While Main Street Station and the Disneyland Railroad undergo a major refurbishment, we’d like to share the intimate story that links the railway with the legacy of The Walt Disney Company. For if all the “Magic Kingdom” style Disney Parks to date have an authentic steam train circling them (only partially at Tokyo Disneyland), this is not really a coincidence: Walt Disney has always been a fan. It’s therefore a natural fit that the Railroad holds an iconic place amongst the Disneyland Paris attractions.
Walt Disney was intrigued by trains from an early age. His uncle was a railroad engineer, which instigated Walt’s fascination of railroading. As a boy, Walt earned pocket money by selling newspapers on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the Kansas City Southern, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas. He loved the uniforms worn by the conductors, the mechanical aspects of locomotives and possibility of seeing new places.
Later on he asked one of his studio artists, Ward Kimball, to build him a miniature 1/8th train in his own back yard. He called his line the Carolwood Pacific Railroad after the name of his street, Carolwood Drive, and named the locomotive “Lilly Belle” as a tribute to his wife Lillian. In the 1950’s Walt liked to take guests who came to his house on rides around his property. He also had a barn added from where he switched rails and which also served as a workshop. Today, “Walt’s Barn” is maintained by the Carolwood Foundation and can be visited at Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.
Trains have often played a key role in the life of Walt Disney and they appear in many of his films and short films; it is also on board of a train he had the inspiration to create Mickey Mouse . Several years after considering the creation of a “Mickey Mouse Park”, when Disneyland was built in 1955, Walt added a half-scale railroad running around the park since day one. Since then, the tradition has been maintained. Today, Disney parks are full of all types of transportation, whether they reference historical recreations or modern-day high technology.
Disneyland Paris was no exception to the rule and since its opening in 1992, Disneyland Railroad was one of the attractions available to guests. On board four genuine steam trains (three on opening day), passengers can relive the great voyages of the past century, like the golden age of rail in America. On more than 2 km, locomotives with potbellied or diamond-shaped chimneys, large rounded boilers, wooden plows and tenders stones filled with oil or water pull refined wagons with for an elegant tour of Disneyland Park. The first three locomotives, weighing almost 30 tons, bear the names of American historical figures: WF Cody, CK Holliday and G. Washington. The fourth is named after the famous word said by the pioneer who discovered the first gold nugget: Eureka! These locomotives were made by British veterans in Wales by reviving almost forgotten technical skills and know-how. As authentic as it is, the attraction provides new technologies such as integrated heating the rails to prevent ice formation in winter.
In a few months, these trains will be back on the rails of Disneyland Park. Now that you know more about their story, we hope you enjoy the “grand circle tour around the Magic Kingdom” even more now!