Main Street USA – The main station for the railroad stands at the opposite end from the castle. It’s the first thing you see from the main gate, and can be accessed from the stairs or ramp beside the center garden.
New Orleans Square – You can find the New Orleans Square station behind the plaza. Walk toward the square gardens (between the French Market and Haunted Mansion) and you’ll see the station in the back.
Mickey’s Toontown – The station for the rear of Disneyland can be found between Toontown and Fantasyland. Head to the back of Fantasyland, near It’s A Small World, and you’ll see the train station on the left, next to the Fantasyland Theatre.
Tomorrowland – And finally, the last station on the Disneyland Railroad can be found by the back of Autopia. Follow the main path through Tomorrowland, and then continue on the smaller path to the left of the Innoventions building. You will see the station at the end of path, on a raised platform.
From the beginning, Walt Disney envisioned a railroad that would encircle the park. Walt commissioned a 1/8 scale miniature locomotive in order to test the vehicle’s performance on the track, and then Imagineers went to work building the full-scale model. On Opening Day, Disneyland had two fully functional steam engine trains, but the two trains operated independently with different stops. Locomotive #1 stopped at the Frontierland Depot, and was a freight train with cattle cars and a caboose, and Locomotive #2 serviced the Main Street USA station and had coach and observation seating. Though the trains operated independently, they shared a track, and rail sidings at the two stations allowed the vehicles to pass one another if one was loading passengers.
In 1958, the circuit around the park became an attraction itself with the addition of the Grand Canyon/Primeval World Diorama. The diorama, which is still the largest in the world, depicts scenes of the present-day Grand Canyon. And in 1966, the diorama expanded with the Primeval World scene, which features animatronic dinosaurs and ancient scenery.
As the park grew, the two trains were not sufficient for the number of passengers. The locomotives stopped operating independently, and no longer passed each other on the rails. Imagineers constructed additional trains, and with the new vehicles came new stations. The Toontown station (then called the Fantasyland station) arrived first, followed by the Tomorrowland station. During this construction, the Frontierland station had been moved several times, but eventually closed in favor of the New Orleans Square station, which opened in 1966.
Today, the park runs a minimum of two trains per day, with more running on busier days. Some guests use the train to save energy when crossing the park, while others enjoy the view of the complete circuit. Since Opening Day, an estimated 650 million guests have traveled on the Disneyland Railroad.
Although you can hop on and off freely at any railroad station, the circuit technically starts at the Main Street USA stop. Guests hear a narrated tour highlighting some of the attractions visible from the railroad, and suggestions regarding which stops are convenient for which rides. The tour begins with a journey through the jungles of Adventureland, before the train arrives at the New Orleans Square station.
From this stop, guests travel through Splash Mountain, and can catch a glimpse of the room guests travel through after making the drop (my brother and I call this the “celebration” room). Next, the train passes the Rivers of America, offering views of an American Indian chief, and a pioneer camp along the water’s edge. The second stop is the Toontown station, which passes along the border of Toontown and Fantasyland.
The third leg of the train circuit takes guests through It’s A Small World’s exterior, before circling around to the Tomorrowland station. Next, guests pass the massive Grand Canyon/Primeval World Diorama, which offers a window into the world as it looked millions of years ago. And finally, the train completes the circuit and arrives at the Main Street USA station once again.
MY RATING: ★★★★☆
The Disneyland Railroad is a relaxing ride around the park. While it’s not as thrilling as the park’s other railroad (Big Thunder Mountain), the circuit offers plenty of unique views, great for taking some photos. And because the train runs constantly throughout the day, it’s a convenient way to travel around Disneyland and give your legs a break. Some of the cars have front facing seats, while others face inward toward the park, but both options offer the same views. My only complaint with the railroad is that the seats are very uncomfortable (hardwood), so by the end of the circuit I’m definitely ready to get off.
Since the train runs regularly all day, there isn’t a specific time that is better or worse to ride. I like to travel the circuit in the evening, when my legs could use a break and I want to take some photos of the scenery. But no matter what time you head to the train station, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for another train to come by.
The railroad was called the “Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad” from Opening Day until 1974, thanks to an official sponsorship from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.
The narration during the railroad circuit originally featured the voice of Jack Wagner, later replaced by Thurl Ravenscroft.
The diorama is the only place in the park featuring taxidermy animals.
The Grand Canyon portion of the diorama measures 306 feet long, and the backdrop used 300 gallons of paint.
Riders that complete the circuit around the park travel 1.5 miles, taking about 20 minutes with the stops.