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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Theme Mine train roller coaster
Vehicle type Simulated mine train
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.JPG
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland is the original version of the popular ride.
Disneyland
Land Frontierland
Designer WED Enterprises, Tony Baxter
Manufacturer Arrow Dynamics
Attraction type Steel Tube Tri-Rail roller coaster
Theme Runaway mine train
Propulsion method 3 chain lift hills (two indoor, one outdoor) with LIM boosters in the station and 4th brake zone
Opening date September 2, 1979
Vehicle type Mine train
Vehicle names U.B. Bold
U.R. Daring
U.R. Courageous
I.M. Loco
I.B. Hearty
I.M. Fearless
Vehicle capacity 45
Cars per vehicle 5
Guests per car 9
Ride duration 3:18 minutes
Length 2671 ft (814.1 m)
Total height 104 ft (31.7 m)
Track height 50 ft (15.2 m)
Maximum speed 35 mph (56.3 km/h)
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Site area 108,900 sq ft
Number of lifts 3 - two indoor and one outdoor
Retired trains I.M. Brave (retired after2003 incident)
Attraction transfer icon.svg Must transfer from wheelchair
Fastpass availability icon.svg FASTPASS available
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Thunder wdw.jpg
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom is one of the two signature attractions in Frontierland, along with Splash Mountain.
Magic Kingdom
Land Frontierland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Manufacturer Vekoma
Attraction type Tubular steel twin rail roller coaster
Theme Runaway mine train
Propulsion method 3 main lift hills (two indoor, one outdoor) with external brake zones
Soft opening date September 23, 1980
Opening date November 15, 1980
Vehicle type Mine train
Vehicle names U.B. Bold
U.R. Daring
U.R. Courageous
I.M. Brave
I.B. Hearty
I.M. Fearless
Vehicle capacity 45
Cars per vehicle 5
Guests per car 9
Ride duration 3:25 minutes
Length 2780 ft (847.3 m)
Maximum speed 30 mph (48.3 km/h)
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Number of lifts 3 - two indoor and one outdoor
Safety restraint Lap bar
Fastpass availability icon.svg FASTPASS available
Big Thunder Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Entrance TDL.jpg
Attraction Entrance and Exterior Queue. Notice how the station building is almost like the Magic Kingdom's station building except that it is supported on columns instead of on a hillside.
Tokyo Disneyland
Land Westernland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Manufacturer Vekoma
Theme Runaway mine train
Opening date July 4, 1987
Vehicle type Mine train
Ride duration 3:40 minutes
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Sponsored by The Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company
Fastpass availability icon.svg FASTPASS available
Big Thunder Mountain
BTMR Euro.jpg
Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Paris showing the Monument Valley inspired scenery, as viewed from Phantom Manor. Most of this version's layout is identical to the Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad except for the addition of a washed out bridge scene in the foreground and the use of underwater tunnels to get to and from the island the ride takes place on.
Disneyland Paris
Land Frontierland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Manufacturer Vekoma
Theme Runaway mine train
Opening date April 12, 1992
Vehicle type Mine train
Cars per vehicle 5
Ride duration 3:56 minutes
Length 4921.25 ft (1500 m)
Maximum speed 30.4 mph (48.9 km/h)
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Ride model Vekoma Custom MK-900 M
Capacity 2424 riders per hour
Fastpass availability icon.svg FASTPASS available

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (or for short Big Thunder Mountain) is a relatively mild indoor/outdoor mine train roller coaster located in Frontierland at several Magic Kingdom-style Disney theme parks worldwide. The ride exists at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and at Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris as Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is also the name of the fictional rail line the roller coaster depicts.

Contents

Theme

Though the details of the backstory vary from park to park, all follow the same general story arcs. Some time in the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American southwest. Overnight, the small mining town of Rainbow Ridge (at Disneyland) Tumbleweed (at the Magic Kingdom) or Thunder Mesa (at Disneyland Paris)became thriving mining towns. Mining was prosperous and an extensive line of mine trains were set up to transport the ore. Unbeknownst to the settlers, the Mountain was a sacred spot to local Native Americans and was cursed.[1] Before long, the settlers' desecration of the mountain caused a great tragedy, which, depending on the park, is usually depicted to be an earthquake (Disneyland Paris, Disneyland) or flash flood (Magic Kingdom), which befell the mines and town and they were abandoned. Some time later, the locomotives were found to be racing around the mountain on their own, without engineers or a crew. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was founded in the old mining camp to allow tourists to take rides on the possessed trains.

Inspired by real-life Bryce Canyon, the Hoodoos of Big Thunder in Disneyland as seen from the Big Thunder Trail that passed behind the ride.

