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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
BTMR Disneyland poster
Disneyland
Land Frontierland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering, Tony Baxter
Manufacturer Arrow Dynamics
Theme Runaway mine train
Opening date September 2, 1979
Hosted by Dallas McKennon
Vehicle type Mine train
Vehicle names U.R. Bold, U.R. Daring, U.R. Courageous, I.M. Loco, I.B. Hearty, I.M. Fearless
Vehicle capacity 45
Cars per vehicle 5
Guests per car 9
Ride duration 3:21 minutes
Length 2671 ft (814.1 m)
Total height 104 ft (31.7 m)
Track height 50 ft (15.2 m)
Maximum speed 30 mph (48.3 km/h)
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Number of lifts 3 - two indoor and one outdoor
Retired trains I.M. Brave (retired after 2003 incident)
Reopening date March 17, 2014
Replaced Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is an indoor/outdoor mine train roller coaster located at Disneyland Park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It was designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and ride design engineer Bill Watkins. Originally designed as part of an expansion to Frontierland in Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida called "Western River Expedition," the attraction went through several delays before it was finally constructed, but it was decided to have the attraction built first at Disneyland. It opened on September 2, 1979 in Disneyland's Frontierland.

Story

Big Thunder town

The town of Big Thunder

Gold was first discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the 1850s, the early years of America's Gold Rush, and the Big Thunder Mining Company was founded to dig the treasures out of the mountain's rocky interior with the town of Big Thunder springing up nearby. However, according to legend, a supernatural force inhabits the mountain, and soon the miners noticed eerie happenings such as ghostly sounds, cave-ins, and equipment suddenly malfunctioning. The trains designed to haul the gold across the wilderness started taking off and racing through the mountain with no one operating the engine. Word soon got out the the area was haunted, and Big Thunder became another stereotypical ghost town of the wild west. Years later, once the eyewitness accounts had faded into the local folklore, prospectors resurrected the company and began blowing holes in the mountainside again. They would soon discover, though, that some legends are true.[1]

History

Designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and ride design engineer Bill Watkins, the concept for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad came from Baxter's work on Imagineer Marc Davis's cocept for the Western River Expedition in Magic Kingdom. The original expansion's plans looked like an enormous plateau that was to contain several rides, one of which would have been a mine train roller coaster. The concept as a whole was deemed too expensive, though, in light of the 1973 construction and opening of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Baxter then suggested going ahead with the mine train as its own attraction, separate from the rest of the axed expansion.[2]

Summary

While the design of the Walt Disney World version of this roller coaster was done first, Disneyland's version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was the first one built. The track layout was mirrored, placing the attraction to the right of Rivers of America, if viewed from the central hub. (In Walt Disney World, the attraction is located to the left of Rivers of America.) To better fit with the adjacent Fantasyland areas of the theme park, the original Walt Disney World design had to be replaced with something more appropriate for Disneyland. The original design featured sharp-edged mountains and vibrant colors of Monument Valley, Arizona. Instead, Disneyland's version was developed with more rounded features and muted colors resembling the Bryce Canyon hoodoos in Utah.

Upon entering the attraction, the queue winds through a narrow rock wall and passing by the tracks. The surrounding walls were originally created from 100 tons of gold ore from Rosamond. Within this half of the queue, a series of Wild West themed features including buildings alongside the track representing Rainbow Ridge and a water cranking machine. The town is the original location of the boarding area of the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. The queue goes up some stairs in a wooden shack and reaches the area where the riders board the trains. Leaving the outdoor loading station, riders enter a dark tunnel. Animatronics of bats can be seen and heard as the trains make a right hand turn and then a left hand turn before climbing the first lift hill. To the left of the track is a series of rainbow colored caverns. These are also placed as a tribute to the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. At the top, the trains exit into the daylight and slow at the top until the rest of the train catches up, before making a 180-degree turn drop to the right. The track levels out into the left-hand turn, before making a small drop and climb, providing air time, and then makes another right-hand turn (passing under a tree with several opossums hanging from it). The trains then drop down into a cave (where two coyotes are howling on top of), rise up, hit a block brake, make a right-hand turn, exit the tunnel, and start the climb up the second lift hill.

Warnings of blasting up ahead on the track can be seen by guests as the trains crest the second lift hill. Three desert tortoises and two rattlesnakes can also be seen alongside the lift hill. As the trains go slow and start to drop away to the right, an audio-animatronic goat with a stick of dynamite in its mouth bleats at the passing guests. After descending this drop, the trains rise up into a 540-degree clockwise helix, before passing over another hill. There is a slight left dogleg at the crest, before the train makes another drop, then makes a left-hand turn into a tunnel and begins the climb up the third lift hill. There are a lot of glowing lanterns around the base of the lift hill, one of which has broken. The resulting fire ignites dynamite fuses that reach their destinations, which then cause explosions in the tunnel, as the train reaches the top of the hill, one final detonation explodes in the riders' direction. Just as it does, the train picks up speed and exits the tunnel. The track crests a small rise, then drops away to the right into a short straightaway. The ride then makes another right-hand turn through a short tunnel onto a trim brake bridge. After this bridge, riders drop away to the left, passing through the ribcage of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and splashing through Dinosaur Gap and geysers, then rise up to the right, past 4 signs depicting how far away each Big Thunder Mountain attraction is from the point, with Tokyo and Paris being measured in kilometers (km), into the final brake run. The trains pass by the buildings of Rainbow Ridge before returning to the station.

This is the only version of the ride to have an outdoor station. All other versions of the ride have indoor stations.

On January 7, 2013, Disneyland closed the ride for an extensive refurbishment that included a new track, trains, scenery, and new ending featuring special effects such as projection mapping and smoke effects. The attraction reopened on March 17, 2014. The new track was fabricated by Dynamic Structures, the company that had previously rehauled the coaster track in Space Mountain.

Gallery

Sources

Notes and references

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