We’re continuing to check out attractions Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park have in common. Up this week: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!
Trains are a recurring theme throughout the Disney parks both as people movers and as popular attractions. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad made its debut at Disneyland’s Frontierland in 1979, replacing the D-ticket Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland. A crashed Mine Train locomotive remains at the base of the mountain as an authentic prop and as a reminder of the long extinct attraction. The little town at the base of the Railroad called Big Thunder was once part of Rainbow Bridge, the original departure point of the Mine Train, and now represents a ghost town of the post-1849 Gold Rush era.
Although Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened first, the attraction was derived from a ride planned for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The Western River Expedition, designed by Marc Davis, was to be a boat ride through the American West with hiking trails and pack mules. It was to feature a runaway mine train and was to be housed in a large complex called Thunder Mesa. Walt Disney World did receive its own Big Thunder Mountain Railroad about a year after its Disneyland counterpart debuted.
While they have a similar appearance, the two Mountains are modeled after separate natural land forms. Anaheim’s is based on Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park’s eroded red rock striations. Orlando’s resembles Utah’s Monument Valley and is more angular and earthy toned. Both, however, feature trains by the names I.M. Brave, U.B. Bold, I.B. Hearty, and I.M. Fearless (Orlando has two additional: U.R. Daring, U.R. Courageous), descriptive of passengers aboard the “wildest ride in the wilderness,” which reaches speeds of 25-30 mph, matching that of the monorail.
The wrecked Mine Train is not the only relic of days gone by. Imagineers themed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with actual gold mining tools such as a 1,200-pound cogwheel, a hand-powered drill press, ore cars, barrels, and an 1880 stamp mill and landscaped the each site with sagebrush and pine to complete the setting.
Look closely at Utah’s Monument Valley rock formations (above) and notice the distinct layers of stone and sediment. These layers, formed over thousands of years, give these landmarks their striped appearance.
Today, investigate the nature of sedimentary rock by creating your own mixture of particles, letting it settle, and examining its cross-section. Follow the “Sorting Out Sedimentation” project from Science Buddies. Some adult supervision and assistance may be required. (NOTE: To avoid having to use a coping saw, use a wax-coated paper cup for your sediment mixture and peel the paper away to reveal the cross-section.)
Here’s the abstract: “Sedimentary rock forms in layers that are deposited one after the other over long periods of time. Oftentimes, sedimentary rock contains fossils and other debris that are deposited within the layers. How do sediments form? How are sediments of different shapes, sizes, and types sorted during the process of sedimentation? Find out in this science fair project!” Click here to access full lab instructions.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Geology
SKILL LEVEL: Middle Grades
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