Appropriately, the station buildings are designed to look like they are the abandoned offices of a mining company from the 1890s. The mountains themselves are themed to the red rock formations of the American Southwest. Disneyland's rockwork design is based on the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. All later versions starting with the Magic Kingdom's version are based on the rising buttes that are located in Utah/Arizona's Monument Valley. Special care was taken by the Imagineers to make it appear that the rocks were there originally, and the track was built around the rocks, unlike early mine rides which were built the other way around (sculpting the rocks around the tracks).[2] The action of the ride takes place completely in the sagging, rotting tunnels of the mountain. In contrast to most steel roller coasters where the thrills come from the perception of flying through open air, the thrills on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are meant to come from the perceived instability of the mine and its threats of collapse. Sound effects of typical locomotive operation are piped into the surrounding scenery to add realism to guests viewing the ride from observation platforms, including the steam whistle sounding, even though there is no whistle displayed on the locomotives.

History

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and ride design engineer Bill Watkins. The concept came from Baxter's work on fellow Imagineer Marc Davis's concept for the Western River Expedition, a western-themed pavilion at the Magic Kingdom, designed to look like an enormous plateau and contain many rides, including a runaway mine train roller coaster. However, because the pavilion as a whole, was deemed too expensive in light of the 1973 construction and opening of Pirates of the Caribbean, Baxter proposed severing the mine train and building it as a separate attraction.

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad project was put on hold again in 1974 as resources and personnel were being diverted to work on constructing Space Mountain over in Tomorrowland, but this delay may have ultimately produced a smoother ride as the use of computers in attraction design was just beginning when the project was resumed. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of the first Disney rides to utilize computer-aided design.[2]

The attraction first opened at Disneyland in 1979, with the Magic Kingdom's larger version in Florida opening in 1980. Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris would add their own versions in 1987 and 1992, respectively.

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Tributes to Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland

At Disneyland, a scaled-down western town sits adjacent to the queuing lines and tracks returning to station. A Western saloon, hotel, assayer's office and mercantile appear among the buildings. This is the village of Rainbow Ridge, which used to overlook the loading platform of the sedate Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland. Disneyland's version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built on the land the Mine Train used to occupy. Many of the animal animatronics throughout the attraction are animatronic animals from previous attraction. Other allusions to the Mine Train through Nature's wonderland include:

  • the Rainbow Caverns (glowing pools of water by the first lift hill)
  • precariously balanced rocks in the third lift hill
  • The name of the ride itself - Big Thunder was originally the name of an enormous waterfall the train passed on the tour. Little Thunder was located nearby.

Name

At the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland, the ride is known by its full name of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Tokyo and Paris versions would drop the word Railroad in favor of the name Big Thunder Mountain. Tokyo Disneyland's Big Thunder, which is almost identical to the Magic Kingdom's, opened in 1987, five years after the park opening. Disneyland Paris rethought the attraction, creating a layout mostly based on the Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but with several significant changes to both the layout and accompanying structure. The revised European ride, takes the form of a large island in the center of the Rivers of the Far West, accessed from its riverside station by tunnels underneath the water. Big Thunder Mountain in Paris is the only one of the four Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coasters to have been an opening day attraction at its respective park. Hong Kong Disneyland does not have a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction (or a western-themed Frontierland, for that matter).

Layouts

Disneyland version

Leaving the outdoor loading station, riders enter a dark tunnel. The sounds of bats can be heard as the trains make a right hand turn and then a left hand turn before climbing the first lift hill. To the left of the trains, guests can view a series of rainbow colored caverns. These are placed as a tribute to the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. At the top, the trains exit into the daylight and make a 180 degree turn drop to the right before leveling out into the left hand turn, before making a small drop and climb, and then making another right hand turn. The trains then drop down into a cave, rise up, hit a block brake, make a right hand turn, exit the tunnel, and climb the second lift hill. Warnings of blasting up ahead on the track can be seen by guests as the trains crest the second lift hill. As the trains start to drop away to the right, an animatronic goat with a stick of dynamite in its mouth bleats at the passing guests. After descending this drop, the trains rise up into a 540 degree downhill helix to the right before passing over another hill, making a left hand turn into a tunnel, and climbing the third lift hill. While climbing the third lift hill, rocks start shaking, simulating an earthquake, and appearing ready to crush the riders. At the top, the trains exit the lift hill, and drop away to the right into a short straightaway, making another right hand turn into a short tunnel onto a trim brake bridge. After this bridge, riders drop away to the left and pass a T-Rex skeleton as they rise up to the right into the final brake run. The trains pass by the buildings of Rainbow Ridge before returning back to the station.

