If you love trains, you’re in good company. As I mentioned in the post on vintage Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney loved trains, and “it should be surrounded by a train” was one of the early requirements of Disneyland.
So here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love trains:
1. Walt Disney World Railroad
This is a no-brainer. Head to Magic Kingdom and enjoy the Grand Circle Tour, which takes about 20 minutes. Take note of the name of the locomotive pulling your train. There are four locomotives: the Walter E. Disney, the Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother), the Lilly Belle (Walt’s wife), and the Roger E. Broggie (an Imagineer who helped Walt build the model railroad in his backyard). Yes, Walt had a model railroad in his backyard. To learn more about it, visit the . . .
2. Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Walt’s backyard railroad was named the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, because his house was on Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles, California. It was one-eighth scale, and adults and children alike rode on it by sitting on top of the cars. You can see some brief video of Walt and others on the train in this video from the Disney Parks blog (the Lilly Belle they show is the one in Disneyland, not Walt Disney World). In the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room, you can see model trains from Walt’s collection and G-scale replicas of the Carolwood Pacific cattle car and gondola. If that’s not enough train history for you, try . . .
3. The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
I’ve never taken this tour, but it’s described on the Disney website as granting “railroad enthusiasts a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch as the Magic Kingdom theme park train crew prepares the Walt Disney World Railroad steam trains for their daily operation.” It’s a three-hour tour that starts before Magic Kingdom opens. You’ll see where the trains are stored and how they’re maintained, and you’ll hear more about Walt’s love for trains. The tour is currently priced at $49 plus theme park admission.
If the tour still leaves you wanting more, you’re a prime candidate for the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Now, let’s talk about some train experiences that are more for the fun of it than the historical value, starting with . . .
4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
My brother’s mother-in-law never can seem to remember the name of this attraction, so she just calls it “Runaway Train,” and that’s basically what it is: a roller-coaster ride on a runaway train through a mining town. It’s a great roller coaster for kids who’ve conquered the Barnstormer (currently closed and being transitioned to The Great Goofini) but aren’t yet ready for Space Mountain. My nephews love it! You can find it in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom.
5. Wildlife Express Train
This train takes you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom. I’ve only ridden it once, and I remember finding it unusual that all the seats face to one side. It’s a short ride, about seven minutes there and five minutes back.
6. Miniature Railroad in Germany Pavilion in Epcot
Since I’m more of a lover of miniatures in general than model trains in particular, this is my favorite item on the list. I love seeing the trains chug through the little village that gets redecorated for special events. In this video, you can actually see the view from the train through the town when it was decorated with Toy Story 3 characters for the Flower and Garden Festival.
7. Walt Disney World Monorail System
No discussion of trains at Walt Disney World would be complete without mentioning the trains of the future: the monorail. Riding the monorail loop is a great way to tour some of the World’s best themed resorts, and it’s the easiest way to travel between Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Just remember: por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas (translation).
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So, could you do all these in one day for a train-themed extravaganza? Probably. You’d start before opening in Magic Kingdom for the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. During the tour, you’ll ride the Railroad, and afterwards you can head to Big Thunder. Then, take the boat over to Wilderness Lodge and walk through the Carolwood Pacific room. Next you could take a bus to either Animal Kingdom or Epcot. Since Animal Kingdom usually closes earlier, I’d head there first. Then take the bus over to Epcot to see the model railroad. After that, take a ride on the monorail, and then you’re done!
Whew! That’s a lot of riding the rails for one day! So, what’s your favorite train experience at Walt Disney World?