Are there any Disneyland Railroad fans out there? I LOVE riding on this opening day attraction every time I get a chance. I always do the Grand Circle Tour — getting on at Main Street Station and going all the way around the park. Perhaps the most unique way to experience the Disneyland Railroad is by riding with up front with the engineers. Yes — you can actually do that — but only on certain runs. Here are my thoughts on this unique hidden gem of Disneyland.
Once you’ve boarded the tender, you’re sitting just a few feet from the fireman and engineer aboard one of the Disneyland’s finest iron horses. There are no speakers up here, so you won’t be hearing the standard narration as you proceed around the park. But no bother, you have something far better — a conversation with the two operators of the engine. Where there is usually canned narration of animals and dinosaurs, you’ll get to learn about how the engineer and fireman work to keep the train properly steamed up and ready to pull cars full of guests around the tracks.
I was lucky enough to hear a few tales from the engineers about trips around the park that didn’t go quite as planned. While I can’t do the stories justice, I enjoyed getting to hear about the night that the fireworks caused a fire near Small World and the train had to be backed up all the way to New Orleans Station. I also learned that there have been more than one mishap with diesel fuel being near the flame of the boiler over the years. Thankfully the engineers know how to deal with it and there were no lasting ill effects — just an interesting story.
In my opinion, the tender ride is one of the trickier experiences to nail down at Disneyland. (I’d like to say we are pretty knowledgeable about doing all the attractions at Disneyland in general.) First, you have to board at Main Street Station, and you must ride the full way around the park. If the tender is available is at the discretion of the engineers, so if they don’t feel like talking with guests, you won’t be able to experience this. There are also some restrictions on when you can ride: they don’t allow tenders until a few hours after park opening. Tender rides aren’t allowed on a run where they need to blow down steam, refuel, or refill on oil (this typically happens in the early evening). Lastly, not every engine’s tender has a bench for guests to sit on. Is it a hot day?? — that means no tender rides, as the engine generates enough heat to make you way more than uncomfortable. Only 2 of the 5 locomotives at Disneyland are able to carry guests, so you’ll have to ask if the tenders are even on the tracks the day of your visit. Be prepared to wait up to 45 minutes for the right train to arrive at the station, and then get ready some of the best train-story-filled moments of your life.
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