Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mark Twain and Pal, September 1978

It's always nice to find a surprise detail in a batch of otherwise-dull photos. Like this one, from 1978. It's a fairly typical shot of the Mark Twain at the landing on an overcast day. But one can't help noticing the giant crane to the left; and what's that strange rocky outcropping??

Say, it's the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, under construction! Very cool, especially since I have so few images from the late 1970's (or even later than that). I like Big Thunder a lot, even though it replaced the beloved Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. It opened almost a year after this photo was taken (on September 2, 1979).


TokyoMagic! said...

I remember when Big Thunder looked like this! I had a friend who's father worked on the construction of Big Thunder and he took us around the area behind the construction several times. The old rocks from Nature's Wonderland were back there and they hadn't been refinished to match the new rockwork of BTMRR yet. In fact, I'm wondering if that is one of the old rock formations that we can see through the trees directly beneath the crane.

Melissa said...

There's pilings in them thar hills!

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic! - That looks to me like it may be the top of a false front from one of the buildings in Rainbow Ridge. The roofline looks similar to the Rainbow Ridge Hotel that was along the mule path (,, and the camera angle is just about right for it.

Did they tear out the original Rainbow Ridge in stages, and perhaps the section to the left was the last to be removed?

K. Martinez said...

I love Disneyland construction photos.

For themed environment, BTMRR is wonderful and it adds greatly to the Frontierland skyline, but as a coaster I find it lacking. Not so for WDW's version of this attraction. I found it exciting on all levels. Since my coaster riding days are pretty much over, I could use a ride like the Western Mine Train these days. So it's off to Knott's for the Calico Mine Ride.

Nice update today. Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Ah, that's sad to hear, Kenny me boy. I've never ridden the Californy version, but the Floridy version is mebbe me favorite coaster ever. Mind you, I'm no big thrill-seeker, so the fact that there ain't no big, straight drops be a feature and not a bug for the likes of me.

K. Martinez said...

@Melissa - It's just my opinion. A lot of people love it. You may love it. There's just some things I think WDW does better than DL and vice versa. Now if you rode the Californy version of Pirates of the Caribbean...

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, that is very cool that you got to tour the construction back then. I wonder if that would be allowed today? I think that *does* look like the old rock formations at the base of the crane!

Melissa, pilings, but no gold.

Chuck, hmmm, now that you point it out, it might be the Rainbow Ridge Hotel; it looks very reddish, though, unlike the hotel. I’m still not sure!

K. Martinez, I think it is a fun coaster, but not intense at all. I would love to experience the Florida version; it sure looks great in photos. Are your coaster riding days really over?

Melissa, I am imagining you (though I don’t know what you look like) at your keyboard chewing a wad of tobacky!

K. Martinez, since both Big Thunder rides are different, it only stands to reason that one would be preferred over another. I’ll bet there are even people who prefer the Florida version of “Pirates”!

Patrick Devlin said...

I've been building (slowly) a model of Rainbow ridge (1/48) and that outline and color looks exactly like the "Last Chance Saloon. The position looks like it's too far back. Maybe it's in a storage position awaiting final construction of the new site for the town?

Specifically, this building:

Chuck said...

Now I'm imagining Melissa as Snuffy Smith's wife, Loweezy.

Patrick, that is awesome that you're building a Rainbow Ridge model! That's on my "if I only had the time, money, and space" to do list. You've probably already seen this guy's 1/48 version of the NWRR, but just in case, you should check out

Melissa said...

I am all those things and so much more.

And I *have* ridden the Californy version of Pirates; I was in no way prepared for how much better it was!

K. Martinez said...

@Major - Even though I was a hardcore coaster enthusiast most of my life, I've pretty much given up going on them due to medical conditions. Even riding the mild coasters at Disney make me sick for the entire day. Heck, I can't even handle Indiana Jones Adventure and Tower of Terror anymore. I now fully understand the meaning of those warning signs on Space Mountain. And to think I used to ride those Magic Mountain mega-coasters non-stop all day long without any problems. But that's okay. The beauty of Disneyland Resort is that there's still plenty to enjoy and do.

@Patrick Devlin - That sounds so cool that you're building a model of Rainbow Ridge. I always wanted to build a model of the Calico Mine Ride. I even purchased little HOn30 scale mining cars and loco for it. Unfortunately I still haven't tackled building it yet. So is it the Nature's Wonderland or Big Thunder Mountain version of Rainbow Ridge that you're building? I'd love to see pics of it.

Dean Finder said...

