Monday, July 02, 2018

Monorail Station, The Magic Kingdom - November 1971

I was very excited to see these photos of the Monorail Station at the Magic Kingdom, circa 1971. "Just think how different this must look today!", I exclaimed to the squirrels I was feeding. Did you know that squirrels love stale Lucky Charms? 

After a bit of online Googling, I was surprised to see that (as far as I can tell) the station looks almost exactly the same. It hasn't been "toonified", or doubled in size, or repainted in teal and purple. How is this possible?

The Monorail seems so modern - or even futuristic - and yet the station was built in a style that seems more reflective of a railroad station from the 19th century. I wonder why? 

Even this antique toy train station seems similar!


DBenson said...

Disneyland begins by transitioning you from the modern world into an idealized turn-of-the-century American town; you acclimate to the idea of a fantasy world as you approach the hub leading to more exotic settings.

With the Magic Kingdom they started the process a little earlier, originally forcing everybody to approach via old-fashioned boats and a Monorail that pulled into an old-fashioned station. You left parking and hotels -- the real world -- far behind on the other side of a lake. There's a real sense of moving from one world to another.

Eventually, growing crowds turned it into a bottleneck and it became necessary to have resort buses bypass this approach. But at least guests are still separated from parking lots for a sense of distance.

TokyoMagic! said...

The lady on the far right of the first pic, couldn't decide whether to make her dress chartreuse or forest green, so she split it right down the middle and made it both!

Chuck said...

I remember on the last day of my first visit back in '79, all of the CMs working this Monorail station were wearing gold-painted M1 helmet liners in honor of some sort of Armed Forces appreciation promotion.

steve2wdw said...

The only real difference in the Magic Kingdom monorail station is that boarding takes place on the outer platforms instead of the middle. The platform between the Express and Resort loops is now where all arriving guests to the MK exit the trains. By using the outer walkways for queuing, the two different monorail routes queues were separated AND eventually covered. There is also far more room to hold guests for the arriving trains. The TTC still uses the middle loading platform for Express trains.

JC Shannon said...

The little boy next to the woman in red is wearing...a Coonskin Cap! He has gone rogue and gone for the retro Disney experience. Fess Parker would be proud. TokyoMagic!, I remember that shade of green, trust me, it was a mystery even in the early seventies. Great scans today Major, thank you.

Major Pepperidge said...

Donald Benson, I suppose that makes sense; I wonder how many people even paid any attention to the differing theme of the Monorail station? It might not matter, since a lot of those Disney park transitions are meant to be subtle. It’s a bummer that buses have become such a large part of WDW’s transportation - somehow I don’t think that Walt would have envisioned such a thing. I want to take a Monorail everywhere!

TokyoMagic!, it should have been pink and blue…

Chuck, it’s nice that the CMs were paying tribute to the folks in the military! I’ve never heard of anything quite like that before.

steve2wdw, in the first photo, at the end of the railings in the middle (and near the turnstiles) there is a big green thing. Is that a staircase coming up from below? If so, is it still there? Thanks for your info!

Jonathan, good eye! I did not see that at all. What a great detail.

stu29573 said...

The busses are to the side and their station is themed like the Monorails' so it's not bad at all, actually. When you arrive on the bus, you walk under the Monorail track and the boats dock to your left, so their is still some nice transitioning going on before you get in the gate...

Chuck said...

JC Shannon, Sharp eye on the coonskin cap! I still have mine (bought at the Meadow Trading Post at Fort Wilderness) from that same 1979 trip (although it no longer fits).

steve2wdw said...

Major....I'm not sure what purpose of the "big green thing" is, because we're looking at the back side of it. There may have been a greeter on the other side, as the entrance ramp (and turnstiles) can be seen behind it (see how guests beyond appear at a lower elevation). The whole area is now wide open as everyone exits at this end now. All the central railings and globe light fixtures are also long gone. As the ramp up into this area still has a railing dividing the two sides, I'm sure this "green thing" must have had some signage directing each of the queues in their respective direction. My first visit to WDW was Dec '73 and the loading and unloading at the MK station had already been reversed. This picture was taken from the Resort side of the station, and all those guests on the other side of the railing are waiting for the Express train to the TTC. Currently there are no stairs into the underside of the station as I think it was just backfilled to the trench the beams pass through in the station. A few years ago, emergency stairs were added to each end of the stations so guests wouldn't need to double back "into" the station to head down a ramp to get out quickly. The ramps in this station as well as the TTC arrive at the top of the platform a few cars lengths in from the end of the station.

JC Shannon said...

Chuck, I too had one, I only wish I had hung on to it. Be sure to hang on to yours, the memories only get better as we age.

