onstruction of a future attraction is messing with some of the old-fashioned transportation at Magic Kingdom. Work is underway at Walt Disney World on a major “Tron”-themed ride, and that has prompted temporary closures of the Walt Disney World Railroad and the Tomorrowland Speedway.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, look no farther than the train station at the entrance to Magic Kingdom. Visitors are now allowed to see the railroad engines up-close and to do a bit of exploring. A locomotive, as well as the usual passenger cars, will be parked at the station during the construction phase.
If nothing else, it’s a solid photo op. Folks can walk down the platform to get a head-on shot of the engine. Touching the engine is OK; climbing up into the engineer’s cabin is not, but there’s a good view of its knobs, gauges and whatnot.
What made me happiest up there was pulling a chord that rings the engine’s bell. It was evidence that simple pleasures are the best, I guess. The Magic Kingdom worker stationed at the station told kids they could ring it once – surely a move to preserve the sanity of those around – but I gave it an extra yank without penalty or stink eye. (The whistle also blows periodically.)
The open-sided passenger cars remain connected to the engine, and visitors can take photos on them. You’re not permitted to go down on the actual tracks, which is not surprising (cough…insurance…cough) but still a mild bummer.
When I checked out the station last week, it was far less congested than when the train is running, and retro waiting room was a refreshing retreat from the hectic streets of Magic Kingdom. There was a gentle breeze going through, as if Disney had piped it in to remind you of the simpler times of Walt’s childhood.
The Tron ride is going up outside the perimeter created by the railroad tracks in an area let’s call Beyond Space Mountain. Visitors can see heavy machinery, mounds of dirt and other signs of construction activity from the Barnstormer roller coaster in Fantasyland and, fleetingly, while aboard the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland.
Another unusual sight from the PeopleMover is the eerily deserted Tomorrowland Speedway, home of those little putt-putt-putt cars on a rail. Its vehicles are parked to the side, and the curved track – which appears due for a pressure wash — sits empty.
It’s quiet … too quiet, some would say. The rumbling of the two-seat, low-riding cars has been a Magic Kingdom staple since the park opened in 1971.
Both the Speedway and the railroad will return to operation, Disney says. We haven’t been given an official, specific timeframe but look for it to be an extended dormant period, stretching into months if not years. The Tron ride, a favorite since its debut at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, has a vague birthdate as well. Disney has said it will be running in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. That would be Oct. 1, 2021.