Left: Sign reading "Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour, Meet Here" is displayed. Right: Interior of the vintage Lilly Belle train car with wooden details, red upholstery, curtains, flowers, and a black rope on display.

REVIEW: Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour Includes Lilly Belle Ride, Cinnamon Rolls, and Disappointment

Shannen Ace

The Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour returned to Disneyland Resort this month and we were among the first to take the updated tour.

Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour

E.P. Ripley steam engine pulling red train cars in front of Main Street U.S.A. station at Disneyland
Photo from 2023

The Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour is described as a “journey to discover Walt Disney’s passion for trains” including a beverage and pastry, a guided walk through the park with stories about Walt’s love of trains, a “rare glimpse” at the Disneyland Park Roundhouse, a ride in the Lilly Belle Presidential Car, and a special keepsake. The tour is two hours long and $135 per person before tax.

Left image shows a hand holding a "Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour" ticket. Right image displays an oval sign with the same text, instructing participants to "Meet Here" for the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour.

Due to the increased number of guided tours going on right now, check-in for the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour is currently located at the exit of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln instead of the Tour Gardens. The attraction is closed for an extended refurbishment so the space isn’t being used for anything else at the moment.

After checking, we got “Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour” stickers to indicate we were part of the tour.

A "Reserved" sign on a table with a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer and trays of food in aluminum containers.

We then sat down for our beverage and pastry.

A table with a plastic-wrapped tray of food and a bottle of Simply Orange juice.

The beverage was an individual-sized Tropicana no-pulp orange juice bottle. The pastry was a delicious cinnamon bun with caramelized apple topping.

A foil container with a baked dish topped with diced, glazed apples sits on a table near a reserved sign, bottled water, and a plastic lid.

The cinnamon bun was incredibly moist and tender. The apple topping was flavorful. We’d give the cinnamon roll a 6 out of 7.

Guests with allergies will be accommodated.

We then embarked on the actual tour. There were ten guests total in our group. This meant that much of the tour felt intimate, although sometimes the group felt too big for the small confines of the spaces we visited.

A Disneyland Monorail going by with Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the Matterhorn in the background.

The tour guide was eager to share that, despite being focused on the Disneyland Railroad and featuring a ride on the Lilly Belle, the tour was at its heart the story of Walt Disney, told through the lens of different modes of transportation in Disneyland. We visited the following locations and discussed some of the following topics:

  • Town Square: Walt’s youth
  • Main Street Opera House entrance: Walt’s Griffith Park bench
  • Magic shop entrance: Roger Broggie’s window and his involvement with Walt’s projects (Broggie is the namesake of a Walt Disney World Railroad engine)
  • Frontierland entrance: an era fueled by steam power and Disneyland’s conversion from conventional diesel fuel to bio-fuel on both the railroad and Mark Twain Riverboat in 2007
  • Monorail track: the creation of the Viewliner Train of Tomorrow and later the Monorail
  • Former Fantasyland Autopia entrance: the creation of the PeopleMover

We got a 10-minute convenience break at the Fantasyland Theatre to grab water at Troubador Tavern and use the restrooms.

Mickey's Toontown train depot station
Photo from 2022

We then headed to Mickey’s Toontown Depot to board the Lilly Belle. We boarded at this station instead of Main Street because the Main Street station doesn’t have an accessible entrance.

A vintage train car interior with wood paneling, decorative ceiling, stained glass, floral arrangements, a black robe, and ornate furnishings like red velvet cushioned benches and brass accents evokes the charm of the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour.

Upon boarding the Lilly Belle, the guide told us its story and showed us photos of its previous life as the Grand Canyon observation coach. In short, the car was originally the Grand Canyon observation coach of Disneyland Railroad’s Retlaw 1 set. After the rest of the Retlaw 1 passenger cars were retired, the coach was renovated and renamed after Walt’s wife, becoming the Lilly Belle parlor car.