Interesting that you have a different experience on DL's versus WDW's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The tracks are almost perfect mirror images of each other:
I've only ridden WDW's, myself.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I don't know if they tore out Rainbow Ridge in stages or not. We didn't see any of the buildings being stored anywhere in the back. I just remember seeing the old rocks from Nature's Wonderland back there. The bear cub that used to be climbing the tree (trying to get at the beehive) was also back there. I have pictures of the cub and the rocks that I need to post on my blog. Hmmmm, maybe I should make that my next post!

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh, and I have also felt like WDW's Big Thunder and Tokyo Disneyland's as well, were both better than Disneyland's. The only thing I can come up with as to why, is that I think they are taller and the hills are a little higher. The layout might be bigger as well and the track might be a tad longer on the straightaways. I have no proof of any of this, but when you are at the top of the second chain lift on the Tokyo DL version and you are looking down into the attraction, it definitely feels higher up than on the DL version.

TokyoMagic! said...

I just checked Wikipedia and it states that, "The Florida version was allocated more space in the park, and so the ride structure assumes 2.5 acres, 25 percent larger than the Disneyland version." It doesn't state how long the track is for each version of the ride.

Dean Finder said...

Neat. Are the trains longer at the WDW/TDL versions too?
That would give you a greater sensation of accelerating "up" the hills from the last cars.

HBG2 said...

We only went to Disneyland every two years or so in them days, so it's quite a coincidence that I and my wife happened to be there on that very day. In the morning there was just an I-beam skeleton over there, and later in the afternoon we were startled to see this rockwork on top!

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic! - I had no idea you'd started blogging again. I'll start stopping by on a regular basis...unless I'm not welcome. I don't want to be a bother...

Major Pepperidge said...

Patrick, I would love to see photos of your Rainbow Ridge model! How far along are you? That would be a great thing to do as a hobby.

Chuck, if I knew more about how to use Google’s “Sketch Up” 3D rendering program, it would be cool to make the fronts of the buildings and have them printed out in fine detail. Or is that cheating?

Melissa, the fact that the Florida POC doesn’t have the whole beginning part with the skeletons makes me not want to see it!

K. Martinez, I have to admit that coasters seem to affect me more than they used to. Some of the hard-core examples at Magic Mountain are so intense. And the darn Ghost Rider at Knott’s is the roughest damn ride, it is painful!

Dean Finder, I wonder if there is just more beautiful landscaping around the WDW version?

TokyoMagic!, yes, share your photos of the cub and the rocks! And the Big Thunder at Tokyo Disneyland looks amazing, the way it plunges into the river; and doesn’t it have geysers? Info about the track lengths must be out there somewhere, but I’ve got a lot to do today. Maybe I’ll look later tonight!

Dean Finder, good question, I wonder if the actual coaster vehicles differ.

HBG2, very cool that you saw Big Thunder being constructed. I honestly can’t recall ever seeing any major construction going on in all of my visits (unless you count the 1998 Tomorrowland).

Chuck, it took me several weeks to notice that TokyoMagic! had put up his first post in over a year. Since then he’s done a few more.

K. Martinez said...

@Dean Finder -

There are differences in the photo comparison you provided if you look closely at them. At the northern edge one of the curve turnarounds is extended out further at WDW. In addition the geography layouts are somewhat different in that there are different tunnel placements. Also WDW's version bordering the Rivers of America does provide for a dramatic effect along its eastern edge. Then you have the town of Tumbleweed. According to RCDB the Florida version is faster. From my own experience, I feel WDW's version has the edge, but everyone has their preferences.

Here are some coaster stats from RCDB (Roller Coaster Database) which also answer your question about the trains.

BTMRR, Disneyland

Track Length: 2,671 ft
Speed: 28 mph

Trains: 5 trains w/5 cars per train. Riders arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 30 riders per train.

BTMRR, Magic Kingdom, WDW

Length: 2,780 ft
Speed:36 mph

Trains: 5 trains w/5 cars per train. Riders arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 30 riders per train.

In addition, Disneyland's mountain is only 104 ft. tall (Chris Stodder’s Disneyland Encyclopedia) and WDW's mountain is 197 ft. ( making WDW's nearly twice as tall as Disneyland's.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, K. Martinez....I didn't know the answer to Dean Finder's question about the trains.

Major, I will definitely post my BTMRR construction pics. I need to get them all scanned. And as for Tokyo's Big Thunder, there are some outdoor steaming/bubbling pools of water (almost like Nature's Wonderland's mud pots, but with water instead of the colored mud), but I don't remember them shooting water up into the air. I think WDW's is the only version that got the geysers.

