AttractionsAttractions in FiveWalt Disney World (FL)

Five Things to Know About the Walt Disney World Railroad

Share This!

The Walt Disney World Railroad is a favorite of first-time visitors and veterans of the world alike. It’s a relaxing way to take a ride around the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom and see things from a perspective you can’t get any other way. To learn more about riding the rails, read on. Or to skip to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.

1. You can choose your queue(s).

Unique among attractions at Walt Disney World, the Railroad has three different places you can queue up to board. The one most folks are familiar with is the Main Street Station, visible as you approach the park and the building you pass under to enter. It’s literally the first attraction you come to!

The Main Street Station platform also has a great view back out of the park!

Built to resemble an old-time railway station, this version has the most charm of the three stations. So, don’t just hop on board! Take a little time to explore the lower level of this remarkable station. It’s filled with old memorabilia and pictures of the people the four trains are named after. Then spend a little time upstairs at platform level in the station. There are penny arcades and an old-timey football game on display, as well as artwork depicting notable moments in the history of the American railroad. You’ll feel transported back in time to a day when rail was the way to travel!

Frontierland Station Platform

The other two stations have charm of course, but not the same level of detail or interest. The Frontierland Station is between Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Fantasyland Station is in Storybook Circus behind the Barnstormer coaster.

2. You might take a Grand Circle tour.

The 20-minute ride takes you on a scenic 1.5-mile trip all around the Magic Kingdom. You don’t need to worry about traveling too quickly: the train’s speed limit is 10 mph, and you’ll have no problem with the scenery flying by too quickly to enjoy!

As you ride, a recorded narration points out items of interest and things you should keep an eye out for. You’ll leave the Main Street Station to travel clockwise around the park. Over a bridge, through a small tunnel, over two access roads with train crossing signals, then through a tunnel in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and you arrive at the Frontierland station.

You can get a different view of some of the attractions from a seat on the WDW RR

Next is the part of the journey I like best. Leaving that station, you pass Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and catch a look at its runaway train as it hurls by, passengers screaming. Cross another bridge and you’ll see several outdoor scenarios including an Audio Animatronics display of Native Americans and wild animals. If you’re lucky and the timing is right, you may also see the Liberty Belle Riverboat in the Rivers of America. Next, it’s under an overpass to arrive at the Fantasyland Station.

Leaving that station, you’ll pass through the TRON Lightcycle / Run tunnel where the left side offers a quick look at the coaster track. Exiting, you pass Space Mountain, go over a small bridge, and you’re back at the Main Street station, having completed the Grand Circle Tour.

The train will stop at each of the three stations, affording you a chance to exit as other passengers board. If you’re in no particular hurry, it’s a slow but fun way to get from one side of the park to another! But if you’re not going to anywhere in particular, it’s a fun way to circle the park and see everything on the railroad in one go.

3. A brief historic train of thought.

The WDW Railway opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. There are four different trains, each named after a significant person in Disney history: the Walter E. Disney, the Lilly Belle (Walt’s nickname for his wife Lillian), the Roy O. Disney and the Roger E. Broggie.

Who? Roger Broggie is considered to be the first Imagineer, who just happened to also be into trains. He supervised the building of the railroad at Disneyland, and then oversaw all aspects of the railroad at Walt Disney World, too.

The locomotives are all authentic steam trains – which is to say, they’re real locomotives that were used on railroads before finding a home at Disney World. The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia built them sometime between 1915-16 and 1928 then sold them to the United Railways of Yucatan. When Broggie learned they were available for purchase, he bought them from United Railways for a little over $30,000 dollars.

The locomotives were transported to Florida where they were restored, using original salvaged parts and fittings when possible. The cost to restore each locomotive was around $125,000. They were spiffed up to give them their Disneyfied look, including new diamond smokestacks and square headlamps to make them look as if they were built in the late 1800s.

4. Some secrets of the rails.

⭐ Each train’s tender has a capacity of up to 1837 gallons of water and 665 gallons of fuel. The trains need to stop at the Fantasyland Station for water every 3-4 trips.

⭐ The window in the Main Street USA station reads, “Walt Disney World Railroad Office, Keeping Dream on Track, Walter E. Disney, Chief Engineer.” You see it as you approach the Magic Kingdom, although it’s so high up it can be a bit hard to read!

⭐ Corey Burton does the updated narration for the train ride. He’s the current voice actor for Ludwig Von Drake, Captain Hook, and Dale in Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers among others.

⭐ A bulletin board schedule in the Main Street Station lower level holds a lot of fun details. You’ll see the train named Carolwood Pacific – what Walt named the miniature train in his backyard. There’s Grizzly Flats Express, the name Disney animator Ward Kimball gave the train in his backyard. You can see the Roger Broggie and Lilly Belle referenced, along with a train called D. Crockett. There are more, but the fun is discovering them for yourself.

⭐ I’ve read that at the Frontierland station, the sound effect of a telegraph transmitting Morse code can be heard. Supposedly, it’s transmitting Walt’s 1955 Disneyland dedication speech, but I’ve been unable to verify if that’s still true. If you’ve heard it, let us know in the comments below!

⭐ There used to be a behind-the-scenes train tour called “The Magic Behind our Steam Trains.” This was discontinued during the COVID pandemic, but hopes are high that it may return, especially since a similar tour at Disneyland was recently reinstated.

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

You can board the WDW Railroad in one of three places: Main Street, Frontierland and Fantasyland. Each station is open but sheltered, and the trains will run if it’s raining but not if there’s lightning in the area. You’ll also find them paused during any Magic Kingdom parade because the tracks cross the parade route in Frontierland.

The seats are forward-facing open benches and accommodate 3-5 passengers.

Railroad seating

There is a wheelchair-access car, but guests must transfer to a standard wheelchair. Disney rental strollers are not allowed, but folding strollers are. There are no health advisories and no height requirement, so the whole family or group can ride together. Service animals are permitted to ride, too. And handheld captioning is available.

The trains don’t run during Early Theme Park Entry or Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. There is no Genie+ available, but you don’t need it. There are usually two trains running; a third is added on days with big crowds to keep the waits reasonable.

The Bottom Line.

We’re fans of riding these rails! Probably the best time to board is after you’ve seen and experienced everything else you wanted to do in the Magic Kingdom. But it’s also a great break in the middle of the day: a time to slow down, take a load off your feet, and see a side of the Magic Kingdom you can’t see any other way. All aboard!

Have you ridden on the railroad? What was your favorite part of the Grand Circle Tour? Let us know in the comments.

You May Also Like...

Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

6 thoughts on “Five Things to Know About the Walt Disney World Railroad

  • The telegraph is at Disneyland, but not sure about WDW

  • The train closes fairly early each day, it doesn’t run after dark. It closes at 7:00 pm today, for instance. Be sure to not wait too long to ride, or you’ll miss your chance.

  • Disney railroad is a great ride and terrific way to relax,my family and I never go to the park without riding the train such a terrific thing to do

  • The Train Tour actually was discontinued before Covid due to construction issues. I know because I tried for 6 months to reserve one for January of 2020. The trains stopped running first, but initially they were still doing tours. Then they stopped those too.

  • The builder should read, “The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia”. They produced locomotives from from 1825 to 1951.

    • It sure should! I’ll be fixing that – thanks!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *