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Walt Disney World Railroad
Walt Disney World Railroad.jpg
The Walt Disney World Railroad at the old Mickey's Toontown Fair station.

Opened

October 1, 1971

Reporting mark

WDWRR

Track gauge

3 feet (910 mm) gauge

Length

7,817 feet (2,383 m)

Duration

20 minutes (round-trip)

The Walt Disney World Railroad (or WDWRR for short) is a narrow gauge railroad circling the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort. Operated by Main Street Operations, the 3 ft (914 mm) gauge, 1.5-mile (2.4 km) railroad circles the entire park with stations at Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland, and formerly at the now-closed Mickey's Toontown Fair. One of the busiest steam-powered railroads, it transports over 3.7 million passengers each year.

History

Walt Disney was an avid railroad enthusiast, who had built a miniature steam railroad, called the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in his backyard. A full-size, narrow gauge railroad known as the Disneyland Railroad had been included in the design of Disneyland, and would be included at later parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. Disney scouts Roger Broggie and Earl Vilmer found and purchased five locomotives from Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatan (United Railways of Yucatan) on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula in 1969.

One of the five, deemed to be in too poor a condition to be restored, was sold and eventually scrapped. The other four were brought to Tampa Shipyards in Tampa, Florida and restored by a crew headed by Disney Imagineer and accomplished live steam builder Bob Harpur. New boilers were constructed for the trains by Dixon Boiler Works of Los Angeles, California and the locomotives themselves were cosmetically backdated to appear older, which included the addition of diamond smoke stacks, boiler jackets, as well as the use of bright colors and polished brass. The tenders were also completely rebuilt and new fiberglass cabs were manufactured and installed on the locomotives. In addition, a total of twenty open-air excursion cars were constucted at the shipyards, each of which could seat up to 75 passengers. The trains went into service with the opening of Walt Disney World on October 1, 1971.

During 1989–1990, the train played different versions of a song called "Mickey's Birthdayland Express" and "Rollin' on the Walt Disney World Express". After departing Frontierland, the train traveled to Duckberg Station in what was then named Mickey's Birthdayland. During November 1990–1991, when Splash Mountain was under construction, the train only had one destination: it went backwards to Mickey's Starland, and then forward back to Main Street U.S.A. It was also during this time that the original Frontierland Station was demolished to make way for Splash Mountain and the current Frontierland Station was constructed.

In recent years, several of the locomotives and some of the passenger coaches have been overhauled. Key modifications to the passenger coaches have involved moving the PA system/conductor's spiel panel from a position on the rear of the third car to the rear platform on the last car. This lets the conductor see the entire train at one time which allows for safer operation. Side panels were added to the outside-facing sides of the coaches in Summer 2005 to keep the passengers from sticking their legs and feet outside of the cars. One set of coaches does not have these outside-facing panels because it is used exclusively for the park opening ceremonies held each morning. Characters ride the train to Main Street Station, disembark on the outer station platform and participate in the park opening song and dance performance.

In 2011, Mickey's Toontown Fair was permanently closed to make way for an expansion to Fantasyland. As a result, the Toontown Station was closed and demolished and a new Fantasyland Station is currently being built in its place. The new Fantasyland Station will feature restroom facilities and will be themed to the Casey Junior circus train from the Dumbo animated film. Following the closure of Toontown Station, a new on-board narration was introduced, which referenced the Fantasyland expansion and referred to the former Toontown Station stop as the "Watering Outpost".

Trains

The railroad has four different locomotives and four sets of passenger cars. The four locomotives are narrow-gauge locomotives, built between 1916 and 1928 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia.

A regular train consists of a steam locomotive, tender, and five passenger cars with a capacity of approximately 365 passengers and 2 wheelchairs. The tender has a capacity for 1,837 U.S. gallons (6,953 l) of water and 667 U.S. gallons (2,513 l) of fuel oil. The tender needs to be topped off with water every three or four trips (or circuits) around the park. The water tower is located at the former Mickey's Toontown Fair station, and trains still stop there to refill.

Since the trains are real steamers, they must abide by the FRA regulations, and the trains are often sent to the Tweetsie Railroad shops in North Carolina for their major overhauls.

Locomotives

Each of the four locomotives is named after those who greatly contributed to the efforts of the Disney Company and Walt Disney World.

No. 1 "Walter E. Disney"

This locomotive is named for the man behind the mouse, Walt Disney (1901–1966). Walt loved railroads and his parks have always displayed his love for trains.

