Skip to content

The Fort Wilderness Railroad

by Rod Wheaton on May 8, 2013

FWRR1

The Walt Disney Company has had a long love affair with trains going all the way back to Walt himself.  The ones that encircle the Magic Kingdoms on both coasts are well known and loved. Most Disney fans have heard of the Carolwood Pacific train Walt had built in his back yard, much to his wife’s dismay.

But from 1973 to 1980, there was another far less known Disney train that brings back a lot of fond memories for those who remember it.  The Fort Wilderness Train was a steam train that wound it’s way for 3 1/2 miles around Fort Wilderness Campground.  It transported guests and campers alike through beautiful stretches of Spanish moss laden pine trees, over trestles and past pristine waters on their way to their various campground loops, the camp stores, or just an  enjoyable ride.  Before the Disney buses came on the scene, this was the way to travel Fort Wilderness.FWRR2

The train was a popular activity at the campground, and even today there are websites and youtube videos that show their devotion now, over 35 years after it’s close. Even those staying across the waters at The Contemporary Hotel and the Polynesian Village would often come and take the train’s scenic route through the Florida countryside.  At twice the length of the Magic Kingdom‘s train tracks, it was a nice way to relax in the cool of the evening.  If you know where to look, you can still  find remnants of where the old rails passed through the countryside.

So why did it close?  There are several reasons that have been cited.  One had to do with the Florida soil.  It has been said that the tracks were never suitably laid in he sandy soil and that shifting and sinking caused operational problems.  Another setback had to do with the length of track and the size of the train.  There just weren’t enough water and fuel stations along the track to consistently keep the train going under all conditions.  Still another issue was guest comfort and safety.  Some guests complained of the noise from the train.  It ran daily from 7 AM to 11 PM, and some started to “lose appreciation” for the train whistle around those times.  Also, since the train went right through the campground, there was concern a child could walk out onto the tracks. (A much more colorful, grin-inducing explanation/legend will be told in a later post.  Watch for “Kambak’s Raiders)

At Walt Disney World, though, good ideas never completely die.  After the railroad closed, it sat in disrepair for a while.  Then, two of the coaches were pulled out and renovated to be ticket booths at Pleasure Island.  One engine is reported to have gone to a Florida museum.  At least one engine and car were adopted by the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society and restored.

Today you can walk down past the Meadows trading Post, look out past the trestle bridge, and if you close your eyes and use a little imagination, you can still hear the old steam whistle blow.

LIKE THE BLOG?  SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL, AND COME JOIN US BY LIKING OUR PAGE IN FACEBOOK!!

From → Disney Camping

11 Comments Leave one →
  1. Kyle permalink

    Wow Rod, I didn’t know another train existed back then! Very interesting! Great read!

    • Yeah Kyle, you can still find the places where the old tracks went. I used to love to ride this train around the campground. It’s still a favorite memory.

      • Kyle permalink

        I’ll have to drive over there & walk around sometime. I haven’t been at the campground there since we spent spring break there with some family one year about 10+ years ago. It looked like a very nice train ride!

        • Two of the easy places to find are over by the Meadows Trading Post and behind loop 700. Happy hunting!

  2. joyce fritz permalink

    I always loved that train.. You ALWAYS provide your followers with little known facts. I LOVE your articles. Keep up the good work…

    • As always, thanks! If you haven’t seem the old YouTube vids, you should check them out!

  3. Jackie permalink

    Wow! I had no idea about this railroad. Very interesting! I want to look for the tracks now.

  4. disney75 permalink

    I miss that train, We started going to WDW in 1975, everytime we made our reservations for the horse back riding trail we would always ride the train. My kids never got to ride it and I sure do miss it.

  5. sheila hufty permalink

    really a great story i never knew about the train and i have been visiting since 1974

  6. Very cool article Rod, thank you for suggesting it. Fort Wilderness is on my bucket list and the more I learn about it’s fascinating history the more I want to stay there. I just imagine how sweet a ride on that train would have been…

    Suz

Leave a Reply

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: