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  1. #1

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    The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Perhaps this thread belongs in Yesterland, but I wanted some of the 30 and under crowd to see it too.

    As a kid, my favorite attraction at Disneyland was the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. I'm building a model railroad based on this attraction and I thought many of you Mice out there might be interested to see some of the research I've put together.


    Circa 1960 poster.

    From 1960 to 1977 this lavishly detailed, 30" gauge miniature railroad carried train-loads of guests from the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge into the wild back-country of Frontierland.




    Trains loading at Rainbow Ridge.

    Along the way the little trains would pass through tunnels, rattle over creeky wooden trestles past majestic waterfalls, and give guests an close-up view of scores of realistic audio-animatronic animals. Based, like the Jungle Cruise, on Disney's popular True Life Adventure series of films, the railroad wound its way through Beaver Valley, past Cascade Peak, into Bear Country (the original, with realistic bears), on into the Living Desert with its Cactus Forest, bubbling Paint Pots, Old Unfaithful Geyser, and Balanced Rock Canyon. The climax of the attraction was the colorful Rainbow Caverns.


    The loop around Cascade Peak.


    The Mark Twain steaming past Cascade Peak & Big Thunder Falls.


    The Living Desert - the tunnel portal at center lead to the backstage train storage and maintenance area.

    Old timers will recall that this attraction actually replaced and upgraded the original Rainbow Caverns Mine Train that debuted in 1956.



    Circa 1956 or so.

    The track plan was a meandering figure eight as shown in this WED layout plan that I found on the web:


    The notes in red show what still exists in Frontierland, though Cascade Peak is sadly long gone.


    WED elevation drawing of Cascade Peak. Yes it was really called Big Thunder Falls.

    By 1977 the company felt that the attraction had run its course and it was shuttered forever. But don't be too sad, most of the area was reborn in 1979 as the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - my new favorite attraction. Much of the town of Rainbow Ridge has been reused as have some of the animals and rock formations. For a complete history, visit Yesterland.

    As my model rr version of Nature's Wonderland progresses I may add to this thread if folks are interested. Until then, happy railroading.

    - BigThunder











    Last edited by BigThunder; 11-02-2007 at 10:28 AM.
    Please visit my Big Thunder/Disney Inspired Model Railroad


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  2. #2

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Quote Originally Posted by BigThunder View Post
    Perhaps this thread belongs in Yesterland, but I wanted some of the 30 and under crowd to see it too.
    I'm 39 and I don't remember it...

  3. #3

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    it closed right before my first trip in 1977! Missed it all. Loved the information. I had heard about the ride but new nothing of it.

  4. #4

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Natures wonderland is one of my favorite attractions that don't exist any more. I wish I could have seen it

    My favorite past attraction is of course ATIS!

    Nice post BTW!!

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Oh, and to tie all of this into present discussions; WDI has been considering the possibility of building a new 'Nature's Wonderland Type' railroad in the Grizzly Peak area for phase II of the DCA expansion/upgrade. I understand that major infrastructure changes will have to be made for this to be possible, but hey, here's hoping.
    Please visit my Big Thunder/Disney Inspired Model Railroad


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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Our own "Nautilus" (who, coincidentally, did the cover artwork on my Ward Kimball book) has been working on a model of the NWRR as well.

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    Our own "Nautilus" (who, coincidentally, did the cover artwork on my Ward Kimball book) has been working on a model of the NWRR as well.
    Great minds think alike. What scale is he working in? Edit: Just checked his PhotoBucket site and it looks like On30. Beautiful modeling and he's much farther along than I am.

    I started out in On30, moved, sold most of my O scale stuff and am now starting again in HOn30. I liked the larger scale for the detail, but HOn30 will allow me to include more of Frontierland and the RoA in the space I have.
    Last edited by BigThunder; 11-02-2007 at 11:08 AM.
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  8. #8

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    This is great information. I don't think I visited Disneyland before 1977 and I definitely don't remember this attraction. It looked like the ROA area was very different back then.

    I would love to see your progress as you build your RR.

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  9. #9

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showt...eak-75298.html
    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showt...ine-73235.html

    I accidently started to post this on the wrong thread... sorry about that... these two threads have a lot of pictures from Davelandweb which I highly recommend. Really good stuff on there. Also there should be a frontierland thread around here somewhere as well.
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  10. #10

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showt...eak-75298.html
    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showt...ine-73235.html

    I accidently started to post this on the wrong thread... sorry about that... these two threads have a lot of pictures from Davelandweb which I highly recommend. Really good stuff on there. Also there should be a frontierland thread around here somewhere as well.
    Great threads Skip. Must have missed those on my last MiceChat sabbatical.

    There certainly seems to be a lot of interest in bringing back Cascade Peak in one form or another. I would love to see it return as part of a Frontierland expansion/upgrade that added a new Frontierland station to the DLRR along with a new Western village and attractions in the current Festival area. Frontierland needs some TLC.
    Please visit my Big Thunder/Disney Inspired Model Railroad


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  11. #11

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Quote Originally Posted by BigThunder View Post
    I would love to see it return as part of a Frontierland expansion/upgrade that added a new Frontierland station to the DLRR.
    Don't hold your breath on any new stations.

    There are currently four stations, each roughly (very roughly) equadistant from each other. Placing a fifth station between two is only asking for slowdowns and bottlenecks on the ride, especially during four-train operation.

    Frontierland has a very nice station that was even called "Frontierland Station" before some manager had too much time on his hands and decided to change the name...

  12. #12

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    ^Yes, I know. But then I'd gladly sacrifice the Toontown station (which isn't even in Toontown) for a Frontierland expansion.
    Please visit my Big Thunder/Disney Inspired Model Railroad


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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    What great memories. Nature's Wonderland (and all the different versions that preceded it) were rides that we went on every time we went to Disneyland for family vacations. I loved it and now thanks to all the maps and pictures, the folks here who missed it, can plainly see how big a ride it was. And that it did indeed go all the way out to Rivers Of America and circled around Cascade Peak (Three Sisters Falls in earlier versions) and then came back to the station.

    You can plainly see what a loss Cascade Falls has been for the look around that part of the river. You can thank Paul Pressler for pulling that out, rather than repair it. You can see the parts of the rides still there today on the backside walk around Big Thunder into Fantasyland, and can see that part of the track that circled the falls, with the wrecked train (which is actually facing the wrong way, but is one of the original trains) on the track.

    Natures Wonderland was a fun ride with lots of sections devoted to some of the best of the True Life Adventures, including Bear Country and The Painted Desert. And Rainbow Caverns in it's original form was a sight to behold. They have never managed to repeat that effect again. The "tribute" on the BTM Main Lift Hill is a sad effect compared to the original. As much as I love BTM I very much miss the old Mine Train Ride/Natures Wonderland attractions.
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  14. #14

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Quote Originally Posted by BigThunder View Post
    ^Yes, I know. But then I'd gladly sacrifice the Toontown station (which isn't even in Toontown) for a Frontierland expansion.

    Sacrificing toontown is actually a mercy killing.

  15. #15

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    Re: The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

    Here's another nice overview of the attraction from the Spring 1998 issue of 'E' Ticket magazine:

    Please visit my Big Thunder/Disney Inspired Model Railroad


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