  • Built: 1925
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler"
  • Serial Number: 58444
  • Locomotive Colors: Red
  • Coach Color: Red with red poles
  • Coach Number Series: 100
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (111 cm)
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 67000 pounds (30,390 kg)
  • Status: Operational

No. 2 "Lilly Belle"

The Lilly Belle is named after Walt Disney's wife Lillian Disney (born Lillian Marie Bounds) (1899–1997). "Lilly Belle" is also the name of the scaled-down steam locomotive Disney ran in his own backyard and the parlour car of the Disneyland Railroad.

  • Built: 1928
  • Wheel Configuration: 2-6-0 "Mogul"
  • Serial Number : 60598
  • Locomotive Color: Green and red
  • Coach Color: Green with green poles
  • Coach Number Series: 200
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (111 cm)
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 61000 pounds (27,669 kg)
  • Status: Undergoing overhaul

Lilly Belle has been retired from day to day passenger service due to frame issues and has been made the show train. All cars on her train except for the last do not have the new side plates. She is steamed up for the opening show where she brings Mickey Mouse and company to the front entrance. She is then brought back to the roundhouse and put on standby. Should one of the other trains have a problem, Lilly Belle would be attached to the other train's cars, since it takes several hours to add or remove the siding.

It should also be noted that Lilly Belle was built in 1928, which would make her as old as Mickey Mouse.

No. 3 "Roger E. Broggie"

This locomotive is named after Roger E. Broggie (1908–1991), who led the effort of acquiring the locomotives for the Walt Disney World Railroad and helped build Disney's own Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Roger Broggie was also the original Disney Imagineer who worked on the EPCOT Project.

  • Built: 1925
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler"
  • Serial Number: 58445
  • Locomotive Colors: Green, red
  • Coach Color: Yellow with red poles
  • Coach Number Series: 300
  • Driver Diameter: 44 inches (111 cm)
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 67000 pounds (30,390 kg)
  • Status: Operational

No. 4 "Roy O. Disney"

The Number 4 locomotive is named after Walt Disney's older brother and business partner, Roy Oliver Disney (1893–1971). Roy saw to the completion of his brother's dream after Walt's death in 1966 and completed the construction of then named "Disney World."

Roy renamed the resort in Walt's honor to "Walt Disney World" and died just shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. Roy was originally offered to have the 4-6-0, Roger Broggie, named after him, so that the Walt Disney and Roy Disney engines would be alike, but he refused because he "didn't want to be compared to all the great things Walt has done." The Roy O. Disney was the only WDWRR locomotive that was not steaming at the park on opening day in 1971. Its restoration was not finished until December of that year, after Roy's death, thus the company could now name the loco in his honor.

  • Built: 1916
  • Wheel Configuration: 4-4-0 "American"
  • Serial Number: 42915
  • Locomotive Colors: Green, Red
  • Coach Color: Blue with blue poles
  • Coach Number Series: 400
  • Driver Diameter: 46 inches (116 cm)
  • Locomotive and Tender Weight (dry): 51000 pounds (23,133 kg)
  • Status: Operational

Operation

The railroad operates daily, taking its first passengers at 9 AM, year-round. In the past, for safety reasons, it was closed during the fireworks show due to its proximity to the staging area (about 100 yards (91 m) or so behind Fantasyland). Currently the policy is to remove the trains back to the roundhouse one hour before fireworks. The trains do not operate during special events such as Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Crew

Each train is manned by three Disney Cast Members: a Conductor, an Engineer, and a Fireman. The engineer is charged with operation of the locomotive and the fireman is responsible for maintaining the fire as well as water level in the boiler. The Conductors are responsible for the operation and safety of each station and the trains.

Duties as station attendants involve passenger counts, answering questions, and assisting passengers. While on the train, the conductor runs the spiel box and makes safety announcements. Trains cannot move without approval from the conductor. The conductors work in rotation. There are three different rotations that conductors can be assigned to. Conductors are in each spot of the rotation for 20 minutes. The rotation is also assigned a train. The two main rotations, called roundhouses, are called Roundhouse 1 (RH1) and Roundhouse 2 (RH2).

