To celebrate the reopening of the Disneyland Railroad (it's been closed since January 2016), Disneyland has started a new tour. It’s so new that when I joined it, the tour had been given only 4 times and hadn’t yet been advertised on the Disneyland web site or the Disneyland app. (One of the Disneyland train conductors told me about the tour)
The tour begins in the charming courtyard behind the Tour ticket booth, with specially-decorated donuts from the Jolly Holiday Bakery, coffee, hot chocolate, and fruit (not shown here are the apple slices and bananas, too). A gluten-free option is also available on request (my flourless brownie was amazingly delicious!). Our guide (Carlos) said he wanted to make sure we had enough energy to do the walking portion of the tour. Each person also gets a listening device with headphones for use during the tour.
Carlos, our Tour Guide, kept telling us that because this is a new tour, a few things were still being ironed out (such as, I was the first person to ask for a gluten-free treat instead of the doughnut). He was an excellent tour guide, always keeping things moving and leaving time for questions. He said it was his fourth day of doing this tour, but you wouldn’t know it because he didn't miss a beat. Very professional.
This tour is different from Disneyland's other tours because it's one of Disneyland's new "immersive" story-telling tours that use video, film and audio clips to help tell the story. Carlos carried an iPad Pro to show us historic film and pictures, as well as for playing interviews, radio clips, and other spoken information.
This post is a brief summary of the tour...you wouldn't want me to give away everything, right?
After our snacks and coffee, the tour started outside City hall by introducing Walt Disney’s fascination with trains as a young boy that eventually led to construction of Disneyland Park and the Disneyland Railroad as we know it today. From there we learned about the Main Street Station, followed by a short walk along Main Street, stopping at several places, including a stop to watch train-related cartoon inside the Main Street Cinema.
From Main Street, we walked through Frontier Land to New Orleans Square, with stops along the way along way to further develop Walt Disney’s relationship with trains, animation, movies, and Disneyland.
After a “comfort break” in New Orleans Square (restrooms and water fountains), we boarded one of the DRR trains, and not just ANY car. We rode on the Lilly Belle, which Lillian Disney (Walt’s wife) helped to design after his passing. Our guide continued the story with more information about the inspiration for and history of the car, as we rode along the portion of the railroad route between New Orleans Square and the Toon Town station. Of the four people on this tour, I was the only one who had ever been on the Disneyland Railroad. The Imagineers did a great job of re-routing the train tracks for Star Wars Land construction, including incorporating some new (and references to old) scenery into the route, while hiding most of Star Wars Land construction (other than a crane and some building shells).
Inside the Lillie Belle...
All of the furnishings are antiques or custom-made reproductions, and the colors are Lillian's favorites. Yes, the car has Hidden Mickeys too.
After stopping at the Toon Town station (did you know it used to be the Fantasy Land Station? and that it's been relocated several times?) our train ride passed through the freshened-up Grand Canyon and Primeval World exhibits (they've got some new lighting and special effects -- and a new narrator! -- but the stories are the same). At the Main Street station, we disembarked and met Eric, one of the Disneyland Railroad Cast Members, who told us more interesting stories about the trains and answered our many obscure questions.
At the very end of the tour, we each received an illustrated Map of the Disneyland Railroad, complete with illustrations of each of the locomotives that make up the fleet. (Sorry, no picture! I have to leave something to surprise you, right?)
Bonus Train experience...another first for me. If you see this caboose, definitely ask to ride in it (but not on a warm afternoon...it has no air conditioning!).
By the way, according to the Tour Guides, taking this tour will now be the ONLY way to ride the Lilly Belle.
I highly recommend that you make your tour reservations in advance (up to 30 days before you visit the park). 714 781-8687 or https://disneyland.disney.go.com/events-tours/#/park-tours/Same day Walk-up reservations are sometimes possible (at least 30 minutes prior). The tour is currently only being given in the morning, so get to the Tour booth early if you haven't made advance reservations.
Soooo.. What is your favorite part of the Disneyland Railroad?