Melissa said...

Yeah, I've had the same thoughts about the buses, Maj. Walt was all about the fun-type mass transit. The new flying gondolas will be super-cool, but I see buses remaining the heart of on-property transpo.

Back before I stayed on property and got dropped off by the MK gates, I preferred taking the steamboat from the TTC to the MK. It's a really special feeling to see the park get closer over the water. And while the Monorail may have been faster, the queue for the boat usually seemed shorter.

Taking the EPCOT Monorail to Future World, however, feels just right! And the Monorail Hop (or Crawl) - taking the Resort Monorail around to the Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian for meals, drinks, window shopping, general gawkery, and fireworks - is one of my must-dos, especially when Christmas decorations are up.

Not a lot of fashion-watching here, aside from the coonskin cap and color-blocked dress. The blue-green paisley top behind young Davy Crockett and his beautiful blue balloon stands out, but I see women wearing that style today.

Great pictures and memories today! I always enjoy "outside the park" posts.

Matthew said...

Steve2wdw - I never worked at the Magic Kingdom; however, the "big green thing" that you are referring to is actually where the "Transit Authority" operators (Cast Members) would monitor the entire Monorail system. Much like the "Tower" position on Disney roller coasters, these Cast Members were watching monorail movements. I was invited into this area once to see it's operation. Disneyland has a smaller one located near the middle of the train in the Tomorrowland station. This one was much larger as both the trains and routes were much larger.

Great pictures today! Makes me wish I was stepping off a train and into a turn-of-the-century Main Street.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

steve2wdw said...

Matthew.....I didn't realize the tower was in that position....interesting. I believe the "tower" position is at the opposite end now, but after the initial reconfiguration, there may have actually been two positions, one at the head of each line. I'm really foggy on that, but I "think" that's what I remember. That was many brain cells ago! Thanks for the insight

Nanook said...

Although a monorail entrance to the Magic Kingdom is quite exciting, and I have done it often, I’m with Melissa when it comes to taking the steamboat. It’s hard not to love how the water affects everything about the journey. Just ask any firework-!

@ Chuck & JC Shannon-
I still have my coonskin cap - quite-possibly dating from 1956. These versions were ‘constructed’ from real furs, of some sort. (I suspect several rabbits donated their lives for the main portion of the cap). And had it not been for a prior commitment 11 years ago, it might very well be residing at The Walt Disney Family Museum, as opposed to merely residing in my closet. Oh well.

steve2wdw said...

Nanook....As a DVC member whose home resort is Wilderness Lodge, I have the opportunity to arrive at the MK by boat for every visit. I, too, love the water journey. In fact, I even take watercraft if I'm going to Epcot. Boat to the MK, monorail to the TTC and transfer to the monorail to Epcot.

Nanook said...

@ Steve2wdw-
That sounds pretty swell.

Chuck said...

Fort Wilderness is my favorite on-property resort, and a large part of the charm is the water transportation you have to take to get there (yes, there are buses, but why take them when there are boats?). It adds to the illusion of isolation and helps keep the place relaxing (although lugging an SUV stroller onto a launch is a pain in the posterior; if you have little ones, leave the stroller at camp and rent one at the Park).

Amazon Belle, now that you describe what that big green thing is, the memory of walking past it and watching the CMs do their thing just snapped back into the accessible parts of my memory. Thanks!

Melissa said...

I never get tired if the moment in Country Bear Jamboree where Henry sings "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," and when he gets to the refrain his coonskin cap sits up, reveals itself to be an actual raccoon, and starts singing harmony. Comedy gold.

And yeah, Fort Wilderness is my absolute favorite Resort. I've never been able to afford to stay in the lodge or the cabins, and it's too much hassle to cart camping equipment from New York to Florida to stay at the campground, but I love spending time there anyway. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is the best show on property and a great meal, the Circle-D Ranch is great fun, and the campfire singalong with Chip and Dale is the icing on the cake.

DBenson said...

Another subliminal (and likely unintended) aspect of the big boats that has been mentioned elsewhere:

Riding a crowded ferry towards a fantastical skyline can be a metaphor for immigrants arriving in New York. One wonders how many WDW guests recollected some family legend as they eagerly awaited disembarkation at this miniature promised land.

Matthew said...

Boats! I vote boats! Unless you're in a hurry... and the lines are short at the monorails. You can ride a bus in any town... let's have an adventure!

