After numerous delays, Disneyland’s major refurbishment of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has finally come to an end, with “the wildest ride in the wilderness” finally reopening on Monday, March 17 to all guests.  However, from March 13 to 16, Disneyland Annual Passholder previews of the newly refurbished ride will take place throughout each day.  The extended refurbishment featured various improvements to the attraction, including an upgraded track, restoration to the historic Rainbow Ridge Mining Town, repainting of the mountain, and updates to the train ride vehicles.  The attraction will now feature an enhanced audio system that sharpens the sounds heard by guests on the trains and in the caverns and buildings, allowing wildlife at Big Thunder to be heard more distinctly.  According to the Disney Parks Blog, the new and improved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will also have “new surprises that guests should be on the lookout for.”

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To participate in the Annual Passport preview, you’ll need to show your valid Annual Passport to either enter the standby line or access the attraction’s kiosks to get a Disney FASTPASS ticket during normal park operating hours from March 13-16. When you return to enter the FASTPASS queue, you will be asked to present both your Annual Passport and FASTPASS ticket.  In addition, use of the Disney FASTPASS machines must be completed in person on the day you experience the preview; no advance reservations or registration will be accepted.  Further, FASTPASS tickets will not be distributed to others on behalf of any Passholder.  Visit the Disneyland News site for more details.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was the first major design project for Walt Disney Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter, who was recently honored with a window on Main Street this past November.  The attraction celebrated its grand opening in September 1979, becoming the third mountain peak in the Disneyland Park “mountain range of thrill rides,” after Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1959 and Space Mountain in 1977.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad preceded Disneyland’s last peak to date, Splash Mountain, in 1989.  Since its opening, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland has carried more than 225 million guests, although subsequent versions of the attraction have appeared in Disney Parks around the world, including Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World, Florida in 1980; Tokyo Disneyland Park in 1987 and Disneyland Paris in 1992.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was actually a replacement for the historic Rainbow Cavern Mine Train and Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland attractions, which opened during the park’s first years in 1956.  The miniature town of Big Thunder, seen at the end of the attraction, was a part of the original Mine Train attraction . Many Disneyland fans still call it by its original “Rainbow Ridge” name. The town is said to have been a favorite of Walt Disney himself, who built miniatures as a hobby. Other items left over from the Nature’s Wonderland days include the caves of Rainbow Caverns, the rockwork buttes at the entry to Balancing Rock Canyon, and some of the animals who appear among the rocky cliffs surrounding the mine tunnels, including the dynamite-devouring goat, coyotes, possums, snakes, turtles, vultures.  Objects spotted around Big Thunder Mountain include a century-old stamp mill, hand-driven drill, press gears, picks shovels and other actual artifacts acquired from abandoned mines in Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Wyoming.

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The Big Thunder Ghost Town evokes the 19th century gold-mining territory, with rugged bedrock and desert cactus. Guests board a mine train and are warned to “hold onto your hats and glasses” for a thrilling, high-speed adventure past the spires and buttes of the Old West and into the tunnels and shafts of a dark and mysterious mine.  The unusual rock spires of Big Thunder Mountain were inspired by the “hoodoos” of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The tallest spire on Big Thunder Mountain reaches 104 feet.

Welcome back, Big Thunder!

  • ThemeParkHD

    I got to go on Thunder this morning. I LOVE IT! Here’s a video showing off all the new effects.

    http://youtu.be/QGHNZg4X8tg