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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom

Located within Frontierland, Big Thunder Mountain stays true to the area’s Wild West theme and also incorporates an imaginative story to create a highly thrilling and entertaining roller coaster ride.

If you’ve ever visited Arizona’s Monument Valley you’ll probably recognize the tower of craggy and jagged rocks, that make up the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride in Disney World.

Disney engineers modeled the attraction’s scenery based on the valley’s unique rock formations and buttes.

Like many of Frontierland’s attractions, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is set in the mid-to-late 1800s American Southwest.

Town of Tumbleweed

As the story goes, the small town of Tumbleweed set at the base of Big Thunder Mountain was turned upside down when gold was discovered.

Subsequent mining operations ensued, with miners carving their way through the mountain’s red rocks in search of untold riches.

Unbeknownst to the residents of Tumbleweed, Thunder Mountain was actually a sacred Native American location.

Its desecration leads to a devastating flood that destroys Tumbleweed.

The ride picks up after the town has been abandoned.

The old mining cars left behind in the chaos mysteriously traverse the mountain’s old tracks without any drivers.

Originally opened in 1979, Disney’s imagineers did an excellent job of crafting an authentic environment for Big Thunder Mountain.

From the moment you step into the queue, you’re surrounded by imagery reminiscent of the Old West.

Battered wooden buildings visible from the line adorn the base of the mountain and are filled with evidence of Tumbleweed’s former mining operations.

While waiting in line, you can learn about the railroad’s founder Barnabas and his story.

Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster

The roller coaster’s cars resemble old mine cars and fit riders in rows of two.

Unlike other similar rides, Big Thunder Mountain was constructed taking into account painstaking levels of detail.

The result is an exhilarating ride that makes it feel like you’re exploring a real-life abandoned mine.

Featuring a series of elevation changes and sharp, accelerating turns, Big Thunder provides thrills on several fronts.

In keeping with the ride’s back story, the mountain’s mined tunnels are abandoned and in a state of deterioration.

Aside from the occasional miner’s lamp affixed to the walls, the mine’s tunnels are dark and ominous.

This darkness is accompanied by thundering sound effects and a bumpy ride that makes it appear as if the railway is on the verge of collapse.

Like the rest of the ride, indoor sections have been crafted with extreme detail.

Some sections include marvelous stalactites and stalagmites, along with caves that seem to drift into the endless abyss.

All the while, you’ll be subject to unexpected swings, dips and rumbles from inside your rickety mine car. After nearly 4 minutes of thrills, the ride slows to its end.

The skill and innovation of Disney’s designers and imagineers are on full display at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Over 30 years after it initially opened, the ride still feels eerily realistic thanks to a mix of amazing craftsmanship, track design, sound and lighting.

Providing just the right amount of thrills, Big Thunder Mountain is destined to entertain generations to come and is a definite must-visit on your next trip to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

By Marie Ospina
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