Walt Disney World Railroad is temporarily closed for the construction of TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. In addition to the basic details, there are a few interesting takeaways from this news, and we also have some speculation to offer. (Updated March 25, 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 will be able to get an up-close look at the railroad and partake in unique photo opportunities. (Note: Main Street Station is no longer open to guests as of Spring 2022.)
Additionally, the Tomorrowland Speedway closed on January 2, 2019 to re-route that ride’s track. It reopened substantially the same (slightly shorter) way back in Summer 2019. Nearly two years later–and over three years after it first closed–the Walt Disney World Railroad still is not operating as of Spring 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.
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 released at last year’s D23 Expo 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. Now, it will open in October 2022, at the earliest. It’s entirely possible Walt Disney World won’t debut the new attraction 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.
There’s a lot going on in the above March 2022 construction photo of TRON Lightcycle Run, so let’s break it down.
The flyover walkway (far left) will weave guests underneath the canopy, over the Walt Disney World Railroad tunnel (middle-left), with the path of the train track proceeding between the orange netting at the bottom of the image. Although it may not look like it, this is all pretty close to finished.
With construction of TRON Lightcycle Run entering its final stages as of late March 2022, it’s now possible that the Walt Disney World Railroad could reopen by Summer 2022. This would be at least a few months ahead of the new roller coaster, or as many as 8-12 months.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen (and heard!) the Walt Disney World Railroad testing. There’s still work to be done with its tunnel and track through TRON Lightcycle Run, so it’s definitely not days or even weeks away from returning. But Memorial Day 2022 isn’t outside the realm of possibilities. That’s probably the earliest the Walt Disney World Railroad will return, though.
March 25, 2022 Update: The Disney Parks TikTok account has 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.
We’re not suggesting that Walt Disney World will add Universe of Energy’s dinosaurs or anything like that (AS COOL AS IT’D BE), but there are certainly enhancements that could be made. This is complete speculation, but it would certainly fit with the goal of enhancing classic attractions for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and would be a marketable element of nostalgia, even if minor. As of Spring 2022, there have been no rumors or announcements of this happening, so don’t hold your breath.
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 Summer 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!