As has often been stated before, Walt Disney loved trains, and he insisted that Disneyland have a railroad around the park. Consequently, a railroad also featured prominently in the plans of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. If you are a railfan, Walt Disney World offers some interesting things to do besides just taking a trip around the Magic Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Railroad. While riding the Walt Disney World Railroad is fun, here are some suggestions of ways to further enjoy the Railroad during your vacation.
Magic Behind the Steam Trains Tour
A great way to learn about the Walt Disney World Railroad is to take the Magic Behind the Steam Trains tour. If you have any interest at all in steam railroads, this tour has something for you, whether you know a lot about them or nothing at all. The tour also has a lot to offer for those with an interest in Disney history in general. Much information is presented on Walt's interest in railroads, including his Carolwood Pacific Railroad that ran around his home. The particular history of the engines of the Walt Disney World Railroad and how Disney acquired them is also presented.
The highlight of the tour is a visit to the roundhouse where the trains are kept and maintained. Guests are even allowed to climb in the cab of one of the engines, giving them an upclose look at things most guests do not see. The procedures for operating the Walt Disney World Railroad are demonstrated and explained, showing everyone that the Railroad is much more than just a simple amusement park ride.
The tour lasts around two hours and runs on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. A fee is charged in addition to normal park admission. Most tours are limited in size to 20 people. Reservations can be made by calling (407) WDW-TOUR.
The Iron Spike Room
The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, part of the Disney Vacation Club and adjacent to the Wilderness Lodge, is based on the hotels built by and for workers on the first Transcontinental Railroad through the forrested wilderness of the west. The Iron Spike Room, found at the Villas, is a quiet room where guests can read, play checkers or chess, or just spend some time by themselves.
On the walls are a few pictures of Walt's Carolwood Pacific Railroad, as well as a few other general railroad pictures, and the fireplace has a nice screen with some train artwork on it. But the main drawing point of the Iron Spike Room are two of the original cars from Walt Disney's backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific.
On display in a glass case are a cattle car and a gondola. The intricate detail on these eighth-scale cars is fascinating to see in person, and viewing the cars gives another glimpse at the care and attention Walt showed to his backyard railroad. Unfortunately, the cars are not identified in any way, so most visitors to the room do not have any idea of the history behind these two railcars.
The Villas are near the Wilderness Lodge bus stop, and the Iron Spike Room is just off the main lobby.
Nighttime train rides
One fun thing to do at night is to take the last train of the evening around the park. Note that the Walt Disney World Railroad often closes up to an hour before the rest of the park, so you might want to check with a Cast Member to find out when they will stop running for the day.
If you are on the last train of the night, you will have to disembark at Mickey's Toontown Fair. You can then watch them back the train up to the roundhouse after all the guests have exited the station. Then you can listen to them signal as they cross the backstage roads before they get to the roundhouse.
Occasionally, you may find yourselves to be the only guests on the train for the last ride between Frontierland and Mickey's Toontown Fair. This is always a fun experience, and often the Cast Members at the station will speak to you or wave as you go by. While you may not get any special priviledges, there is a special feeling about riding the last train of the night all by yourself.
Photographing the Trains
The best place to photograph the trains is along the walkway between Mickey's Toontown Fair and Tomorrowland. In Mickey's Toontown Fair, the entrance to the walkway is adjacent to the railroad station. In Tomorrowland, the entrance to the walkway is a little harder to find, located between the Tomorrowland Light and Power Company arcade and the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. The walkway follows the train tracks for many yards, offering good, relatively close views of the trains.
It is also possible to photograph the trains as they arrive at one of the stations. It helps to have your camera ready as the train approaches, so that you can take a picture at just the right moment.
The Monorail station used to be a great location to get a picture of a train as it left Main Street Station. But the new security fence gets in the way of the perfect picture. Still, you can get a good view of the train behind the fence.
But perhaps the most popular place to photograph the trains remains at the entrance of the park, when a train is arriving at Main Street Station. Except for Cinderella Castle, this is probably the most photographed location in the park.
- Story and Photos by Steve Burns
This site is in no way endorsed or approved by The Walt Disney Company or any of its subsidiaries.