The Roundhouse 1 rotation is responsible for Fronterland Station Conductor, Frontierland Greeter, RH1 Train Conductor and RH1 Breaker. The Roundhouse 2 Rotation is responsible for Main Street Station, Mickey's Toontown Fair Station, RH2 Train Conductor and RH2 Breaker. When there is a third train, only one conductor works that train. The third train is staffed by one conductor, a fireman, an engineer, and a breaker who rotates to each position breaking the other Cast Members for one trip.

Opening

Early in the morning the first crew arrives at the roundhouse to get the first train ready to depart. The maintenance crew will mark on the board which trains are to be used and the order they are to be removed from the roundhouse.

The first crew will prep and take out the first train listed. A crew consists of three individuals: the engineer (charged with operation of the locomotive), the fireman (charged with operation of the boiler to provide the steam for the locomotive to operate), and the conductor (charged with management and safe operation of the train and its passengers). Safety and readiness checks are performed by the conductor as the enginemen prepare the locomotive for a day of operation, known as hostling.

As the atomizer requires around 30 pounds/inch² (200 kPa) of steam pressure to operate, a compressed air line must be tapped into the atomizer line when the fire is first lit until enough steam has been raised to re-light the fire atomizing on steam. The conductor, who is in charge of the train and its motion at all times, will inspect the track and arrangement of the switches in the yard outside of the roundhouse to ensure the train will have safe passage out of the roundhouse all the way to the park.

Once the boiler has reached working pressure and the engineers are ready to go, they will signal using the forward motion whistle (two short whistles). After a reply from the conductor's buzzer (two short buzzes) recognizing the whistle signal, the train will proceed out of the roundhouse, the length of one car at a time, so that the maintenance crew can complete the morning inspection of the running gear from below.

At different times during the trip into the park, the engineers will test the safety systems on the train. The two main tests include intentionally popping the safety valves and running the train and running a red block light. The safety valves are set to release excess steam to maintain the boiler's maximum certified working pressure. Running the block light will trigger the brakes automatically, and this system is tested daily to insure it is working properly. These two tests are considered the most important to ensure safe operation of these steam trains. After the first train is on the line, the second is not far behind. As this is going on, other conductors arrive at the stations in the park and prepare for the trains' arrival.

In Service

When the park opens, the first train departs from Main Street Station. The second will be just behind, at the block light between Toontown Fair and Main Street stations or in the Toontown Fair station. Typically, two trains are used daily, with a third sometimes coming out on busy days later in the morning.

Each lap around the Magic Kingdom should be completed in approximately 20 minutes. This timing is established and maintained by the first train. The second and third trains keep up with the first train as much as possible. The goal is to have the first train at Main Street Station on the hour and at :20 and :40 past. If the trains fall behind, they will need to catch up or drop behind a lap to get the first train to the top of the hour. This is necessary to facilitate proper closing procedures on the park's schedule.

Block Signals

The block signals let the engineers and conductor know the position of the trains on the system. The block signals on the WDWRR resemble a typical traffic light with three lights that are green, yellow, and red. On the main line there are six blocks. Three of them are the stations which include some length of track before the station. The other three blocks are spread out with one between each station.

The lights typically change in this order in both directions: Green <--> Yellow/Green <--> Red <--> Yellow/Red

  • Green Only: The next two blocks are completely clear. It is safe to proceed.
  • Yellow and Green: The next block is clear, however, the block beyond is occupied. It is safe to proceed, but be prepared to stop at the next block.
  • Red Only: The next block is occupied and it is not safe to proceed past this point.
  • Yellow and Red: The next 2 blocks are both occupied; it is not safe to proceed past this point.

In a two train operation, the conductors will not allow the train to proceed on a Yellow/Green signal. This keeps the trains spaced for more consistent service in the stations and prevents the train from having to stop in between stations. In a three train operation, conductors can move trains on the yellow/green signal. The reason for this is because there will almost always be a train in the second block ahead. Four train operations are not possible as there is not enough space, nor are there enough blocks to do so safely.

Whistles

As with any railroad, the whistles all have a meaning, as they are warning/signaling devices. Many guests are unaware that whistles/horns' primary purpose is in fact communication. On the WDWRR, engineers use the whistle to communicate, while the conductor uses the same patterns with a button which activates a buzzer in the cab of the locomotive.

