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  1. #46

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    I think that the area that was occupied by Rainbow Caverns is now partially occupied by the "mountain" part of BTMRR. But the mountain is mainly to the northwest of where the Rainbow Caverns building was. I'm pretty sure only the western half of the Rainbow Caverns land is now occupied by the Big Thunder mountain. It's unclear to me what they did with the eastern half of the space occupied by Rainbow Caverns. They may have just planted a bunch of trees. You'd have to compare aerial photos "then and now" to be sure. I think there was an aerial comparison done on this forum last year, around the time of the 50th anniversary of Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland. There was also a thread showing the remnants of Nature's Wonderland which can still be seen today. If I was designing the BTMRR, I would have included the Rainbow Caverns, either at the beginning or end of the ride. You couldn't really use it for a lift section, since the caverns were all on one level. But it would have been a nice way to either begin or end the ride... and it was already built.
    Last edited by Bob Weaver; 02-21-2011 at 09:02 PM.

  2. #47

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Weaver View Post
    I think that the area that was occupied by Rainbow Caverns is now partially occupied by the "mountain" part of BTMRR. But the mountain is mainly to the northwest of where the Rainbow Caverns building was. I'm pretty sure only the western half of the Rainbow Caverns land is now occupied by the Big Thunder mountain. It's unclear to me what they did with the eastern half of the space occupied by Rainbow Caverns. They may have just planted a bunch of trees. You'd have to compare aerial photos "then and now" to be sure. I think there was an aerial comparison done on this forum last year, around the time of the 50th anniversary of Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland. There was also a thread showing the remnants of Nature's Wonderland which can still be seen today. If I was designing the BTMRR, I would have included the Rainbow Caverns, either at the beginning or end of the ride. You couldn't really use it for a lift section, since the caverns were all on one level. But it would have been a nice way to either begin or end the ride... and it was already built.
    I posted that thread regarding the visual remnants of Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. I basically set out to capture everything that remains of the ride.

    Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland leftovers

    I like what others have said about creating a new diorama around the railroad in Frontierland. Something along the lines of the Grand Canyon and Primieval World dioramas. But if so, hopefully they wouldn't glass them up like they did the other two.

  3. #48

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Me again. Thanks.

  4. #49

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Yes, I agree, they should replace that currogated metal tunnel with something much better, such as a Rainbow Caverns diorama.

    And thank you again Princess Victoria for taking those photos last year of the remnants and traces of Nature's Wonderland and posting them in your thread. I had forgotten about the BTMRR maintenance building, which stands where Rainbow Caverns once stood.

    In the first 2 photos below, I have marked with a red X the building that housed the Rainbow Caverns. These photos are from 1962 and 1963.





    The building is clearly seen in this photo from 1965.



    In this photo of the Living Desert portion of Nature's Wonderland, a train can be seen passing under the Natural Arch Bridge. The Pack Mules went over the bridge, in fact at the bottom center of the photo you can see a group of mules approaching the bridge. After the bridge, the train went through the Saguaro Forest at the top, then by the Devil's Paint Pots and past the service tunnel, part of which is still visible today at Big Thunder Ranch, and Princess Victoria took a photo of it last year. The large buttes in the center of the photo are still visible today at Big Thunder Ranch. Then the train went past Old Unfaithful geyser, then by the small ponds and dinosaur bones, then through the Balancing Rock Canyon. There it seems like the track disappears. That's where it entered a tunnel, which passed underneath the earlier portion of track, and the tunnel curved and went into the Rainbow Caverns building.



    Micechat member STNautilus took the time last year to create this great chart detailing the locations of the still-visible remnants of Nature's Wonderland. He is also building a model of it, including Rainbow Caverns.


  5. #50

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Thanks for providing that information, Bob.

    I did some comparisons of the current BTMRR maintenance facility and its position alongside the Castle compared to where the Rainbow Caverns show building once stood. It appears that the Caverns building was situated farther to the north than where the BTMRR maintenance facility is now. It looks primarily like only trees and a service road are visible from current aerial shots of where the Caverns were. I'm sure of course that underneath those trees there's storage and areas that workers use. In fact, I think Tinkerbell's landing tree during the fireworks might sit in that area. No matter how you slice it, it's a real shame that the Caverns are long gone.

    I do still wonder if that little tunnel I photographed that has the broken train tracks was in fact the entrance into Rainbow Caverns. The facade rockwork is clearly different, but it's definitely in the right location.
    Last edited by Princess Victoria; 02-21-2011 at 10:51 PM.

