Definitions

big belt mountain

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Land Frontierland
Theme Parks Walt Disney Parks
Locations and Opening Dates
Disneyland September 2, 1979
Magic Kingdom September 23, 1980
Tokyo Disneyland July 4, 1987
Disneyland Paris April 12, 1992

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (also Big Thunder Mountain) is a relatively mild indoor/outdoor mine train roller coaster common in "Magic Kingdom"-style Disney theme parks worldwide. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is also the name of the fictional rail line depicted in the attraction.

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 Tumbleweed was established and the Tumbleweed Mining Company staked their claim. (At Disneyland Paris the town is called Thunder Mesa) 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. Before long, the settlers' desecration of the mountain caused a great tragedy, (terrible earthquake or flash flood, depending on the park) 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.

Appropriately, the station buildings are themed as the abandoned offices of a mining company from the 1890s. The mountain itself is 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 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 them, unlike early mine rides which sculpted the rocks around the tracks. 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 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 Western River Expedition, a western-themed pavilion planned for the Magic Kingdom, designed to look like an enormous plateau and contain many rides, including a runaway train roller coaster. As the full pavilion 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 alone.

The coaster project was put on hold again in 1974 as resources and personnel were diverted to work on the new Space Mountain attraction for 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 was the first Disney ride to utilize computer-aided design.

The attraction first opened at Disneyland in 1979, with the Magic Kingdom's larger version opening in 1980. At Disneyland, a scaled-down western town sits adjacent to the queuing lines and tracks returning to station. A 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. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built on the land the Mine Train used to occupy. Many of the animal animatronics throughout the attraction were originally from previous attraction. Further allusions to the Mine Train ride include the Rainbow Caverns (glowing pools of water by the first lift hill) and precariously balanced rocks in the third lift. Beside these physical homages, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad owes one more thing to the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland; it's name. Big Thunder was originally the name of an enormous waterfall the train passed on the tour. Little Thunder was located nearby.

All later versions of the ride would drop the word Railroad in favor of the name Big Thunder Mountain. Tokyo Disneyland's Big Thunder, identical to the Magic Kingdom's, opened in 1987, five years after the park opening. Disneyland Paris rethought the attraction, creating a completely new track design and accompanying structure. The European version 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. This version opened with the park in 1992. Hong Kong Disneyland does not have a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction (or a western-themed Frontierland, for that matter).

Statistics

Disneyland

  • Grand opening: September 2, 1979
  • Designers: WED Enterprises, Tony Baxter
  • Manufacturer: WED Enterprises
  • Coaster type: Mine Train
  • Track type: Steel Tube Tri-Rail
  • Propulsion method: 3 Main Lift Hills with LIM boosters in the station and 4th brake zone
  • Vehicles: 6. Only 5 trains can be used on the track at a time.
    • Cars per train: 5
    • Guests per train: 45
    • Train names:
      • U.B. Bold
      • U.R. Daring
      • U.R. Courageous
      • I.M. Loco
      • I.B. Hearty
      • I.M. Fearless
  • Length: 2671 ft (814 m)
  • Height: 50 ft (15 m)
  • Tallest spire: 104 ft (32 m)
  • Top speed: 35 mph (57 km/h)
  • Ride duration: 3:14
  • Total site area:
  • Total track length:
  • Lifts: 3 - two indoor and one outdoor
  • Minimium Train Dispatch Interval: 42 Seconds
  • Maximum Train Dispatch Interval: 1-2 trains: 99; 3 trains: 73; 4 trains: 56; 5 trains: 46
  • Ride Control System: Custom PLC Controlled (See also Allen-Bradley)
  • Height requirement: 40 in (1.02 m)
  • FastPass Availability:

Disneyland fans have dubbed one experience on the ride "the Goat Trick." After the second lift hill, a goat can be seen on the right, chewing a stick of dynamite atop a small butte at the center of a turn in the track. Watching this goat all the way through the turn produces an unusual feeling of disorientation.

Magic Kingdom

  • Soft opening: September 23, 1980
  • Grand Opening November 15, 1980
  • Designers: WED Enterprises, Tony Baxter
  • Manufacturer: Vekoma
  • Coaster type: Mine Train
  • Track type: Tubular Steel - Twin Rail
  • Propulsion method: 3 Main Lift Hills with external brake zones
  • Vehicles: 6. Only 5 trains can be used on the track at a time.
    • Cars per train: 5
    • Guests per train: 45
    • Train names:
      • U.B. Bold
      • U.R. Daring
      • U.R. Courageous
      • I.M. Brave
      • I.B. Hearty
      • I.M. Fearless
  • Length: 2780'
  • Elevation: 180'
  • Speed:
  • Ride duration: 3:25
  • Lifts: 3 - two indoor and one outdoor
  • Height Required: 40 inches.
  • Safety Restraints: Lap Bar
  • FastPass Availability:

Tokyo Disneyland

  • Grand opening: July 4, 1987
  • Designers: Walt Disney Imagineering
  • Manufacturer: Vekoma
  • Sponsor: The Dai-Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • Ride duration: 3:40
  • Height requirement: 102 cm
  • FastPass Availability:

Disneyland Paris

  • Grand opening: April 12, 1992
  • Designers: Walt Disney Imagineering
  • Manufacturer: Vekoma
  • Ride Model: Vekoma Custom MK-900 M
  • Capacity: 2424 riders per hour (RPH)
  • Length: 4921' 3"
  • Height: 72' 2"
  • Top Speed:
  • Ride Duration: 3:56
  • Number of Trains: 6 trains with 5 cars per train
  • Height requirement: 39 in (1.02 m)
  • FastPass Availability:
  • Notable Props: In the queuing area is a crude steam locomotive which was allegedly used in Hot Lead and Cold Feet.

Accidents

  • A guest, Marcelo Torres, 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 Torres' name for aspiring animators as Torres was seeking a career in animation. Investigation reports confirmed Mr. Torres’s fatal injuries occurred when the first passenger car collided with the underside of the locomotive. The derailment was in part the result of a mechanical failure, which occurred as a result of, among other things, omissions during a maintenance procedure of at least two required actions: the left side upstop/guide wheel on the floating axle of the locomotive was not tightened in accordance with specifications; and a safety wire was not installed and/or the necessary maintenance required by said tagging system was not completed, all with knowledge of Disney management. Originally, the mock steam locomotives had four large wheels followed by two smaller wheels, making them 0-4-2s in locomotive terminology. In order to decrease the chances of another mechanical failure, the second set of larger wheels on all incarnations of the ride was removed in 2004.

See also

References

External links

Official links

Additional links

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