As a "Florida resident" and a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, sometimes just visiting the Disney Parks can become a bit repetitious. That's why I try to take one of the more than a dozen tours they offer for an additional cost. For this outing, I decided to take the Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour.Starting at the gates of the Magic Kingdom at 7:30 a.m., my first recommendation is not to try and enjoy those Extra Magic Hours the night before. Next, I would advise grabbing a snack on your way because there is not a break until almost two hours into the three-hour tour and that is just a bathroom and water break.Once the group is gathered, we are lead by an actual train engineer to the Main Street U.S.A. Railroad Station to board a train to ride half way around the Magic Kingdom to the spur track before backing into the roundhouse. Once at the roundhouse, we disembarked the train we just road and were given the chance to touch a "cool" train and get some great photos with it while waiting to go on the tracks for the day.Joe, our engineer and tour guide, gave us some background on the roundhouse, home of both the four trains of the WDW Railroad but also the full fleet of WDW Monorails. We then were giving a "how it works" tour of the outside of the Walter E. Disney engine, pointing out the gears and pistons and how they make the train move. By far one of the real highlights of the tour was to actually stand in the tinder of the engine and hear how these powerful machines provide grand circle tours of the Magic Kingdom each day. Once all guests had the chance to see the tinder, it is explained and demonstrated how they fire up the boilers each day before the train can head onto the main track.As we headed back into the park, Joe shared stories of how someone can become and WDW Railroad engineer and what an average day on the tracks is like.At the Main Street station, we were given a brief water and bathroom break before meeting on the lower level to learn the history of each of the engines — including the Lilly Belle which has been gone for four years as part of its year-long refurbishment. Upstairs we gather around Joe to hear the true history of Walt and his love of trains as told by pictures. Most are stories any die hard Disney fan will know but for the average guest it gives a great history including how Walt got his train and Lilly got her flower bed at their first real house together. As the tour wrapped up, Joe gave us a unique pin only available to guest who take the tour. He also urged us to take the tour again because each engineer has his or her own stories and can really open up the world of the WDW Railroad to you.
I loved this tour. For $54.00 plus tax I got to spend three hours not only hearing stories of really one of the main reasons why Walt wanted to build a theme park (so he could have his own railroad) but was also able to get up close with a piece of history and even blow the whistle on the train! I would and will do this tour again many times and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Walt stories, trains, or just theme parks — which I'm pretty sure is anyone still reading this!