  6. #51

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Thank you for the additional information about the BTMRR maintenance building.
    Now about your photo that you mentioned, which I am reposting here.



    My gut feeling is that yes, this is the entrance to the tunnel that led to the Rainbow Caverns. However I have no conclusive proof, and I still have never been able to find a photo from "the old days" that shows the tunnel entrance. But my feeling is that this is the tunnel entrance, and not only that, I believe the track seen here is part of the original track of the Mine Train. However the vehicle sitting here is some contraption I don't recognize at all. Above the tunnel ran the same track, an earlier part of the Mine Train ride. Beyond that the rest of the tunnel area was landscaped, with full grown trees. They may have redone it with rockwork when they converted the area to Big Thunder. I wonder if this section of track you photographed is visible from a satellite photo of Disneyland today. We could compare its location with the location of the Mine Train's track upon leaving the Balancing Rock Canyon. Also if we could view a full ride-through of the Mine Train, that might show the tunnel entrance. I've never gotten around to ordering that third-party Nature's Wonderland DVD, which advertises a full ride-through. I have a hunch these pieces of evidence would probably confirm that this is the original tunnel entrance that led to the Rainbow Caverns. If Disney would just hire us as official Disneyland Detectives, and give us access to all the archives and footage they have stored away, that would make the process so much easier.

    Your photo makes me very curious as to what you would see if you went into the tunnel.

  7. #52

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Very interesting that may be the original tunnel, and very well written post...thank you Princess Victoria and Bob!

    That vehicle is from the Disney film Hot Lead and Cold Feet, as is it's partner in the Big Thunder queue.
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

  8. #53

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    bring back the mine train.

  9. #54

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Much as I love this thread and all the work that's gone into it, it also continues to break my heart. Just thinking of how much real estate was torn up for what is essentially only one more roller coaster is just plain sad...
    First Visit at the age of 12, July 17, 1968.
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    BRING BACK THE PEOPLE MOVER!

  10. #55

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Quote Originally Posted by ttrocc7007 View Post
    Much as I love this thread and all the work that's gone into it, it also continues to break my heart. Just thinking of how much real estate was torn up for what is essentially only one more roller coaster is just plain sad...
    While I greatly enjoy BTMRR, I'm sure I would enjoy the Mine Train a lot more. That being said, from what I understand, Disney at the time was trying to capture what was becoming a very popular format at nearby theme parks: roller coasters. Again, I don't mind BTMRR at all. I think the real tragedy of the whole thing is that much of Nature's Wonderland could have been left intact and used for another purpose, such as a walk-through. All it eventually became was Big Thunder Ranch, which in my opinion, is a great waste of space. If they would have utilized the area for more attractions, that would've be one thing. But the land just sat until BTR was ushered in and essentially all you have now is a barbeque eatery with a stage, a petting zoo, and a house with pretty decorations. That sort of thing can be experienced at the local county fair. I appreciate the nice things they do at BTR during the seasons, but that in no way makes up for the tragedy of leveling that whole area. Perhaps the greater deciding factor was Tony Baxter's plans for Discovery Bay, which he created and pitched around the time that the Mine Train closed and BTMRR was being built. That land would have taken up the land encompassing the Living Desert and extended all the way to about where ToonTown is. Coincidence? I think not.

  11. #56

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    Re: Rainbow Caverns with the Lights On

    Totally agree with that assessment. The popularity of roller coasters revived in the 1970s, and Disney must have felt the pressure to keep up with that. Magic Mountain opened in 1971 (though with a set of rides that would be laughable by today's standards). Knott's introduced the Corkscrew in 1975 and Magic Mountain introduced the Great American Revolution in 1976. Disneyland must have felt pressure to add thrill rides, as the Matterhorn was the only roller coaster they had until Space Mountain in 1977. They must have decided to add BTMRR in an effort to keep up with the roller coaster boom.

    And I agree with you on the disappointment with what they've done with the remainder of the area that used to be Nature's Wonderland. In fact I've only gone to Big Thunder Ranch once, and that was enough for me. At least they had the wisdom to leave most of the trees alone, trees which took decades to grow to full size. If they had taken them all out and put a bunch of buildings in, that would be even worse than what they did do. The area has a lush, natural look and to me that's better than anything they could have built. Mother Nature reclaimed her wonderland.


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