I am envious of you staying over in/near Fort Wilderness. I remember visiting Fort Wilderness Campground on my first visit to Walt Disney World in January, 1988. The one thing I always wanted to do as a kid was ride the Fort Wilderness Railroad ever since seeing a photograph of people in a canoe waving to the engineer as he took the train over a bridge. It was night... and I believe by this time the train had closed permanently. BUT interestingly enough... they were having a "camp fire & family movie night" that night and they were showing (what would become some of the last public screenings of...) Song of the South. I remember thinking how interesting and surreal this all was, watching a film about the south while outdoors in the south.

Melissa - Country Bear, Comedy Gold is right! Got a chuckle out of me almost every time... and I loved (past tense for us Southern Californian's) how Big Al would interrupt... and then the whole gang would joins in.

"Well, he's big around the middle and he's broad across the rump. Runnin' ninety miles an hour takin' forty feet a jump. Ain't never been caught, he ain't never been treed. Some folks say he's a lot like me."

steve2wdw - If my weak memory from visits serve me well, I believe there were two positions... because the trains could move both ways. Really need our friend Mike Cozart to chime in on this one. Not sure what is there now (one or two).

Chuck - I'm glad that spurred/snapped a memory and makes sense to you too.

Always your pal!

TokyoMagic! said...

During a Summer 1973 trip to Disneyland, my grandmother told my brother and me that we could each pick one souvenir and she would buy it for us. My brother chose a coonskin cap from the Indian Trading Post in Bear Country. I know he still has the cap part, which was no longer constructed of real fur at that point. The raccoon tail, which was real, disintegrated many years ago. By the way, for my souvenir, I chose the hard cover "Disneyland" souvenir book, because it was filled with wonderful photos of the park that I could take home and relive my visit over and over.

Melissa, I have also always loved that part of Country Bear Jamboree when Henry's cap (Sammy!) "comes alive."

Major Pepperidge said...

stu29573, I dunno, I don’t hate busses, but when one wants a Monorail, a bus just can’t compare!

Chuck, I have vague memories of a coonskin cap in our house, but have no real knowledge of where it came from. I’m sure there were a million knock-offs produced.

steve2wdw, I noticed that the guests appeared to be lower, and thought that they might be coming up a ramp. I suppose a sign board is as good a guess as any, since (as you said) the “green thing” is gone and there is no trace of where it used to stand. So interesting that they figured out a better way of loading and unloading guests - I would imagine that quite a lot of thought had gone into the original method. Thanks for all of the great info!

Jonathan, one of my memories is that the coonskin cap smelled funny! Maybe we left it out in the rain.

Melissa, I’d like to think that Walt would have had pneumatic tubes for guests, just like in “Futurama”. Although the boats would have been very pleasant, for sure. And I agree, being on the water adds a whole new layer to any experience. You’re right, the fashions aren’t very inspirational here, but I do have other photos from this batch that should be of more interest for retro people-watching. Glad you liked today’s pix!

Matthew, wow, awesome. More wonderful info. That thing doesn’t seem like much of a “tower”. Fascinating.

steve2wdw, your memories are about 500 times clearer than anything I recall from my trips to Disneyland!

Nanook, I have to admit that I would love the boats - even though I always feel like I’m in a hurry, it would be nice to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Especially when there’s fireworks. Wow, too bad your own personal coonskin cap is not on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum!

steve2wdw, oh man, you are doing it right!

Nanook, yessiree.

Chuck, you mean you don’t like the “Pop Century” hotels? They are bright and noisy! I do like the idea of leaving the parks behind for a bit of peace and quiet, and the illusion (as you said) of isolation.

Melissa, I just love “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” in almost any incarnation. Until you mentioned it, I’d forgotten about the live raccoon cap on Henry’s head.

Donald Benson, hmmm, that’s an interesting idea. I agree, it probably isn’t intentional, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful.

Matthew, I agree, boats over busses for sure. But what about Monorails over boats? Talk about Sophie’s choice! Reading all of these comments about WDW sure makes me wish I had been able to see the place in the first 10 or 15 years. The crazy thing is that we lived on the east coast and could have easily gone, but my parents figured that we were making regular trips to California anyway (to see our grandparents), so why not just go to Disneyland? Oh well.

TokyoMagic!, there’s nothing like a disintegrated coonskin cap! I’m sure bugs got at the tail. Yuck! Which hardcover book did you get? Obviously it was before the 25th anniversary book that made such an impression on me.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I think real fur needs to be "treated" with something every so often, or it does fall apart. I recently found an old rabbit's foot of mine from the seventies and it was bald and nasty looking.

The souvenir book that my grandmother bought me was "Walt Disney's Disneyland" with the white cover. I posted a scan of the cover and some of the photos from inside about 7 years ago here: Disneyland - August 1973