20 Minutes Of Training Around The MK
Fred Stewart was looking down the tracks for his train to come into the station. An eight-year veteran of the Walt Disney World railroad, he was waiting to begin his shift.
Stewart was dressed in a matching striped hat and overalls, plus a denim shirt and a red handkerchief tied around his neck completed his work clothes.
He looked just like an engineer would have looked like - 75 years ago.
"We work 40 minutes as a fireman, 40 minutes as an engineer and 40 minutes off," he said. "It's about 120 degrees in the cab, so we like to keep moving."
Stewart stood on the platform waving to passengers as the train arrived, being pulled by Engine No. 4 - the Roy Disney. As passengers disembarked, he answered their questions with a big smile. It seemed clear to everyone at the train that Stewart loves his job working on one of the few steam engines still running a regular schedule in the United States.
After Stewart climbed on board and a new group of passengers filled the coaches, the train headed off to Frontierland. It circles the entire Magic Kingdom theme park once again during the 20-minute ride.
The engines are big, noisy and powerful - and as low tech as they come. They are the best contrast to the ultra-sleek monorails that circle the Seven Seas Lagoon. Hissing and steaming, they are Walt Disney World's fleet of narrow-gauge steam locomotives.
Before Disney World opened for the first time in October 1971, months had been spent looking for the perfect steam locomotives to complement the park as an attraction and practical means to get people from one area of the Magic Kingdom to another.
Walt Disney himself loved trains and gave orders to find engines that fit the feel of his new park.
Imagineer Roger Broggie was put in charge of setting up the Disney railway. The search lead Roger to the jungles of Mexico, where he found the company American had built 3-foot, narrow-gauge Baldwin steam engines. They were in disrepair and rusting away in a railroad junkyard in Merida, Mexico.
Arrangements were made to get the locomotives back to the States, where they went through different amounts of repair and custom work to help build the fleet of four engines.
The engines are a mix of types and styles. Engine No. 1, Walter Disney, is what is referred to as a Ten Wheeler. It has four small wheels up front to support the front end and six wheels that drive the engine. The engine was completely rebuilt and painted red.
Disney's No. 2 was rebuilt and painted green with red trim. This engine is used for the first run of the morning and for special trains.
No. 3 Roger E. Broggie is just like No. 1, a Ten Wheeler. It was built in 1925. Walt Disney originally wanted the railroad built from scratch, but it was Broggie who suggested using a rebuilt narrow-gauge engine instead of building new locomotives. That's what brought him down to the Yucatan to finds the engines.
Walt's brother Roy, who handled the business side of the Disney empire but always stayed out of the limelight, has his name on Engine No. 4. The Roy Disney is an American with four front wheels and four driving wheels, and is the oldest of the engines, built in 1916. This was the only one of the fleet that was not ready for the October 1971 opening date, but was added just a few months after the park welcomed the public.
Today these four engines pull a compliment of open coaches that carry thousands of passengers around the perimeter of the park, starting at the Main Station at the entrance to Disney World. The trains also stop at Frontierland and Toontown. As low tech as this railroad system is, it's still a popular ride.
Walt Disney imagined what the future of mass transportation would be in his fleet of shining monorail trains. With its fleet of steam locomotives and open-coach cars, Walt Disney World also pays tribute to the mass transportation of the past.