The temporarily closed Disneyland Railroad provides guests with a whole new experience!
For the first time ever (as far as I’m aware), the Disneyland railroad steam engines are parked at two of the stations, giving guests the opportunity to admire and learn about one of Walt’s most beloved attractions. The Disneyland Railroad has been a staple at the park since opening day, July 17, 1955. While the attraction is closed through at least April 2017 for the construction of Star Wars Land, trains will be parked at two stations – Main Street USA and New Orleans Square.
When I visited, the Main Street USA station featured steam engine no. 4, named for Ernest S. Marsh. Marsh was the president of the Santa Fe Railroad at the time this engine was introduced, which was 1959. (I say “when I visited” because a couple weeks later I noticed a different steam engine parked at the Main Street station, so they must switch them out.) Parked along with the steam engine is a passenger car with “Holiday” seating (meaning the seats face out towards the right) as well as the Lilly Belle. Having the Lilly Belle on display is a great way for guests to take a peek inside this very special car, which was once used as a Presidential Coach for dignitaries. Now the Lilly Belle is open for guests to experience, but you have to be either very lucky or very strategic, or perhaps a little a both, to get a pass to ride. Click here to read about my experience on the Lilly Belle.
The New Orleans Square station featured steam engine no. 2, named for E.P. Ripley. Edward Peyson Ripley was a former president of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. The Railway was an early sponsor of the Disneyland Railroad attraction, back when most of the attractions and shops at Disneyland had their own corporate sponsors. Four of the Five Disneyland Railroad steam engines are named after people associated with the Santa Fe Railroad; the fifth is named after Ward Kimball, famed Disney animator. It is said that Kimball’s enthusiasm for the railroad is what sparked Walt’s love of trains. Parked along with the steam engine are two passenger cars with Holiday seating. I observed many guests simply enjoying the passenger cars as a nice place to rest in the shade on a warm day.
The New Orleans Square station is special in its own right because of the themed decor. On the other side of the tracks are some cute building facades – but they actually house Cast Member break rooms. Also listen closely to the telegraph … it is typing out the first few lines of Walt’s opening day speech. With the railroad closed, guests have the new opportunity to walk around on the “other side of the tracks!”
At the New Orleans Square station there is also a cross section of a steam engine on display.
Engineers are also on hand at these two stations to talk about the steam engines as well as the railroad’s history and operation. My dad is a huge train buff just like Walt was, and he was thrilled to have a chance to interact with the engineers. In fact, he has been to Disneyland twice since the trains have been parked, and had long conversations with the engineers both times! I know the engineers are very passionate about their jobs and working at Disneyland, and I’m sure they have a lot of fun stories to tell. Here’s my dad with a group of engineers!
Star Wars Land construction is also affecting the Rivers of America, as you may know. The Rivers route is being shortened to accommodate the area needed for Star Wars Land, which means the Rivers of America attractions are also temporarily closed. However, the Mark Twain Riverboat is docked at its attraction entrance for guests to explore! While I was there I saw Louis from The Princess and the Frog out greeting guests, and on the second deck there was a four piece jazz band playing. On the lower deck forward, several tables and chairs are arranged, giving guests a nice place to sit and relax. The last time I visited Disneyland, I sat here for nearly an hour with a cup of coffee from Starbucks, doing a bit of writing and people watching. There are worse places to spend the afternoon!
My view from my table on the Mark Twain.
While it’s always a bummer for attractions to be non-operational, I like how Disneyland is making the best of it by offering these new opportunities to guests! Be sure to take advantage of these unique experiences the next time you visit Disneyland.