Hurry, otherwise you might miss your train! And then: relax on this scenic railroad ride with real steam-engines around the Disneyland Park.
"I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train"... .Walt Disney about Disneyland
Walt Disney loved trains, and his passion was evident everywhere he went, even his own home had a small train "The Carolwood Pacific", which ran around the Garden and through a tunnel hidden under the flower beds. So it is not surprising that when he decided to build Disneyland, he also decided that the railroad would play a key role.
But there is more to the Disneyland Paris Railroad than just this bow to a Disney tradition and more than first meets the eye. It not only offers a scenic and relaxing trip around the park but its tracks also form the boundary of the Disneyland Park (at least of the on stage area with the exception of one small section in Fantasyland). These tracks are traveled in peak periods by up to four meticulously hand crafted trains each capable of carrying over 200 guests, every inch authentic American steam engines (built in Wales).
The first of these four engines is named "George Washington" in reference to the first American president and pulls carriages named Mt. Vernon, Boston, Philadelphia, Yorktown and Valley Forge which refer to key locations in his political career.
Then there is the "W.F. Cody" (which is the real name of "Buffalo Bill" whose Wild West Show can be enjoyed nightly at the Disney Village), which would feel at home in the wild west as it even has antlers on the front of the engine. Its carriages are named Silverton, Durango, Denver, Wichita and Cheyenne.
The "C.K. Holliday" takes its name from the founder of the Santa Fe Railroad, and has carriages named Coney Island, Atlantic City, Chesapeake, Long Island and Niagara Falls, themselves all holiday locations on the east coast served by trains early in the 20th century - which in turn influenced the design of this train.
The fourth and final train known as "Eureka" (they cry given by successful Californian gold prospectors) was added to the line up several months after the parks opening to cope with the unexpected huge popularity of the railroad and hosts trains named after Californian cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego and Sacramento.
But not only the trains are detailed recreations from a bygone time - the same is true for the Main Street Station which also serves as the focal point in front of the Disneyland Hotel at the lower end of the Main Street. The building is a beautiful recreation of a turn of the century station which is complete with dozens of details such as period posters and piles of luggage awaiting collection. The focal point of the station is a row of beautiful stained glass panels which illustrate each of the lands through which the guest will travel on the train and a mechanical organ facing toward the hotel. The station which perfectly tops off the Main Street also serves as a great poin of view for the Main Street with the Sleeping Beautys Castle at the other end or for the Parades which pass by right in front of it.
Guest can board a train here roughly every 10 to 15 minutes. On their journey they will pass through the Grand Canyon Diorama next. This tableau shows the varied wildlife in the Grand Canyon, illustrating the canyon through night and day, rain and shine. Passing by a giant mural with three dimensional landscape views and animals in front of it guests can easily believe to be in the real Grand Canyon - just that they won't get the famous Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé as background score there.
The trains first stop is at the Frontierland Depot. From there it is on through Adventureland where passengers get a great view of Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril as well as the caves in the Pirates of the Caribbean through which they actually pass revealing the location of a second, secret treasure of the pirates. The next stop is at the Fantasyland Station situated above the Fantasy Festival Stage, before the train passes through the elaborate, colorful facade of It's A Small World on its way to the finale stop at the Discoveryland Station - but guests can stay on the train to finish the round trip back to the Main Street, U.S.A.
During this roundtrip guests can make themselfes familar with the layout of the park as the train passes through each land offering a panoramic view of many of the parks major attractions and some areas non accessible by foot or other rides. The Grand Canyon Diorama and the tunnel taken guests right into The Pirates of the Caribbbean are just an added extra.
But the railroad is more than just a nostlagic way to learn to know the park, it is the parks most scenic, relaxing ride on one hand and a useful method of transportation on the other hand as guests can board or unboard the trains at every station to avoid trecking through the park by foot.
Of the four stations the Main Street Station is in most cases the busiest and therefore has the longest waiting times. To avoid these guests should opt to join the train at the Frontierland Depot, the Fantasyland Station or the Discoveryland Station - but note that these stations may be closed earlier in the morning.
If the queues at these stations appear excessively long it is often because one of the stage shows which play nearby have just finished causing hundreds of guests to converge at once.
In general the waiting times at all stations tend to go down as of early afternoon as most guests want to take the train to get a first impression of the park early in the morning - with the exception of the station on Main Street right after a parade has finished and all other three stations right after a show nearby came to a close.
Guests arriving early at the Disneyland Park can also take advantage of the fact that on most days the Disneyland Railroad is already operating, even so all other lands besides the Main Street, U.S.A., are still closed.
Every man with a miniature railroad in his basement must have one understanding wife. If this is true, then Walt's wife Lilly had to be very understanding. Because for Walt the basement was not enough. He had turned his whole backyard into one giant miniature railroad!
In the late 1940's and early 1950's Walt spent most of his free time building his "Carolwood Pacific Railroad" himself. The track through his backyard was about 870 meters long and featured a tunnel and several bridges. But his pride was the "Lilly Belle" a live steam engine in 1:8 scale, which Walt had built together with some friends and colleagues of his who also shared the same hobby (like legendary animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston) at the Disney Studios in Burbank. By the way: the beautiful and extremely detailed "Lilly Belle" (named after Walts wife) is now on display at Disneyland California's Main Street Station.
When Walt finally started to think about building a theme park he almost right from the start included a railroad into its plans. This lead to the Disneyland Railroads which encircle Disneyland Anaheim, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris. While Tokyo Disneyland also has a railroad - the Western River Railroad - that one however is not encircling the Magic Kingdom, but offers just trips from Adventureland to Frontierland and vice versa. One more railroad can be found at Disney's Animal Kingdom, where the so-called "Wildlife Express" connects Rafiki's Planet Watch (the former Conservation Station) with the Africa-section of that Walt Disney World park.
But all three railroad in a Magic Kingdom with the exception of Tokyo Disneyland originally had their tracks located to form the outer boundaries of their Magic Kingdoms - originally as this has changed at Disneyland Paris in 1994. At that point Les Pays des Contes de Fées and Casey Jr. Le Petit Train du Cirque opened in an extension of Fantasyland which is located beyond the railroad tracks so that guests actually pass below the tracks to walk to these two attractions. An smaller change came with the contract EuroDisney SCA signed with McDonald's which took over the sponsorship of the railroad in 1999, the same year its restaurant opened in the Disney Village.
Another change to the railroad at Disneyland Paris is its name. It started of as Euro Disneyland Railroad but was subsequently changed to Disneyland Paris Railroad with the change of name for the whole park. Still it took till early 2002 till the signs on the actual trains were changed. But the detailed stations still feature the original initials EDRR.
Did you know...
- that some of the serial numbers on the trains are the birth dates of Imagineers involved in the project?
- that the giant murals inside the Grand Canyon Diorama were painted by Frank Armitage?
- that the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé which perfectly underscores the atmosphere inside the diorama was actually composed already 1931?
Wheelchairs and baby strollers can be stored in the back of each coach, but should be left at the station of a round-trip is planned.
Wheelchair users must be able to transfer from the wheelchair into the train with the assistance of accompanying guests.