Magic Kingdom version

Leaving the enclosed loading station, the trains immediately enter a dark tunnel and make a tight left hand turn. After a short straightaway during which the sounds of bats can be heard, the trains make a slight right hand turn and climb the first lift hill. A series of colored caverns (the Rainbow caverns of the original version) can be seen on the right hand side of the lift hill track. At the top, riders make a drop away to the left, before making a right hand turn and going over two hops while passing under the second lift hill and second lift hill drop. After going under the second lift hill drop (which is a point where it may be possible to see the riders on another train), the trains make a tight downwind spiral to the right into a short tunnel. Emerging from the tunnel, riders find themselves in an abandoned town. The Walt Disney World Railroad's track can be seen to the right of the guests. While passing through the abandoned town, the track goes through several bunny hops, and the train seems to sway from side to side. The swaying is achieved by banking the track slightly. After passing through the abandoned town, the trains pass through a short tunnel called Davy Jones Mine, make a left hand turn, and climb the second lift hill. At the top, the riders drop away to the left and cross back under the lift hill as the trains rise up into a 540 degree downhill helix to the left, before going over another airtime hill before dropping back down. The trains make a right hand turn into a tunnel, and climb the third lift hill. An earthquake can be seen in progress and the rocks seem ready to crush and bury the train. Cresting the lift hill, the trains exit out into the daylight, and drop away to the left heading for the Rivers of America, before they make a left hand turn through a short tunnel, crossing back over the drop, and then drop away to the right through the boneyard and geysers before hitting the final brake run and returning to the station.

Tokyo Disneyland version

Tokyo Disneyland's version of the ride is mostly identical to the Magic Kingdom version of the ride, with three exceptions:

  • The abandoned town section is replaced by a longer cave before the second lift hill.
  • The station sits on columns rather than on a hillside.
  • The ending is altered. Instead of crossing back over the drop from the third lift hill, the track makes a U-turn before dropping through the Boneyard/geyser scene, passing through a short tunnel, and making a right hand turn into the final brakes. The trains pass in front of the station, and then turn back into the boarding area.

Disneyland Paris version

Leaving the station on the mainland, the trains descend into a long and dark tunnel, before making a right hand turn, sharply rising up, and climbing the first lift hill. This tunnel takes guests under the water and onto the island in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West that this ride sits on. Stalactites and Stalagmites can be seen growing next to the track. At the top, riders leave the first lift hill and drop away to the left, before making a right hand turn. In this right hand turn, dependant on how fast the trains are being dispatched, it is possible to have the appearance of a near-miss with a train in the 540 degree helix. After this turn, the trains pass under the second lift hill and its drop, before making a left hand turn onto a bridge. A vista of the ride can be seen as the trains make a slight right hand turn, before suddenly dropping through a washed out section of the bridge. An on-ride camera is present here to take pictures of the riders, which can be purchased after the ride. After the washed out bridge, the trains make a left hand turn and start climbing the second lift hill. Two tied down donkeys can be seen to the riders' right, and a goat can be seen pulling on a piece of clothing hanging on a clothesline to riders' left. Antique mining equipment can be viewed as the trains start climbing the lift hill. At the top, riders can catch a large vista of Phantom Manor and most of Frontierland before dropping away to the left into another straightaway before rising into a 540 degree downhill helix to the left. Following the helix, the trains pass through a short cave, go over a quick rise and drop, make a right hand turn into a tunnel (with a sign reading "DANGER! T.N.T." over the entrance) and climb the third lift hill. Blasting can be seen going on to either side of the train as the guests climb this lift hill. Several rocks in the ceiling appear to be shaking, angered by the intrusion. As the trains crest the lift hill, gold can be seen rushing out of the ceiling before the trains gain speed and drop away to the left into a straightaway heading for a tunnel portal. Riders enter a tunnel that seems to go on for a long time. This is the tunnel that takes guests back to the mainland and back to the station. The trains continue to accelerate until suddenly rising out of the ground, now back on the mainlnad. From here, the trains coast back into the station.

Backstory of Disneyland Paris's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Paris has an unusual backstory tied into the other attractions of Frontierland.

Big Thunder Mountain (the roller coaster itself) was a mine owned by one Henry Ravenswood. He owned a Manor house that overlooked the mountain (Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris's version of the Haunted Mansion). The town of Thunder Mesa was a boom town at the height of the Gold Rush. However, the Ravenswood family suddenly vanished, and the mine closed down. Now, 150 years later, the mine has reopened with aged mining equipment to take guests on a high speed journey through the abandoned mine.

Accidents

  • A man was killed on the Disneyland incarnation in a derailment on September 5, 2003, purportedly as a result of neglected ride maintenance. The court case surrounding this was settled out of court in 2005 and a scholarship fund was set up at Brooks College, a Southern California university, in the victim's name for aspiring animators as he was seeking a career in animation.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ Birnbaum's Disneyland Resort Official Guide 2003, pg. 65, (c) 2003 Disney Editions
  2. ^ a b Interview with Imagineer Tony Baxter from 1995 http://www.pizarro.net/didier/_private/interviu/baxter.html
  3. ^ Brooks College. "In the statement, [the victim's family] announced the establishment of an art scholarship at Brooks College, from which their son, who studied graphic design, graduated in 2003." http://www.nbc4.tv/news/5453261/detail.html

External links

Official links

Additional links

Coordinates: 28°25′14″N 81°35′05″W / 28.42052°N 81.58484°W / 28.42052; -81.58484


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