 train named after Walt.
Passholder Insights: At both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom is a train named the Lilly Bell for Walt’s wife Lillian Disney.
The Walt Disney World Railroad is the most popular railway in the world seeing on average 1.3 million guest per year. For the first time since the railroad open in 1971, the whole loop is closed. Over the years different portions have been closed off while new attractions were put in, like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain. While the railroad is shut down Disney has had the opportunity to update the majority of the track, with new railroad ties and smoother riding rails. At the time of posting, you can actually see this process over by the Main Street station.
Passholder Insights: The Walt Disney World Railroad travels through the Splash Mountain attraction. It’s a great way to see a small portion of the attraction with having to endure the drop or the waves!
The Magic Kingdom is growing beyond the current borders of the railroad with the construction of the Tron coaster. When complete, the majority of the attraction will be on the outside of the track. To ensure guests have a more classic train experience while riding past this new attraction, Imagineering is creating a new tunnel for the Walt Disney World Railroad
When completed, guests in Tomorrowland won’t see the railroad as is rolls by. What the tunnel will include is still unknown at this point, but we should expect something that fits the time period for steam engine, think 1920’s.
Tron is not the first attraction outside the borders of the Walt Disney World Railroad, as Pirates of the Caribbean is always beyond the track. When you ride Pirates and go down the drop (#spoiler), you’re actually going beneath the railroad track.
Passholder Insights: Now is a great time to get pictures with one of the steam engines which are parked in the Main Street station. You can even board the cars for more still framed photo opportunities – perfect for the little, or big train lover in your party!
New Things to See
Turning 50 is no small feat, and Walt Disney World is in full prep mode for the big day. With the Walt Disney World Railroad being one of the original park attractions, it could be getting a tune-up. One of the big rumors is that Disney World is adding new show scenes to see as you make your trek around the kingdom. This would be similar to what Disney did for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, one of the area that could see a new scene is behind Space Mountain.
To make room for the Tron coaster, Disney had to reconfigure the land just outside the park. When doing so they created a “usable” area just to the right of Space Mountain. Traditionally, this part of the attraction was a little sleepy and a new show scene would be the perfect addition.
What the scenes would be is still unknown, but we should have some insight as construction progresses.
The Walt Disney World Railroad is an iconic piece of the Magic Kingdom. It’s projected that the railroad will be shutdown for about 2 years. We’re excited to hear that Disney Imagineering is looking to spruce up the railroad though as I think we all have an appreciation for the era of big machinery and steam engines. With its deep connection to Walt and 50th anniversary around the corner it would make a lot of sense for it to be refurbished to its glory. For now, we’ll take advantage of the picture opportunities in the Main Street Station. Meet you there – choo choo!