While the train is operated as a team, the conductor has the final say in the operation of the train. At the stations, engineers will request to depart by signaling with two short whistles. The conductor will signal it is safe to do so by buzzing the cab with two short buzzes. The common whistles on the WDWRR are listed below:

  • One Short - Attention
  • Two Short – Forward Movement
  • Three Short – Reverse Movement
  • One Long, One Short – Approaching Station "Here Comes the Train"
  • One Long, Two Short – Crew spotted along track. (Also used as a general greeting)
  • Two Long, One Short, One Long – Public Crossing ahead.
  • Two Long, One Short – Meeting Point (Junction)
  • One Long – Stop Immediately / Emergency stop.
  • Four Long – Train in distress.
  • Two Short, One Long, One Short – Engineer is acknowledging the maintenance crew "It is Your Train"

The train bell is rung upon the train's arrival at a station when the train is due to pick up passengers (thus not on the last trip). As with the whistle, the bell being rung is an official and mandatory signaling sequence. This system is also used at the Disneyland Railroad.

Closing

At the end of the evening, the conductors at each station announce the departure of the last train. All guests can ride until the train finally arrives at Main Street Station for the last time. Upon arrival, the conductors walk the length of the train to ensure that there are no passengers remaining, and any items left behind are unloaded to the station attendants and brought to lost and found. The procedure is the same for all trains.

Once a train arrives at Toontown, the conductor steps off and throws the switch to allow the train to back to the roundhouse. At this point the engineer relies on the conductor to guide the train to back towards the enginehouse. The Fireman will throw the Toontown switch back to main line to allow another train to leave if one remains, otherwise the switch is left where it is. At each switch and crossing the conductor will signal to let the engineer know that the train successfully cleared a switch and can continue. This continues until the train is backed completely into the roundhouse.

Trivia

  • The Walter E. Disney and Roger E. Broggie locomotives have serial numbers that are sequential (58444 and 58445). These locomotives were on the shop floor at the same time in 1925 for the U de Y and still operate together to this day. They are referred to as the "twins" because of this.
  • During locomotive refurbishing, it was common to see the passenger cars from one locomotive to be placed on another. While most guests wouldn't notice such a switch, railroad cast members behind the scenes often referred to these trains with a hybrid name. Examples include "Roger Disney”, "Walter Broggie", "Walter Belle," and many other confusing combinations.
  • The Magic Kingdom offers a behind the scenes tour of the Walt Disney World Railroad on select days of the week, called "The Magic Behind our Steam Trains Tour". It is recommended that guests reserve spots in advance if they wish to attend (park admission is required).
  • Originally, a fifth locomotive was brought up from Mexico. It had been displayed in a park across from the railroad tracks in Mérida and brought to Tampa with the other four. However, was found to be in poor shape and was not restored. It was sold to a party in California and it is presumed that it was scrapped.
  • In 1995, Southern California railroad enthusiast Bill Norred traded his 1927 Davenport locomotive (a 2-4-4 Forney type) to Disneyland in exchange for the five retired clerestory-roofed "Retlaw One" coaches. The locomotive was instead sent to Walt Disney World after deemed too large to operate in California and was dedicated as #5 "Ward Kimball". The WDWRR, however, felt that its four engines were sufficient for regular service, and expressed little interest in acquiring a fifth. Moreover, the #5 was found to be far too small for operation on the WDWRR. As a result, the engine never operated in regular service and, except for a time being displayed at Epcot during Black History Month in 1996, remained stored in the WDWRR enginehouse. It was traded in 1999 to Cedar Point for a smaller Forney locomotive which was restored and is now Disneyland Railroad #5 "Ward Kimball".
  • Previously, during the trip from Mickey's Toontown Fair to Main Street U.S.A., "Night Fire Dance" by Andreas Vollenweider from the old Tomorrowland area music could be heard during the narration.
  • Several show scenes were built for viewing from the trains, including a jungle-themed railroad crossing in Adventureland, the flooded town of Tumbleweed at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a Plains Indians camp, and various small vignettes featuring woodland wildlife such as deer, moose, alligators, frogs and a rock covered in rattlesnakes.
  • Just before arriving at Frontierland Station, trains pass through Splash Mountain, where one of the ride's show scenes is visible, as well as a "Hidden Mickey."
  • Main Street Station was modeled after and closely resembles the former Victorian era railroad depot at Saratoga Springs, New York.
  • Recently, Mickey's Toontown Fair was demolished to make way for a new expansion of Fantasyland. A new Fantasyland Station is currently being built on the former Toontown Station site.
  • A new narration debuted in February 2011 which features a new narrator, eliminates the themed music, references more attractions within each land, and highlights the new Fantasyland expansion.

Sources & External Links

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