The Disneyland Railroad is one of the park's icons. Its six trains constantly circle the park (even after closing), riding a track atop the berm that isolates Disneyland from the outside world, giving riders an overview of the park through dense curtains of animatronic foliage. Every day, each running train travels some 20,000 miles.
On the park's opening day, the attraction was referred to as the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad, and a little-used spur from the main track actually connected with the nearby Santa Fe. Santa Fe dropped sponsorship in October 1974, and the attraction became simply the Disneyland Railroad. A little known fact is that Santa Fe paid big bucks to facilitate the name change after Disneyland hinted that it might keep "Santa Fe" on its signage and have really crummy service.
There are five stops along the Disneyland Railroad's route.
The first, and most visible, stop is on Main Street. The large Main Street Station building is one of the park's icons, and contains both the ride's queue and some interesting artifacts. One of these artifacts is a small train Imagineers built when they were first learning to create a railroad. A total of six engines were built, each a little larger than the last, until Imagineers felt that they were ready to work on full-sized vehicles. Also in the station is a large aerial photograph of the park. This map is wired with hundreds of tiny lights that could show the exact position of each train along its route if it worked which it doesn't.
The second stop is in New Orleans Square. At this stop a telegraph office can be seen, and careful listeners will hear a message being broadcast in Morse code. Even more careful listeners will note that it isn't Morse code but an old telegraph code. The most careful listeners of all will be able to decode the message, and will find that it is an endless plea of "Help, I'm being held prisoner in an old telegraph office!"
The third stop on the train's route was, at one time, just to the side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, one of the park's icons. This stop was accidentally eliminated during a minor alteration of the railroad's track to accommodate Splash Mountain.
After passing through Splash Mountain (and perhaps getting a little wet), the Railroad stops at Toon Town Station (nee Videopolis Station, nee Fantasyland Station). This is the most out-of-the-way of the Disneyland Railroad stations, and trains occasionally forget to stop here.
The final stop is in Tomorrowland, at a station mildly themed like a portal to a time travel machine. "Visit the land of the dinosaurs," reads a sign above the queue. "Feed a bratty kid to a tyrannosaurus!"
During the trip around the park, a recorded voice describes the scenery, indicates which stop is coming next, and notes how late the train is running (the train never runs on time as a symbolic slap-in-the-face to fascist dictator Mussolini, who was sorely disliked by Walt Disney). The recording has changed several times through the years as the park itself changed. A link to an excerpt from one version of the spiel is at the bottom of this page.
Two dioramas were added to the Disneyland Railroad, as a sort of climax to the trip around the park.
The first, opened in March of 1958, was the Grand Canyon Diorama. This enormous display depicts the rim of the Grand Canyon as winter approaches, complete with motionless wildlife and hyperrealistic weather effects. As guests pass the diorama, they are treated to a soundtrack consisting of an excerpt from a full-orchestra version of "Night on Bald Mountain." The diorama includes the largest backdrop ever created from a single sheet of canvas -- painstakingly hand painted over the course of two years. (When the backdrop was finished, one soon-to-be-ex Imagineer was heard to say, "Why didn't we just go there and take a picture? It would last longer.") Although the diorama is not as long as the real canyon, it is precisely as deep.
The Primeval World Diorama joined the Grand Canyon Diorama in July of 1966. Here, dinosaurs were recreated based on what was, at the time, cutting edge archaeological data. We now know that many of the details are wrong (apatosaurus didn't stay in the water all the time; tyrannosaurus, an icon of the dinosaur age, had black-and-white "zebra" stripes), but the scene is striking just the same. Humorous narration originally accompanied the ride past these awesome animatronic figures (for example, "That stegosaurus looks like he hasn't had a bite in weeks. Perhaps the mighty tyrannosaurus, icon of the age of dinosaurs, will bite him!). It was decided that this did not fit well with the music-only presentation of the Grand Canyon Diorama, so today, a stirring rendition of "Ride of the Valkyries" is heard instead.
In part of the dinosaur display, there is an animatronic triceratops family, complete with hatching eggs. The dinosaurs in this display are modeled after some of Disney animations' famous "Nine Old Men." Fans of classic Disney cartoons -- particularly those who know a bit about Disney's internal politics in the old days -- will easily be able to figure out who is who.
Guests are welcome to ride the Disneyland Railroad for as long as they like, during regular operating hours, unless they're just going around and around the park reading a book and complaining every time the lights go out because the train has entered a tunnel, in which case they will be discretely removed. This opportunity for foot-weary guests to relax and enjoy the scenery is one of the park's icons.
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