Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Opens for Test After Rehab

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The Magic Kingdom’s popular western themed roller coaster reopened today after a months long rehabilitation process. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had extensive work done to its track, show scenes, primary queue, and lighting.

Where the queue was a tightly formed switchback that was seldom fully utilized, the new queue is better themed but shorter. It still has switchbacks, but the queue is wider and there are added show scenes. Also new to the queue is air conditioning. The new wider queue seems to be a conscious decision to accommodate American’s new wider body shapes.

I’m a little concerned about some of the new railings in the queue, they seem designed to cause welts on the heads of young children at the right height. Additionally, there are random boxes in the queue that have already become defacto benches. Without fastpass a full length queue was a wait of less than 30 minutes. Adding in Fastpass and the standby queue could be very long.

In the ride itself, many safety rails, paths, and lights have been added. The new LED safety lights really stood out as we rode, but I’m sure that over time they’ll fade into the background like other safety features. With the exception of some lighting a good attempt was made to theme the added safety features. Most show elements got a general makeover and many effects that haven’t worked in a long time are now functioning fine, even the geyser in the exit queue:

Big Thunder is supposed to return to regular operation on Monday and is not guaranteed to be open between now and then.

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I’m guessing that these lights are still waiting to be finished themeing. Because otherwise, they look very anachronistic.

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12 Responses to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Opens for Test After Rehab

  1. Krista Joy says:

    Thank you for this story! I was hearing “through the grapevine” bits and pieces of this so I appreciate the more detailed version! I will be linking to this from my blog today.

  2. RootDude says:

    Kind of upsetting to see this.

    I was there on the 27th for my first week in disney since I was 9.
    this ride was closed without warning (previous runs had been made that day) and the cast told us it would be open on monday, Not saturday! :( i could have park hopped to catch a ride or 2 before i went home!

  3. Dave says:

    Are you sure the new queue is for wider bodies? For years now Disney has been widening queues so that people in wheelchairs can use the regular line instead of going through the exit to board (where an extra cast member stands duty to assist them). As a former attractions cast member, I have observed this change during rehabs. eliminating this exit cast member saves on payroll. You will also notice that all newly built attractions have wheelchair accessible queues as well.

    • John Frost says:

      Wheelchairs still load via the exits. Not all the queue has been widened. Nor are all the corners broad enough to handle wheelchairs in the queue.

  4. Blaine says:

    The railings were not designed to harm the children. It’s at hand/waste level for the average person and can’t be too low. At any hight it’s always going to be at someone’s eye level

  5. Kevin says:

    The wider queue may indeed be to accomodate wheelchairs. We were at Disney this weekend and a cast member said the resort is moving towards a policy of wheelchairs and ECV’s having to use the normal queues. Did notice this happening at several attractions and bus stops. When people complained the cast member was telling them to file a complaint with Guest Services as they did not like the new policy either.

  6. Russell Fisher says:

    “Designed to leave welts on the heads of young children” Right! I guess all hand rails should be no more then 2 feet off the ground. Chances are they will only run into it once before something tells them that hurt and maybe they should be a little more careful. Or maybe bubble wrap would be the answer…not on the ride…on the kids! :-)

    • John Frost says:

      I’m specifically talking about that round bit that extends into the queue right where a kids head would be… ouch. it’s hard

  7. Pingback: New Fantasyland and Magic Kingdom Photo Update | The Disney Blog

  8. Jeff says:

    Hey, who stole the “Thunder” from Walt Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

    I recently returned from Walt Disney World, and was able to ride the newly refurbished Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction. While I admit many of the new improvements to the queue are nice, (new paint, wood floor, and lights, etc) and other ride enhancements are very nice, (signs, working water sloughs, geysers, etc ) I must point out that the new rehab has also taken away from the show. I have read several blogs from many guests (all claiming to be fans of Big Thunder) who have raved over the updates. I am sorry, but I honestly do not understand why no one has noticed the obvious? I have been going to Walt Disney World since 1976 and usually visit two to three times every year . Does anyone know why it the attraction is called Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

    It is because of the earthquake (yes that is right, that is where the Thunder part comes from)! Al Disney fans know there is a story for all the Disney attractions and Big Thunder’s is no different. The Legend of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is based around and old mine that was abandoned because of earthquakes. In fact, it is said that many miners were lost in the great quake of Big Thunder Mountain Mine and to this day they say you can still hear the old mine train still running. The Big Thunder quake scene was the climatic conclusion of the ride, the final show scene (in final lift) and this has now been removed from the ride! That is right, Big Thunder has lost its THUNDER. In addition, the high pitched train whistle sound, (steam train whistle) is no longer working. I also noted that in the cave (very first lift, the old “Rainbow Caverns portion from the Disneyland ride) the split waterfall at the top is no longer working, at least it was not working the five times I rode it after the rehab. I also noticed that many of the bats in the cave were still were not working (only 2 were spinning) . Sorry, I am a huge Disney Fan and I was very disappointed, not to see any of the teetering/falling rocks or the shaking lantern, or hear the “thunder” quake sound. The only element left over from this scene is the mine train still goes tilts from side to side following the curve of the track, this tilting along with all the missing effects use to simulate the giant earthquake.

    Minor Improvements to the ride queue are nice and I for one enjoy seeing them , but it does not make up for the loss of the many major “show” elements. Now when compared side by side with Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad , Walt Disney World’s, Big Thunder really pales in comparison, which makes me sad, because I grew up at Walt Disney World (my favorite).

    • John Frost says:

      It is sad that the earthquake scene was not repaired to its original glory. Perhaps there is something they can do in that tunnel to improve the situation in the future.

  9. Bill Rodebaugh says:

    I was very disappointed to see that the earthquake and falling rocks were removed as well. AS mentioned, that is the premise of the whole mountain ride. I was also disappointed that many of the bats were not working either in the cave.

    I wonder why the big earthquake and shaking rocks scene from the final lift was removed? Nobody I’ve checked with has given a known answer. Was it a maintenance issue?

    Sincerely curious,

    Bill

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