Many would consider the Disneyland Railroad to be the one that most represents Walt Disney. (Personally, I think Storybook Land Canal Boats fits that bill, but there’s room for a variety of opinions.) Still, the railroad was very important to Walt, so it seems fitting to pay tribute with this post. I already wrote about the locomotives, but here are some fun facts about the attraction as a whole.
1. A railroad of some kind was always going to be part of Disneyland. From as far back as the plan for a “Mickey Mouse Park” across the street from the Burbank studio, a train has been in the concept art. Walt even said that he wanted Disneyland “to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train.”
2. In fact, the connection between Disneyland and trains goes back even before the idea of a theme park. Originally Walt conceived of the idea of “Disneylandia,” 24 miniature scenes of life in an Old West town. It was to travel around the country by train, 21 cars holding the dioramas, so people (especially school children) could see it without having to travel very far. One of these scenes, Granny Kinkaid’s Cabin from the movie So Dear to My Heart, is currently on display in the One Man’s Dream attraction at Walt Disney World.
3. The Primeval World section of the Grand Canyon diorama is the only export from the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair not used in its original capacity or attraction. It was originally used in Ford’s “Magic Skyway” attraction. This ride was basically a prototype of what became the PeopleMover ride system, but with motorless Ford convertibles as ride vehicles taking riders through the past, present, and future! After the fair was over, the dinosaurs and their scenes made their way to Disneyland to take up residence along the Disneyland Railroad.
4. Speaking of the dioramas, there are two interesting “hidden” items–one official and one not. In the Grand Canyon scene, there is a hidden armadillo. It’s very close to the glass and hard to see (so far I’ve only seen it during a Tender Ride). There is also a hidden Yoda in the Primeval World scene, right at the base of the waterfall. This one isn’t officially acknowledged, but according to the fireman and brakeman I was riding with, it is definitely intentional.
5. As I’ve written about before, these are real steam trains. Because of this, the train crew actually does have to do what a “regular” crew would to operate the train. On one Tender Ride, I saw a set of sensors that monitor the boiler water level, above the brakeman. The fireman asked me, “On a steam train, which do you think is worse: the boiler having too much water or having too little water?” I thought about it and said, “Too little water.” That’s correct. If the boiler has too much water, it may not be able to heat sufficiently to generate steam. If it has too little, once it reaches a certain temperature the water will all flash evaporate at once and the boiler will explode. That’s why the Disneyland Railroad crew constantly monitors the water level and makes sure they are always operating with plenty of water in the boiler!
Not to worry, though. Since they do constantly monitor the level, and take on more water (at the New Orleans Square station) on average at least once an hour, that’s not something you’ll ever have to worry about.
For you to discover: I mentioned the hidden armadillo above. What makes it so unusual to have that animal represented in the diorama?