Walt Disney World Railroad is temporarily closed for the construction of TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. This covers construction progress, photo & video updates on Cast Member training & testing, and our predicted reopening date for the WDWRR. (Updated October 27, 2022.)
First, the basics. Disney announced that the Walt Disney World Railroad will temporarily pause operations, with trains “parked” at Main Street Station beginning on December 3, 2018. During this time, Magic Kingdom guests were be able to get an up-close look at the railroad and partake in unique photo opportunities for a while. (Note: Main Street Station is no longer open to guests as of Fall 2022.)
Additionally, the Tomorrowland Speedway closed on January 2, 2019 to re-route that ride’s track. The kiddie car ride reopened substantially the same (slightly shorter) way back in Summer 2019. Over three years after it first closed, the Walt Disney World Railroad still is not operating as of Late 2022. So…what’s up with it?!
If you’re here looking for the Walt Disney World Railroad reopening date, we unfortunately still do not know when that’ll happen. Disney hasn’t officially announced when this iconic attraction will return to Magic Kingdom.
However, we do have some speculation and recent updates, which we’ll share later in the post. At long last, the WDWRR is getting really close to returning!
It was obvious from the original TRON Lightcycle Run concept art that the Walt Disney World Railroad would have to pause operations at some point, given the concept art showing the train going under the canopy of the TRON coaster…what we didn’t know is that it’d close so early into construction and (likely) last so long.
What we think is interesting here is the TRON construction progress versus the closure of the Walt Disney World railroad versus the likely attraction opening date.
Construction has progressed in exactly the same manner as with Shanghai Disneyland’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run: roller coaster track followed by show building followed by exterior canopy and pathways.
In theory, only the final stage of the project would interfere with the Walt Disney World Railroad. The initial stages of construction were all well outside the area of the train tracks, and are accessible from the other side of the construction site, which is reached from World Drive rather than inside Magic Kingdom.
If you’re wondering why Walt Disney World Railroad closed so early in the TRON Lightcycle Run construction, you’re not alone. However, contrary to speculation, this was not a result of poor project management or construction planning.
Rather, this was entirely by design. Taking the Walt Disney World Railroad down under the pretext of construction offered the company considerable operational cost-savings. It also resulted in minimal pushback from guests and fans since it’s visibly obvious that building the new roller coaster interferes with the railroad. What’s less obvious is that it did not need to interfere for so long.
Our assumption when the Walt Disney World Railroad first closed is that it would be down for a long time. We estimated that the refurbishment would take in the range of 18 months to 2 years.
Unfortunately, the closure of Walt Disney World threw a monkey wrench into plans, prolonging the project by over a year. TRON Lightcycle Run was originally slated to open by October 2021, at the latest. Instead, Walt Disney World has purposefully delayed the debut of the roller coaster, and now TRON Lightcycle Run won’t open until Spring 2023.
That brings the grand total of the Walt Disney World Railroad downtime to 3+ years and counting. Fortunately, it probably will not remain closed for 4 full years.
October 27, 2022 Update: Disney Parks just posted a new video on various social media channels teasing that “testing is just beginning for the Walt Disney World Railroad crew.”
With construction of TRON Lightcycle Run entering its final stages as of Late 2022, it’s now possible that the Walt Disney World Railroad could reopen by sometime in November 2022. This would be at least a few months ahead of the new roller coaster, but Disney now has a financial incentive to do exactly that.
Reopening the WDWRR would be critical in providing needed capacity to Magic Kingdom during the busy stretches around Veterans Day, Jersey Week, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. More capacity means selling more tickets, which would be Walt Disney World’s rationale for bringing back the railroad before TRON Lightcycle Run opens. (During last year’s holiday season, Walt Disney World had to stop selling park tickets on multiple occasions due to capacity constraints, effectively leaving money on the table.)
As such, Walt Disney World will likely attempt to have the railroad ready to roll by the official kickoff of the Christmas season (and in time for the busy Veterans Day weekend) on November 11, 2022 if at all possible. While we’re skeptical that the Walt Disney World Railroad will be able to hit that target, it should be close. Thanksgiving is most definitely a possibility, especially given where things currently stand.
In recent months, we’ve seen (and heard!) the Walt Disney World Railroad testing. On top of that, Disney recalled and started training Cast Members back at the beginning of summer, so they’re ready to roll–and have been for a while now.
Work is entirely finished on its tunnel and track through TRON Lightcycle Run, and the last of track is being laid in Storybook Circus. This means there’s still some testing and adjusting to be done, but the trains could still be only a few weeks away from returning.
In short, the week of Thanksgiving 2022 isn’t outside the realm of possibilities. That’s probably the earliest the Walt Disney World Railroad will return, though. (I’d love to be pleasantly surprised and see it reopen by November 11, 2022–but I’m skeptical of that turnaround time. That’s only a couple weeks away!)
Earlier this year, the Disney Parks TikTok account shared a behind-the-scenes look at the Walt Disney World Railroad testing taking place right now at Magic Kingdom. The video offers a fun look inside the engine to see the work required to start these locomotives for the day.
Walt Disney World did not offer a specific date or even an anticipated season for when the trains will return. The Cast Member in the video said he’s “excited about getting closer to bringing the railroad back” which is likely a deliberately vague statement. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later, and we get to experience Walt’s Legacy during the first half of the 50th Anniversary!
If the Walt Disney World Railroad doesn’t reopen until 2023, it’s possible we could see some plussing to the show scenes and other details of the attraction a la the Disneyland Railroad when it went down for the Star Wars land construction and rerouting.
However, this seems highly doubtful at this point given that Cast Members were recalled and have been training for several months. That wouldn’t have happened so early if Disney plans to play the opening further. Barring any unknown surprises, it’s likely the attraction will open exactly as it was before–albeit likely with the views into Splash Mountain blocked.
Ultimately, the announcement by Walt Disney World confirms what we already knew about these two transportation attractions experiencing downtime for the TRON Lightcycle Run coaster construction. Beyond that and providing some loose dates, it really raises more questions for us than anything else…but that will probably be par for the course as Walt Disney World undergoes a pretty radical amount of construction and changes between now and 2023.
The good news is that, after numerous delays, we should now be in the home stretch of the Walt Disney World Railroad closure. Hopefully, the iconic attraction makes its triumphant return with enhancements in late November or early December 2022!
What do you think of this news? Are you okay with the Walt Disney World Railroad being down for so long if it were to mean new show scenes? Do you agree or disagree with our speculation…or have any of your own to add? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!