There is nothing more iconic or reflective of Walt in the Disney Parks than the steam trains. Recently, we took the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour at the Magic Kingdom. The tour starts before the park opens, so we woke up early and headed over to park at the Contemporary to be ready for our 7:30 tour. We got there early to enjoy the ambiance of a quiet park entry area.
We entered the park before anyone else was allowed in, so we snapped some pictures of an empty Main Street.
Our tour guide gave a brief introduction to the tour and then our group boarded the train at the Main Street Station.
As we made our way around the park, our tour guide gave us lots of facts and information about the steam trains at the Magic Kingdom. We learned that the four steam trains that make up the Walt Disney World Railroad were built between 1916 and 1928 and were purchased from Mexico. We also learned that the train whistles you hear are actually ways for the trains to communicate. They blow in long/short patterns to indicate different messages, such as the train is approaching, going forward or in reverse, or if there is an emergency. As we passed through Adventureland, we learned that when you go down the hill in Pirates of the Caribbean, you are actually going under the train tracks to the show building on the other side of the tracks.
After we pulled in to the Fantasyland Station, the train went in reverse as we headed backwards out of the Magic Kingdom and backstage to the monorail and train roundhouse, the spot where the trains and monorails are maintained and stored. The track actually goes over a public road at a train crossing. We pulled into the roundhouse and then disembarked the train, and were allowed to walk around and explore the area.
We learned about the way the steam trains operate using fire and steam. The trains are operated by a fireman (or woman) and an engineer. They work on a rotating schedule and spend 40 minutes as a fireman, then 40 minutes as an engineer, and then spend 40 minutes in a really cold break room (it is really hot up in the cab of the engine). We learned that you must work for 6 months as a conductor before being able to apply to be an engineer/fireman. Despite how complicated everything seemed to us, the training consists of only 8 days! We got to hop up into engine cab to get a close up look at how everything works.
We got to see how the steam trains are prepared in the morning for their day in the park. An engineer showed us how they light up the firebox to start up the engine.
We also got to see a process where they build up the pressure in the engine really high and it shoots a huge plume of water out of the engine.
We boarded the train again and rode back into the Magic Kingdom. As we passed the Fantasyland Station (also named the Carrolwood Station after Walt’s home in California), we learned that part of the station is a replica of Walt’s barn in his childhood home of Marceline, MO. We also learned that there are tracks on the ground of Storybook Circus that lead you to different areas of that land. And if your stop at that station seems a little longer than the others, that’s because the water tower on the left is used to refill the steam engine as it makes its trip around the park.
When we arrived back at Main Street our final part of the tour was looking at all the details of the Main Street Station followed by a presentation about Walt’s love of trains with lots of wonderful pictures.
As with all the tours we’ve taken, we were given a commemorative pin to add to our collections!
This 3 hour tour was well worth the price, and as with any tour we’ve ever taken at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, it exceeded our expectations. It was the perfect mix of information about how the trains operate and history of Walt’s passion for trains. We highly recommend it!