Chuck, Yes, I am blogging again. After taking most of 2013 and all of 2014 off from posting, I'm trying to get back into some kind of regular posting schedule. Major, I don't know how you do it daily. I know you've told me that you do them in advance, but you still have to write the darn things! You are the master.....I mean, Major!

Chuck said...

Major, I don't think that's cheating. In fact, some modelers mount scaled photos of building surfaces to styrene or cardstock buildings rather than painting them. It's not all that common, but it's not unheard of. There's even an occasional article in "Model Railroader" describing how a modeler does it on his own railroad.

Different people are attracted to different parts of the hobby. Some folks are all about operating their model pike just like the real thing, and have extensive, realistic switchyards and waybill systems that give a crew specific assignments of where to deliver and pick up cars on the layout. Others love to build intricate, highly-detailed scenes but have little interest in spending two hours trying to figure out how to spot three cars on the two sidings at Armstrong's Grain & Feed Co without blocking traffic on McClelland Street. I'm often content just to see the trains go around in circles all day without derailing or uncoupling and rolling back downhill.

Model RR clubs get all kinds together to work in synch so that everyone benefits from each others' abilities. It's part of why I like the hobby so much - there are so many different ways to do things. Ultimately, it should be about what the individual modeler enjoys, and if you want to render and print out cardstock buildings and build your own Rainbow Ridge, I say "right on!"

K. Martinez said...

@Chuck - So do you actually have a permanent layout? I mostly put my trains up during the holidays, both under the Christmas tree and in my Christmas villages on a 4'x12' plywood table. I'm one of those who is also content just watching my trains going around in circles.

Chuck said...

Ken - Sadly, most of my model railroading is of the armchair variety these days.

Moving around a lot as an AF brat and then as an AF member made it hard to get very far with any sort of layout. I do have a portable N-scale layout, but it's not currently set up. There's a space in the garage for it, but I haven't set it up yet due to temperature fluctuations out there. I have a plan to wire the garage for a window unit A/C/heater, but so far it's still a plan.

The Christmas tree gets either the kids' O-27 Lionel stuff, an older Bachmann G-gauge 2-6-0, or the battery-powered monorail (an early 2000's Disney release, not the classic early-60's Schuco set), and I will occasionally set up an HO-gauge oval on the dining room table and run my WDW passenger set and the Tyco and Athearn stuff from my youth.

My dad is finally building the HO basement empire he's always wanted, and I get to run with him when I visit my parents. And I will drop in on my old HO modular club occasionally when I visit as well.

Sunday Night said...

I've been an armchair modeler for 30 years. No muss, no fuss (and no railroads).

Sunday Night said...

K. Martinez - I know what you mean about your coaster days being over. Same here. But to tell the truth I was never really drawn to them. Give me a good themed ride - or even a good dark ride, and I'm happy. I still love Peter Pan's Flight.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, you are a fount of knowledge! But what I need to know is: which trains were happier? The ones in Anaheim, or the ones in Orlando? I had no idea that the Florida version of Big Thunder Mountain is almost twice as tall - it must really be impressive.

TokyoMagic!, yes, now that you mention it, I was thinking of those steaming/bubbling pools, but in the photos I’ve seen, they look really neat. Very convincing. As for blogging daily, it can be a grind at times, but I guess I have the kind of personality that thrives on routine. Maybe?

Chuck, I actually dreamed of building a miniature Disneyland when I was a kid, but had not the faintest idea of how to go about it or where to start. Then I would look at Main Street Station (you have to start with that!) and know that I was doomed to fail. And then I would ask my mom for a beer. As for the hobby of model railroading, I think I would have gone for the “as realistic as possible” goal. Nowadays, I’m not sure that’s the best way to go. A little stylization is fun and charming. Perhaps if I had grown up with model trains, things would have turned out differently.

K. Martinez, you have shown me photos of your amazing setups, they are spectacular!

Chuck, I hope that you actually DO start trying to build a model railroad of some kind. Start modestly, and see how it goes. I think you can do a lot with some ingenuity. If you used a piece of 4’ X 8’ plywood as your “landscape”. Would it be going through the country (hills and tunnels)? Or through a more urban scene? You are lucky to have your dad, and to be able to play with trains together!

Sunday Night, shoot, I was going to ask you for pictures, until I got to the last half of your comment! As for coasters, I still enjoy them, but they have upped the ante (so to speak) so much that they really do get my heart beating and my palms sweaty while I’m waiting in line! But I’m with you, a good dark ride can’t be beat.