Walt Disney World Railroad will reopen this holiday season at Magic Kingdom with an all-new narration and more. It’s an early Festivus and/or Christmas miracle (probably both–sorry, but this one took two miracles). In this post, we’ll share the official announcement and offer commentary about the return of the trains.
In case you missed it, Walt Disney World Railroad is “temporarily” closed for the construction of TRON Lightcycle Run in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. Heck, it’s entirely possible that you’ve been visiting for several years and didn’t realize that was a working train station at the front of the park, as it’s been entirely ornamental since December 3, 2018.
That’s when the Walt Disney World Railroad closed, which was still early in the construction of the upcoming roller coaster. Even at that time, it was pretty clear at that the railroad didn’t need to close. TRON construction could’ve occurred in such a way that the railroad closure occurred in a later stage of the project. It was almost certainly an operational cost-savings to not run the trains for a couple of years.
Of course, we all know how that played out. TRON Lightcycle Run opening “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary” turned into opening in Spring 2023. [Insert another “It’s been 84 years…” meme] Thankfully, the current opening timeframe for TRON Lightcycle Run should actually hold this time.
We’re hoping to know on Christmas morning, and are also hoping that the “Spring 2023” opening of TRON Lightcycle Run is actually earlier than expected. Okay, perhaps that’s overly optimistic–and it sure seems like we’re out of Christmas miracles given today’s Walt Disney World Railroad news. Speaking of which, here’s the official announcement from Walt Disney World…
Cast members and Imagineers are celebrating a moment of nostalgia at Magic Kingdom this week as we prepare to welcome guests aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad once again for the holiday season. This opening-day attraction returns with a completely refreshed track looping the park, and another new surprise for fans and first-comers alike.
Not only did this historic train undergo track updates and maintenance—as 100-year-old vintage steam trains do—the creative minds at Walt Disney Imagineering also seized this moment to revisit the narration and introduce an all-new voice to bring guests into the beloved stories they encounter as they travel from one magical land to the next.
“The familiar whistle of its steam engine will be complemented by exciting new sounds and voices,” the team of Imagineers shared. “A new conductor has assumed the role, carrying on the long tradition of warm welcomes and amusing anecdotes while adding fresh commentary and story to the journey.”
The creative voiceover process is as detailed as the train operation itself, and it all starts with our conductor. For these meticulously restored steam trains, we know the scenic grand circle tour must be guided by a voice our guests can envision and resonate with. Someone who grew up on Main Street, U.S.A., dreaming of the day they’d be on the railroad.
They’ve now achieved that dream, and they know everyone and everything at Magic Kingdom … an unofficial mayor of sorts. This conductor is humble, genial, and knowledgeable, and he’s eager to help passengers of these iconic steam trains get to their destinations around the park he loves so dearly.
While our conductor points you to the familiar sights on your left and right, we embrace what makes Magic Kingdom a place unlike any other, where you can escape into completely new worlds and celebrate with characters you love. This legacy attraction now holds true the very nostalgia of opening day and blends it with the wonder of new adventures, immersing you into story after story as it loops around the park. You may even encounter a character or two along the way!
We are delighted to share Walt Disney’s love of trains with the world once again, taking guests for the iconic grand circle tour of Magic Kingdom this holiday season. And before your own travels, we are honored to welcome aboard our Magic Kingdom cast members as the very first to experience this historic moment starting today, waving to guests during special Cast Member tours around the park.
December 23, 2022 Update: After being closed for 1,481 days (but who’s counting?!), the Walt Disney World Railroad officially reopened from “refurbishment” today. Aside from the new narration (which could’ve been swapped out overnight), not much has changed.
This is unsurprising. As indicated above, and reinforced by the air quotes, this prolonged closure was not out of necessity, but largely out of operational cost-savings. To be sure, a closure would’ve been necessary at some point due to the construction of TRON Lightcycle Run–but it could’ve occurred much later during construction. Like the upcoming roller coaster, this closure was dragged out way longer than necessary.
In terms of commentary, we are excited. There are few attractions we enjoy as much as transportation ones. Without question, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is what we ride most in Magic Kingdom. Part of that is for TRON Lightcycle Run construction photos, but even without that, it would be our #1 by a wide margin.
Since the Walt Disney World Railroad closed, we’ve been getting our fix at Disneyland and have done that railroad more than normal. Originally, my hope was that the Magic Kingdom counterpart would use the Universe of Energy dinosaurs to add similar scenery. Sadly, that has not happened–a truly squandered opportunity, if you ask me. I probably would’ve complained about that had the Walt Disney World Railroad reopened in mid-2020. At this point, I’m just elated to have it back.
I also don’t have any strong reaction to the new narration (yet). If I’m being honest, I don’t even fully remember the previous narration. Doing countless grand circle tours at the other castle parks since the WDWRR closed has probably blurred together memories of different dialogue.
One thing I will say is that narration is incredibly important on transportation attractions, as it can carry the ride when there’s not much to see. Consequently, Disney fans often hold a lot of nostalgia for the version they first heard–or the one that existed during formative trips. Swapping out narrations overnight is difficult as a result, as fans will often by upset about losing the familiar–even if the new one is just as good.
Walt Disney World Railroad won’t suffer from that problem as much, given that no one has experienced it in over 4 years. Memories of the old narration won’t be as fresh!
Beyond that, Imagineering is very cognizant of the historical significance of the railroad given Walt Disney’s love of trains. Accordingly, I would expect a disproportionate amount of talent working on this relatively small project–and probably a large number of people who are likewise passionate about the railroad and maintaining its integrity and significance.
Operationally, it makes sense to open the Walt Disney World Railroad now. In fact, I’ve been expecting this announcement pretty much every day since the week before Thanksgiving, when ops started getting really serious about testing and training Cast Members at the stations themselves. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the WDWRR would open soon at that point, since Disney was paying for full staffing and operations, or close to it.
The Walt Disney World Railroad will be critical in providing needed capacity to Magic Kingdom during the busiest weeks of the year–basically every day between now and January 9, 2023. More capacity means selling more tickets, which is Walt Disney World’s rationale for bringing back the railroad before TRON Lightcycle Run opens.
Ultimately, the return of the Walt Disney World Railroad is great–but overdue–news. We’ve heard from many WDW fans who have watched your children grow up, aging into and out of (debatable) prime “train age” during the closure. That has been really sad to hear, but I have good news for you.
You never truly age out of “train age.” It’s like Santa Claus. So long as you hold a special place in your heart and want to believe (or some sentimental schmaltz like that), trains are always magical. Hallmark should really make a holiday movie about that. Seriously, though. I’m in my late 30s and still get giddy about trains, have visited a half-dozen different railroad museums, and absolutely love riding the rails. A certain type of their magic might wear off, but trains truly transcend age.
What do you think of this news? Excited that the Walt Disney World Railroad is reopening this year? Have you ever experienced the WDWRR, or has it been down ever since you started visiting? Happy that your kids will finally get to experience the joy of trains? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!