Disneyland Railroad Grand Canyon diorama viewed from train car
Source: Disney

The train left the station with us onboard and we were treated to the full grand circle tour of Disneyland Park. We were primarily left to enjoy the view with occasional snippets of history shared by our tour guide about the Grand Canyon diorama, the spur track on Main Street, the animated location map in Main Street station, and the railroad’s biggest updates over the years.

Dimly lit, ornate interior of a vintage train car with intricate woodwork on the ceiling, a table with a floral arrangement, wall sconces, and a few passengers seated.

The script provided many interesting stories about the park’s history and was, unsurprisingly, almost entirely accurate. It does omit details about incidents like the 2022 New Orleans Square Station fire.

"Critter Country" sign on a red building with white window frames

The only glaringly questionable factoid that we felt worth noting was during a portion of the tour dedicated to discussing the park’s original “Indian Village” which was later replaced with Critter Country. The script attempted to tie the existence of the Native American camp to Walt’s “forward-thinking nature” and “respect for other cultures.” Suffice it to say, that is certainly a retelling of the story. They added that in a continued legacy of the old land, Native American figures still appear along the railroad and neighboring Rivers of America.

Upon arriving back at Mickey’s Toontown Depot and disembarking the Lilly Belle, we started walking to the other main draw of the tour: a look into the backstage roundhouse where the trains, including the Monorails, are maintained. We walked from Toontown Depot down to the parade gate next to “it’s a small world.” We entered a backstage area typically not seen by guests. We stopped at the railroad crossing where service vehicles and daily parades cross the train tracks to enter the park.

Our host told us a bit about the roundhouse and, as we guests prepared ourselves to cross the train tracks and continue the tour, informed us this would actually be the closest we would get to the roundhouse. The so-called “peek” really was indeed just a peek, as we were nowhere near the roundhouse. Looking backward from onboard the train itself provides a closer look at the roundhouse than this portion of the tour.

Aerial view of an urban area showing buildings, roads, and green spaces. One building is highlighted in yellow. A nearby road has a circular intersection. Various attractions are labeled in the area, including the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour station.

For reference, we’ve highlighted the roundhouse in the above Google Maps screenshot with a yellow rectangle. The yellow line is the gate we walked through, and the yellow dot is where we stood, squinting at the roundhouse in the distance.

We were concerned and thought this might be a one-time thing, not the actual intent of the tour. We asked our guide if that was the case and they told us no, indeed, that was the closest guests on the tour would get to the roundhouse.

This felt like a ripoff to us, since Disney advertises the roundhouse as such a big part of the tour. Here’s the exact description of the “rare glimpse” from the Disneyland Resort website:

Catch a Rare Glimpse of the Disneyland Park Roundhouse
This is where “the magic happens” for the historic Disneyland Railroad system and it’s not typically viewed by the public. You’ll learn more about the engineers that look after the Disneyland Monorail and trains.

For our reporter who grew up on videos of old backstage tours from years ago, which included a full tour of the roundhouse and an up-close look at the process of maintaining the trains, it was incredibly disappointing. Others in our group were disappointed, too.

After returning to the park, the guide told us this was where the tour ended. We were reminded that none of this would be possible without the incredibly talented Cast Members who uphold the legacy of the Disneyland Railroad, continuing to maintain and operate it to this day. The guide closed with Walt’s quote: “It takes people to make the dream a reality.”

A detailed map of the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour with sections labeled Frontierland, Main Street, Fantasyland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Tomorrowland. Close-up view of the map on the right.

We then received our memento: a print version of the location map in Main Street station. It’s not an exact replica as the print includes updates like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

A sepia-toned map labeled "TOONTOWN STATION" depicts a detailed illustration of a theme park area, part of a larger section labeled "LAND RAILROAD," reminiscent of the Disneyland Railroad Guided Tour experience.

It was an incredible privilege to ride the Lilly Belle, but the letdown of not touring the roundhouse soured the entire experience. For $135, we were expecting more. A tour of the Lilly Belle was even free 10-15 years ago. We learned some interesting facts, the story was wholesome and endearing, and our host was great, but this didn’t meet our expectations. At least the cinnamon rolls were good.

Rating out of 7: 3

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