E - Headliner/Super Headliner
40 inches (102 cm)
For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure.
Supervise children at all times.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a runaway mine train ride (that's Disney speak for a roller coaster) through the old mining town of Tumbleweed. Guests board the long train where they're warned to, "hang on to them hat's and glasses because this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!"
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a high speed, roller coaster-type ride that includes sharp turns, and sudden drops and stops.
Located over the bridge in Frontierland and next to Splash Mountain
Times Guide – Opening/Closing
This attraction opens with the park.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the mid to high range demand Fastpass+ reservations in the park. Same day availability typically exists, but will run our earlier than other attractions. Guests can save a considerable amount of time using Fastpass+ at this location.
Before you Ride
While the attraction is self described as "The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness" it is relatively tame by my modern roller coaster standards.
The ride seems substantially slower if you're in the front of the train because the entire train has to reach the top of the lift hills before gravity takes over and the train picks up speed.
There is no middle divider in the seats so guests are likely to slide around on the tight corners.
The main queue offers visuals of the heavily themed attraction. Most of the queue is covered switchbacks, but there is a winding path that leads up to these switchbacks that features western props and cacti.
In March 2013, the queue was upgraded to include many interactive features. Plungers and dials along the outside portion of the queue will trigger on ride effects like blasts of "smoke" eminating from newly installed features. Tributes to the never built Western River Expedition also appear in the form of a crate labeled "Western River Explosives".
If guests want to view activity down in the mines, they can do so by looking into the Subterrascope. They can also activate the appearance of canaries at various points along the queue.
30-45 Guests per train. Each train has 5 cars, each car has 3 rows, each row can fit 2 or 3 guests.
While not overtly stated, the attraction has a detailed backstory that stems from the ride's creation in the halls of Imagineering. The backstory as explained by author and blogger Kevin Yee is as follows:
As the attraction was plotted on storyboards a story developed. Greedy prospectors were plundering the hills of Big Thunder, once sacred Indian ground, for their gold. Indian legend warned of a great disaster that would befall anyone who disturbed the mountain. One night the miners set out on the train down into the deep mines of the mountain. Here, Indian spirits took control of the mine train and set it out of control down the mountain, and the miners were never seen again. Later a great earthquake would destroy much of the mine and as more disasters occurred the frightened miners fled from Big Thunder leaving only a handful of residents and of course the legend of Big Thunder.
The explanation points to a now dormant effect where one of the lifthills featured shaking and falling rocks to simulate an earthquake. The newly penned "enhanced" backstory was featured on the Disney Parks Blog on November 19th, 2012.
“Barnabas T. Bullion is the founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The longtime mining magnate comes from a powerful East Coast family and considers gold to be his very birthright by virtue of his oddly appropriate name; in fact, he considers the ultimate gold strike to be his destiny. And that is why he is having so much trouble with Big Thunder Mountain. According to superstitious locals, Big Thunder Mountain is very protective of the gold it holds within, and the unfortunate soul who attempts to mine its riches is destined to fail. And so far that prophecy is coming to pass. The mine has been plagued by mysterious forces and natural disasters ever since. And yet the Big Thunder Mining Co. is still in operation. In fact, Bullion is discovering new veins of gold and digging new shafts every day, offering a closer look at the Big Thunder mining operation than ever before. But a word to the wise for anyone attempting to visit the mountain: watch out for runaway trains.”
As for the attraction itself, the train takes off into a dark cave where bats hang from the ceiling. The noise can be defining in this cave and then the room opens up to reveal stalactites and stalagmites surrounding the track on the first lift hill. The track goes beneath a water element before making the first drop down into the main section of the ride.
On the descent guests can see the rivers of America over the top of the rocks before turning left down into the canyon. A 180 degree right turn leads guests underneath another section of track before a right turn through a tunnel and into the flooded town. Guests can see possums on a tree, a man floating away in a bathtub and more.
The train enters another tunnel dubbed "Dave V. Jones Mine" and then turns left outside of the tunnel up another lift hill. This gives the rider the best views of the tallest structures of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, before turning left back down into the canyon. Sitting on the rocks along the descent are multiple goats, and the train crosses back under the lift hill, makes a full 360 degree left turn, before turning right into another cave/lift hill. It was in this cave where guests used to encounter an earthquake.
After this scene the train travels back out along the banks of the Rivers of America where they would formerly see one of the cabins on Tom Sawyer's Island on fire. As the train approaches the break run it passes underneath a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and through a series of geysers before approaching the station.
This is a tamer version of Expedition Everest. The thrills in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are closer to The Great Goofini than they are to Expedition Everest. The theming is more thorough than Expedition Everest.
The below video is used with permission from the YouTube channel Virtual Disney World. These videos allow users to manipulate the camera a full 360 degrees using their cursor or directional arrows on their computer. Users on a smartphone or tablet can also manipulate the camera by moving their device in the direction they wish to look.
The below video is used with permission from the YouTube channel SoCal Attractions 360. These videos are in 4K or 1080p resolution for peak quality.
4485 Caribbean Way
- Original Ride Engineer (Imagineering): Bill Watkins
- Interactive Queue Project Manager: Wyatt Winter
- Interactive Queue Creative Designer: Peter Carsillo