BEYOND THE RIDES: The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour

Steam Trains Tour 2

The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour

at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park

All aboard! We’re about to take a grand circle tour of the “Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour” at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park. Just sit tight and keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs well inside the train. For one of Disney World’s less known tours,  this train adventure sure does steam up a surprising amount of fun!

Before the tour begins, guests are asked to meet outside the main entrance to Magic Kingdom at 7:15 am.  You’ll be introduced to your guide and be given a brief orientation.  On non-event days, Magic Kingdom opens to the general public at 9:00 am, so the tour begins well before other guests are allowed into the park. This is so you can have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the four Magic Kingdom trains are tested and prepped each morning before running the track around the park with guests.

Once you’ve been oriented, your tour guide will take you up to the Main Street Station where you’re given special access to one of the Magic Kingdom steam trains.  While waiting for the all clear to depart the Main Street Station, your guide and a conductor will give you a history of the trains at Disney World and will also let you in on tidbits such as how the drivers and conductors communicate on the same and on separate trains.  You’ll also learn how the trains received their names and how Disney came to acquire the antique steam models in the first place.

Knowledgeable guides and conductors make the tour fun and entertaining

After leaving the Main Street Station, you ride the train around to the back side of the park, not quite to the Fantasyland Station.  Along the way, you’ll learn about some additional backstage tricks and details related to not only the steam trains but the stations and other nearby attractions as well.  Just be careful not to blink because you’ll miss some details you likely wouldn’t otherwise notice on your own!

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Learning about the mechanics of the steam engines

So far everything has been fun and interesting, but now you’re in for the truly unique experience you hoped to have!  Before pulling into the Fantasyland Station, your steam engine will stop just around the north bend of the track.  The track is then switched and you move back in reverse to make your way to the train roundhouse were the engines and monorails are housed when not in use.

Behind-the-scenes: backing up into the roundhouse
An inside glimpse of the roundhouse where the engines are stored and maintained

Though not given access to actually enter the roundhouse, you’ll spend plenty of time just outside the building in this behind-the-scenes area.  While you’re here, you’ll be further educated on how the trains are maintained and cared for.

As you spend some time outside the roundhouse, you’ll also be given access to the pilot car (driver’s area).  Locomotive enthusiasts in particular will really love getting an up-close-and-personal look at all the gears and controls, learning exactly how the trains work.  Unlike most other attractions and rides at the Disney parks, driving the steam trains involves a lot more than just moving forward and stopping.  The trains are authentic steam engines that require specially trained drivers.

Learning about the gears and controls in the pilot car
A view from the “driver’s seat”

Before heading back to the Fantasyland and Main Street Stations, you’ll be given a couple more demonstrations of how these classic locomotives work.  One such demonstration was being able to see how the engines are ignited by fire in order to create the steam needed to run.  You’ll also experience what it means to “pop off” while you’re away from the big crowds.

Fire is used to start the engines of these antique locomotives
“Popping off” steam at the roundhouse before returning to the main Magic Kingdom tracks

By this point in the 3 hour tour, Magic Kingdom has been opened to regular park-goers and the trains are needed for transporting guests around.  You therefore quickly chug along back to the Main Street station before being given a short break in/near the Town Square Theater.

After your break and complimentary drink, your guide will gather the group back together for some final interesting facts and stories about the history of the Disney World steam engines.  Train buff or not, any Disney enthusiast will appreciate this segment of the tour as it is dedicated almost entirely to Walt Disney and his love for locomotives.  You’ll be shown around the area underneath the Main Street Station before then making your way back up inside the building lobby where you’ll receive an exclusive tour souvenir and bring the tour to the “end of the track”.

Learning about Walt Disney’s love for locomotives and the others who helped him bring his dreams to life

Know Before You Go

Is the “Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour” worth the $55 ticket price?  You bet your darn tootin’!  Although the tour doesn’t put you right in the middle of the action as some of the other tours do, don’t underestimate how much fun you’ll have!  You get VIP access to areas of Magic Kingdom that you otherwise would likely never see and it’s especially neat to connect to Walt Disney through his love of these steam engines.  One great perk of doing the train tour is that you’re given access to Magic Kingdom long before other guests, giving you a glimpse of the park in ways you don’t notice when the masses are around.  Also, because the 3 hour tour starts so early, you still have plenty of time to enjoy the park after the tour concludes.

The only aspect of the “Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour” that might derail you a bit is getting to Magic Kingdom so early in the morning.  Because the parks don’t open until 9:00 (or 8:00 if there’s an Extra Magic Hours event), Disney buses are not running at 7:00 am to get you to the park by 7:15.  You will instead need to make arrangements to get to the park via a Minnie Van, taxi, Uber, or Lyft.  I was able to find a private taxi from our hotel for $10 through a group on social media.  Any non-Disney transportation must drop passengers off at the Contemporary resort before you must then take the five minute walk over to Magic Kingdom.


