The rumor mill is swirling that Disneyland Railroad’s famed coach, the Lilly Belle, will no longer be available to the general public. I did some research about the historic passenger car dedicated to Walt Disney’s wife Lillian, and after reading some conflicting reports and a half-hour call to the Disney help line, I’ve learned the following:
- The Lilly Belle has been under refurbishment since March.
- The train car is not available to any park guests.
- Disneyland has not announced when the train car will be available in the future.
(Hat tip goes out to a Cast Member named Destiny for all the insight. She recommends to always check with a Disneyland Railroad conductor to see if the special parlor car is available during your next visit).
With that said, both Wikipedia and the Laughing Place both report the train car will only be available for Club 33 members. There’s also a rumor circulating that the Lilly Belle would be incorporated into a special park tour, which means not all hope is lost to ride the Lilly Belle again.
It’s my personal opinion that only the seasoned park-goer may appreciate this elusive railroad experience. On par with a Hall of President’s level of excitement, there isn’t enough mid-60’s upholstery in the world that could make this leisurely train ride thrilling for the young and impatient. But for those who know what they’re getting into, boarding the Lilly Belle is a bucket list item for any Disney fanatic.
My Lilly Belle Experience
After a two hour wait and fierce competition, my wife and I nabbed a reservation on December 26 (one of the most popular days of the year) by arriving to the park at rope drop on an Early Magic Hour morning and waiting over an hour at the entrance for the Disneyland Railroad. When the park officially opened, a railroad conductor wrote down our names and asked us to return to the station later that afternoon.
A little known fact about the Lilly Belle is that due to the added weight of the parlor car, a limited number of Disneyland steam engines have the power to pull this special car, adding to the wait time and exclusivity of the train ride. On the day we rode, the Lilly Belle only took one lap around the park, which means the two hour wait for reservations only paid off for 12 lucky guests.
It might be due to this level of competition (not to mention the soul-crushing disappointment for the families who sacrificed valuable hours of their day to come up empty handed) that lead to Disney excluding riding privileges to the highest paying guests.
A Mobile Museum
Once aboard the train, I found the parlor car to be filled with nostalgic artifacts and stories about Lillian Disney rechristening the train car after Walt’s passing. As the home to rich Tibetan Mahogany paneling, red plush velvet seats, gold fringed red velvet drapes, and a coat rack with a replica of Walt’s smoking jacket, the Lilly Belle is a living museum on wheels.
As a side note, our conductor informed our group that the Lilly Belle train tickets are commemorative Disneyland items, and can be worth upwards of $200 to the right buyer. A quick search on Ebay will show the current market value of a punched ticket is roughly $7.50, so maybe the value is in a recession.
Ultimately, one of the most disappointing parts of the Lilly Belle’s exclusivity to the general public is that it was the only free attraction that could share the same level of service as a VIP tour, a privilege many guests don’t have the budget for. With that said, if you have an undying love for locomotives and the Disneyland legacy, scheduling a visit for the Lilly Belle the next time it’s available could add the extra sprinkle of pixie dust in your next magical visit.
Let us know if you have any magical memories of visiting the Disneyland Railroad Lilly Belle parlor car.
Please welcome Doug Antkowiak to the TouringPlans blog team. Doug recently moved from the the west coast to Michigan, works in the software industry as a social media strategist, and is an alumnus of the Disney College Program.