Calling All Train Lovers at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney loved trains. It isn’t a coincidence that the focal point of the entrances to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are train stations. Walt loved trains so much, that he even build a miniature railroad at his home in California that he designed, built, and operated himself, providing him with endless opportunity to take to the rails whenever he wanted to blow off steam (pun absolutely intended on that one).
Well, both Walt and the Imagineers entrusted with carrying on his original vision have made sure to incorporate into the parks many classic- and variations- on the mode of transportation Walt so adored. If you’ve got an aspiring conductor in your travel party or if you’re looking to max out your time on the rails the next time you’re visiting Walt Disney World, you’ve come to the right place.
All Aboard the Classics
You’ve counted down the days to your Disney vacation, and after months of planning and anticipation, you’ve finally arrived at WDW Resort! The very first park you visit? Magic Kingdom. You woke up early to arrive in time for rope drop, and you’ve just disembarked the monorail and are beginning your final approach to the park gates. You hear it before you see it; a faint whistle far off in the distance. Then you see it before you actually see it- billowing steam seemingly coming from the trees. Finally…a classic steam engine puffs into view and you are officially welcomed to the Magic Kingdom by a classic steam train!
The Walt Disney World Railroad deserves first honors on this list, as it is the classic attraction that Walt himself was probably happiest riding around Disneyland. The engines are truly steam powered, when you visit, see if you can spot the water tanks at each station…sometimes you can even see the engines being re filled!
While the Walt Disney World Railroad is truly the classic train experience, aspiring conductors can find another quintessential train ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The train that travels to and from Rafiki’s Conservation Station is a classic engine, car, caboose set up, and features passenger cars that face out rather than forward.
If you’re not planning to visit the Conservation Station (which you should!), the train ride can be taken as a round-trip journey that gives guests a behind the scenes look at some of the animal housing for the animals featured in Kilimanjaro Safaris, how cool is that?
Off The Rails
Ok thrill-seekers, its your turn now. Walt Disney World has you covered with some off-the-rails variations on the ‘train’ ride vehicle. In Magic Kingdom, adrenaline-junkie train enthusiasts can take a ride on not one, but two distinctly different runaway mine trains.
Big Thunder Mountain is a classic attraction featuring a train ride vehicle. This one is not for the faint of heart, as dips, drops, hills, and shaky tracks will leave you questioning how on earth a train could leave you so buzzed! One final word of warning before you board this train: “hold onto your hats and glasses folks, cuz this here is the wildest ride in the wilderness”
Seven Dwarf Mine Train is another mine train attraction. This one is a family-friendly option for young conductors eager to ride a train that’s got a little more ‘oomph’. This is a great first roller coaster for children, as the drops aren’t too intense, the ride is short, and the mine train cars are on a rocker system allowing a gentle sway that lets you feel the track in an unexpected way.
The biggest, baddest train attraction on property can be found at the Animal Kingdom. Expedition Everest takes curious hikers on an expedited route to the summit of Mt. Everest. Sounds leisurely, doesn’t it? Think again! This train was abandoned by the Anandapur travel company after more than a few of their explorers went missing. Rumor has it that the legendary Yetti is hiding somewhere in the mountain’s peaks and valleys, so keep a watchful eye peeled for him!
*Look to the caboose when the train pulls into the station, you’ll see real steam puffing from the car!
Hugely Exciting Miniatures
Next stop: Epcot! Grab a tall pint of frothy beer and a giant Bavarian pretzel and visit the Garden Railway at Epcot. Several small but mighty trains chug their way around the tiny tracks all day long just waiting for you to discover! Look closely at the other miniature décor in the garden, can you take a guess as to what the citizens of the Germany countryside are up to?
Without Walt’s love of trains, this article would not exist. So, I’ll leave you with one final hidden gem you simply must see if you’re a train aficionado. Located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is the Carolwood Pacific Room. Within the cozy and quiet lounge sits a rare piece of history created by Walt himself.
I mentioned the mini train Walt built, and sitting within the lounge is an actual car from that mini train built by Walt himself! There are really cool photos and other memorabilia in the Carolwood Pacific Room, so puff on over to Wilderness Lodge and immerse yourself in these rare bits of history! Which of these train experiences are you most excited for? Are you a fan of a classic train ride, or are you looking for a more exciting experience on the rails? Let me know in the comments!
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Special thanks to Maria Salerno for writing this article: Hiya pal! I am a NYC-based writer/musician thrilled to be bringing you all things Disney! I’m a WDW Annual Passholder, so you can find me in the parks regularly throughout the year. In addition to being a Disney Parks loving girl, I’m also a Disney toy and merchandise collector, a runDisney enthusiast, and Disney music and movie aficionado. You can follow me on Instagram: NYCtoAP and find me on YouTube: NYCtoAP. Thanks for reading, hope to see ya real soon!