6 thoughts on “BEYOND THE RIDES: The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour”

  1. We took the tour a couple times, many years apart. The last time being last January. And I agree the tour, as all Disney behind the scenes tours are, was fantastic.And while I find it all very interesting, I cant say I am necessarily a “train guy”. We did inquire at the front desk of our resort(AKL) about the buses running early to get us there. They assured us that despite was is written and/ or told by the cast members taking the reservations, that the first bus to the MK from AKL would be at 6:30 am. Sure enough it did arrive almost right at 6:30 and we got there in plenty of time.It worked out for us, at least that day, so it may be worth your time to check with your resorts front desk or even one of the bus drivers before you spend some money on alternate transportation.

    • I agree Ken about not necessarily being a “train person” but that the tour is still very worth the time and money. It’s always fun to see and do things around the parks you couldn’t otherwise do! Thanks also for your insights about the busses and getting to Magic Kingdom in the morning. Great suggestion!

  2. Steam train insiders tours, always are attractive…
    However. $ 55 for NOT entering the roundhouse, seems a total rip off ot me.

    If I cannot enter the roundhouse, I would skip any tour. Expensive, free or given to me as a gift…
    The REAL THING, the roundhouse, is everything.
    This report is saying clearly : “you get NOTHING except a silly ride and blabla talk……..”

    In Disneyland Paris (France), a similar visit is not available.
    But, why should it ?
    In Efteling theme park (The Netherlands), nothing like that is available as well,
    but in Pairi Daiza theme park (Belgium), the round house is RIGHT inside the park, and open ALL DAY … FREE, … for visits.
    I’m referencing every time a real theme park (In Europe), with real steam trains.
    ………… more …. the Pairi Daiza theme park steam train round house is 100% themed, outside and inside…. the Disney one’s are not at all… (industrial sheds)

    What do you want, people ? a $ 55 Disney rip off , or an free (daily included) visit ???

    Choice to be made ..

  3. Typically, I am not a supporter of the “extra paid experiences”, because they take place DURING the park normal operation, and they take the attraction away from the Guests who PAID to have the use of the area with their general admission…

    As example, the Ice Cream Social with the Prince and Princess on the River Boat would CLOSE the River Boat for OVER an HOUR, so Guests who PAID to be in the Park cannot access the River Boat because of the EXTRA COST event.

    The Steam Train Behind the Scenes Tour however, is done BEFORE the Park opens, and IS INDEED an EXTRA EXPERIENCE which DOES NOT interfere with the operations provided to Guests who PAID to be there in the Park and enjoy the Attractions.

    There are MANY people who LOVE Trains, and to get the extra “behind the scenes” tour IS a special experience.

    They may not get to “see inside” the Round House, but there is really not much to see in the Round House….

    It would be dangerous to bring a group of Guests into the Round House as there are OPEN PITTS where undercarriages of the Trains can be worked on, and trip hazards all around even from the tracks themselves.

    What is being “missed” by not going into the Round House is mostly an illusion in the minds of those who imagine that there is something to see inside.

    The tour is being given with a personal touch “Conductor” making the Announcements LIVE, and to have that “Personal Touch” is something which has been long ago LOST since the Train Announcements on the ride have been a recording now for a very long time.

    I once was a Cast Member, who as part of my duties, gave LIVE Steam Train Announcement Tours, EACH and EVERY trip when Guests were enjoying the Steam Trains.

    Each Trip on the Steam Trains was a SPECIAL tour back then, and within the LIVE Announcements, alone the back stretch through the woods behind Fantasyland, I would explain about the FOUR Authentic Steam Locomotives which made up the Walt Disney World Steam Railroad System, and how they were built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1925, (depending on which train were were on at the time)… The Walter Elias Disney, The Lilly Belle, The Roger Broggie, or the OLDEST The Roy O. Disney.

    Guests LOVED to take pictures near the Locomotive, and everything about the Trains in General, so I think this EXTRA Tour is a good one, although, speaking from what I see in these pictures, I think the Cast Members should keep their Tie and Hats ON at all times, as being “out of costume” is “bad show” and was once never acceptable, just like “pre-recorded train tour announcements”!

    • Thank you for your thoughts and insights Randyland! As you said, the Roundhouse definitely is closed off to guests for safety reasons but you get enough of a glimpse inside that you don’t at all feel cheated by not being allowed to actually go in. The rest of the tour is really fascinating and I loved how you get to connect with Walt Disney through his love of those trains!

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