The Disneyland Railroad is one of the original attractions at Disneyland, having opened with the park on July 17, 1955. It provides a relaxing 20-minute grand circle tour around the park, with stops at Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, and Tomorrowland. The railroad is both an attraction and a means of transportation, allowing guests to take a scenic ride or hop on and off to explore different lands.
Average Wait Times: The average wait time for the Disneyland Railroad can vary, but it’s generally shorter than many of the park’s more popular rides. It can range from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day and season. If you want to minimize your wait time, consider riding during off-peak hours.
Height Requirements: One of the great aspects of the Disneyland Railroad is that there are no height requirements. It’s a family-friendly attraction suitable for guests of all ages, including children and adults.
Single Rider: The Disneyland Railroad does not offer a single rider option, as it’s a ride meant for groups and families to experience together.
Genie+ and Lightning Lane: While the Disneyland Railroad is not part of Genie+ or Lightning Lane, it can be a relaxing way to get from one part of the park to another, and you may choose to use Genie+ to optimize your day and minimize wait times for other attractions.
Rider Switch: Rider Switch, or the Child Swap system, is not available on the Disneyland Railroad since it’s a continuous loop attraction that doesn’t require waiting in line for most of the ride.
Disability Access Service (DAS): The Disneyland Railroad uses the DAS system is generally accessible for guests with disabilities. They can remain in their wheelchairs or ECVs, and there are accessible train cars to accommodate those with mobility challenges.
History, Design, and Architecture
The Disneyland Railroad was inspired by Walt Disney’s love of trains, stemming from his childhood when his uncle worked as an engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad. Walt built his own miniature backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which directly inspired his vision for the Disneyland Railroad. The railroad opened with two steam locomotives built by WED Enterprises, the precursor to Walt Disney Imagineering. Locomotive No. 1 was named the C.K. Holliday after Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, founder of the Santa Fe Railroad. Locomotive No. 2 was named the E.P. Ripley after Edward Payson Ripley, an early president of the Santa Fe Railroad.
Two more locomotives were added in the late 1950s. Locomotive No. 3, the Fred Gurley, was built in 1894 and acquired and restored by Disney. Locomotive No. 4, the Ernest S. Marsh, was built in 1925 and also restored by Disney. These locomotives are scaled-down versions of classic American railroad steam engines. The route encircles the park, weaving past Main Street, around the Rivers of America and through the dioramas, by the waterfalls in Frontierland, and along the backside of Tomorrowland. The Main Street station was designed to resemble a classic Victorian train depot, establishing the era and theme for Main Street. The other stations also reflect the themed lands they border.
Ride Experience and Details
The Disneyland Railroad offers guests a pleasant, relaxing trip aboard meticulously crafted miniature steam trains. The ride is smooth and gentle, suitable for guests of all ages. The 20-minute ride allows you to rest your feet and take in panoramic views of the park while listening to narration highlighting sights along the way. Some of the notable landmarks visible from the train include Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the Rivers of America, the Native American encampment, and more. Two dioramas provide additional sights. The Grand Canyon diorama depicts the awe-inspiring canyon in miniature scale.
The Primeval World diorama features animatronic dinosaurs including a confrontation between a stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex, surrounded by erupting geysers. The stations feature old-fashioned design, from the ornate Victorian station on Main Street to the frontier-style Mickey’s Toontown station. The New Orleans Square station includes an operating telegraph and semaphore signals, adding to the 19th century ambiance. The coaches are also antiques, featuring wooden benches, large windows, and open-air observation decks on some cars. The parlor car Lilly Belle, named after Walt Disney’s wife Lillian, is an elegant Victorian-style observation car frequently reserved for VIP guests.
Queue: The Disneyland Railroad queue, unlike traditional attraction lines, is open-air and picturesque. Passengers board the train at any station, and there’s no formal line. While waiting, you can admire the locomotive, chat with friendly cast members, and take in the details of the station’s theming.
Onboard Experience: As you board the train, you’ll have a choice of sitting inside the passenger cars or riding on an open-air car, offering an unobstructed view of the park. The onboard narration, voiced by the late Jack Wagner, provides fascinating insights into the sights you pass. It’s like a history lesson and guided tour all rolled into one.
Music: The soundtracks that accompany the Disneyland Railroad experience vary depending on which section of the park you’re in. From the lively and jazzy tunes of New Orleans Square to the futuristic melodies of Tomorrowland, the music adds an extra layer of immersion to your journey.
Tips for Riding
The Disneyland Railroad operates daily from park opening to closing. Trains arrive every 5-10 minutes at each station.
There are virtually never long lines due to the high capacity and frequent service. It’s easy to walk on and off.
The elevated Main Street station offers prime views of parades and fireworks shows.
Ride early in the day for lighter crowds and the best views of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (Coming soon) and Rivers of America.
Request the last row for the best outward views. The left side has better river views.
Ride during mid-day for a relaxing break from walking around the park.
Hop off at any station to explore the surrounding land then reboard later.
Use the railroad to conveniently travel between lands, especially from Tomorrowland to Main Street.
With a rich history dating back to opening day, the Disneyland Railroad offers a quintessential Disney theme park experience. The charming steam trains, scenic views of the park, and tranquil ride make it a favorite attraction for guests of all ages to enjoy and an iconic part of Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom.
Disneyland Railroad Review
The Final Word
The Disneyland Railroad is a timeless attraction that embodies the spirit of Walt Disney's vision for Disneyland. It seamlessly blends transportation, history, and storytelling into a relaxing and enjoyable experience.