While there are many ways to travel around the Magic Kingdom® Park, there is only one attraction which allows guests the opportunity to circle the entire park in true style. The Walt Disney World Railroad encompasses the entire Magic Kingdom® Park and offers guests unique views, a cool breeze, and a historic and easy mode of transportation.
It’s no secret that Walt Disney was fascinated by railroads. As an adult, he eventually found himself living on Carolwood Drive where he constructed the 1/8th scale Carolwood-Pacific Railway in his backyard in 1950. This train could reach speeds of thirty miles per hour and was great fun for guests visiting the house, as they could hop aboard and take a ride around the property.
When Disneyland® was being built, Walt Disney insisted that a railroad be included in the plans and found help in Ward Kimball. Kimball was one of the Nine Old Men who were Disney’s top artists, but he also held a passion for railroads. Kimball helped on the project so much that a locomotive in Disneyland® is named after him, and there are two references to him on the chalkboard in the Main Street, U.S.A.® Station in Walt Disney World®. The first reference mentions “Kimball Canyon” as a train destination, and the second mentions “Grizzly Bear Flats” which was the name of Kimball’s personal railroad.
When construction began on Walt Disney World®, it only made sense that another railroad be built to accommodate guests. Thus, four locomotives were purchased by the company dating from 1916-1928 and built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. The locomotives were salvaged from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and restored in the Tampa Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company before being installed in the Magic Kingdom® Park.
The four trains are named the Walter E. Disney, the Roy O. Disney, the Lilly Belle (named after Walt’s wife Lillian), and the Roger E. Broggie (named after the Imagineer in charge of the WDW Railroad project). Each train is steam powered, can travel up to a speed of thirty miles per hour, and has five cars which can hold 360 guests at a time. Guests can choose to board or disembark at any of the three stations found on Main Street, U.S.A.®, in Frontierland®, and Storybook Circus in Fantasyland®, and the 1.5 mile ride around the whole park takes about twenty minutes. No matter what station guests choose to board in, the wait between trains is usually around seven minutes, so it is a reliable and fast mode of transportation.
The Main Street , U.S.A.® Station is home to authentic props and some beautiful details which perfectly capture that turn of the century spirit. For a great reference to the classic Disney film Mary Poppins, look on a shelf for a wooden leg named Smith. While you are at it, take a close look at all of the props on that shelf as they belong to some pretty recognizable characters!
Just before pulling into the Frontierland® Station, guests are treated to a glimpse into the finale scene of Splash Mountain®. This is a great way for those guests who don’t enjoy thrill attractions to experience a little touch of the story of Br’er Rabbit. Guests also can spot a Hidden Mickey in the clouds of the finale scene – he is laying on his back looking up towards the sky. Look quick though, or you just might miss it!
Finally, the Storybook Circus Station is brand new and can be found just past the sprawling big tops and popcorn lights of the land. It’s a great place to hop aboard for a quick exit to the front of the park, or even just a chance to relax for a few minutes!
No matter where you board or disembark, the Walt Disney World Railroad offers spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom® Park while allowing guests the chance to sit down, cool off, and travel in style. No wonder it accommodates 1.5 million guests a year! For those guests who want even more time experiencing and learning about the Walt Disney World Railroad, there is the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. For an additional fee, guests can get up close and personal with the railroad and learn how it operates and the history behind it.
So what are you waiting for? Go experience the Walt Disney World Railroad; it’s a great way to travel! All aboard!
(Images from the author’s personal collection.)
What is your favorite station of the Walt Disney World Railroad? Ever experienced the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour? Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.