It’s been a long time Disneyland fans, but your patience is about to pay off. A much needed, very thorough, refurbishment to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is almost over. The well-known wildest ride in the wilderness reopens March 17 with an upgraded track, restoration of the historic Rainbow Ridge Mining Town, new paint on portions of the mountain, and updates to the train vehicles. Disney has thrown in a few new surprises, too.
While you wait for March 17 to roll around, here’s a POV on-ride video to enjoy and a list of fun facts:
- Along with the new track, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad reopens in 2014 with an enhanced audio system that sharpens the sounds heard by guests on the trains and in the caverns and buildings. Even the wildlife at Big Thunder can be heard more distinctly.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad celebrated its grand opening in September 1979, becoming the third peak in the Disneyland Park “mountain range of thrill rides.” It was preceded by Matterhorn Bobsleds (1959) and Space Mountain (1977) and followed by Splash Mountain (1989).
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.