There are many who lament the loss of Big Thunder Ranch and the subsequent shutting down of the Disneyland Railroad, The Mark Twain Riverboat, the Columbia Sailing Ship and Fantasmic while the imagineers and contractors build the new Star Wars Land. But we found a serendipitous opportunity that would have never come along without these closures – a special up close tour of the Disneyland Railroad.
Disneyland has brought out the locomotives and cars for guests to get up close and personal and to explore the stations along the railroad line as well as converse with the Cast Members who work on the railroad. It is interesting to learn about the workings of the locomotives, their authenticity, the history and the amount of work that goes in to keeping a train running smoothly and the adaptation of biodiesel as the fuel. Guests (of all ages) also have the opportunity to sit in the cab of the locomotive and imagine themselves an engineer!
Strolling along the station at New Orleans Square, one can see a cut away boiler that is used to train the maintenance workers; and don’t forget to blow the whistle! Also at the station are displays showing Walt with his scale live steam locomotive, the information on the Disneyland Railroad locomotives, the history of steam and the telegraph.
The one thing that is a must-see is the Lilly Belle car. This was one of the first cars that traveled around the park and was an observation coach called “The Grand Canyon.” Walt’s widow, Lillian Disney had the coach remodeled into a luxurious parlor car that she renamed the “Lilly Belle,” and it would be used for dignitaries and VIP’s. It still rides the rails today and can be seen at the end of one of the trains. This is the best opportunity to see this magnificient car.
Construction on Star Wars Land is progressing and soon the locomotives will be hostled up and the trains running by the end of summer 2017. We were told the new trip around the park will actually be longer than previous and will have more interesting visuals on the northern end of the route. We look forward to the new route and all it has to offer.