As a child, just like many other little boys, I was fascinated by steam engine trains. Whenever my parents would take me and my brother to an amusement park the one ride I couldn’t go home without doing was the train.
I may not remember the first time I rode the railroad but I remember my son’s. He was 3 at the time and my daughter was a newborn. It was the middle of the summer, the sky was crystal clear, and it was very hot outside but we had been promising our son for the longest time that we would take him for a train ride. There was a nearby park complete with railroad tracks and a working locomotive. When we told him where we were going he raced to put on his pinstriped overalls with the matching train conductor’s hat.
After spending a couple of hours packing a lunch, my daughter’s diaper bag, stroller, and my son’s toys into our car we were on our way. All that packing for a five minute drive! As we got within eyesight of the railroad you could see the excitement building in my son’s eyes. He grabbed me by the hand and we ran over to the ticket booth. We were the only ones there so we got to sit in the very front of the train. The two of us were smiling from ear to ear from the beginning of the ride until it pulled back into the station. Then the conductor came over and asked if we would like to ride it again. Of course we said yes so around the tracks we rode once more. Needless to say we spent quite a few more days in the park riding the locomotive.
Fast forward two years to 1998. This was our children’s very first visit to Walt Disney World and they were about to enter the Magic Kingdom. As we came out of the tunnel both my children were amazed at the surroundings in the park. My son was so focused on meeting the characters he didn’t even notice the train station above. It wasn’t until later that day in Toontown that he heard the train’s whistle and just like he did a couple of years earlier he grabbed my hand and started pulling me towards the train station. This may not have been his first ride on a steam engine train but you would never know it from his excitement and joy as the conductor shouted “all aboard” and the train guided us all around the Magic Kingdom.
The days of the steam engine trains may be part of America’s past, but at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom it is very much a significant part of the present. This should come as no surprise to many as Walt Disney was a passionate railroad train enthusiast.
The railroad line at the Magic Kingdom is comprised of four different trains built in the United States between 1916 and 1932. The trains have been restored to their original beauty from the days when they traveled through parts of the United States and even into Mexico. One of the trains is named the Roger E. Broggie, a renowned Disney Imagineer. Another is named the Roy O. Disney after Walt’s brother. There’s a train named the Lilly Belle after Walt’s wife and there’s also a train named after the great Walt Disney.
There are three railroad stations on this 20 minute magical journey whose tracks span one and a half miles at speeds between ten to fifteen miles per hour. The first is Main Street USA situated above the tunnel as you enter the park followed by Frontierland and then Toontown. The sound of train’s whistle emanates through the park to let you know when the train is coming. As you pull out of each station there is a recorded narration to describe your wondrous ride. The train ride also provides some magnificent views of the park and attractions which look significantly different as day turns into night.
Those looking for the total train experience can take part in the three hour, The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. The tour gives guests an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the inner workings of the railroad and steam engine trains. To sign up for the tour you must be at least 10 years of age. For more information and tour pricing you may contact Disney at 407-939-8687 or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/tours-and-experiences/steam-trains-tour/.
Contributed by: Stuart S. (NDD #47). Stuart is our resident Disney geek and creator of Disney Geek Dad.