|The Original Frontierland Railroad Station
1972 – 1990
“Board an old-fashioned steam train and ride round-trip or disembark on Main Street USA”
Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World, 1978
Original Frontierland Railroad Station
Extinct Attraction Component
Frontierland, Magic Kingdom
Opened: c. May 1972
Closed: November 1990
Contributing Disney Personnel:
New Orleans Square Depot
Space Later Became:
Part of Splash Mountain site
Water tower moved north to second Frontierland station
Influences evident in:
Photos courtesy Robert Boyd, Steve Burns, Bill Cotter, Disnehpix and “Uncle Bob” from Flikr.
All images copyright The Walt Disney Company.
Text copyright 2009
Last Update to this page: April 25, 2009
For the first eight months or so after the Magic Kingdom’s opening, the Walt Disney World Railroad had only one station serving park guests. During that time, a “grand circle trip” was mandatory unless you jumped off the train when no one else was looking. Having parted with a D ticket to board, most guests preferred to stay put. As they rode along the edge of Frontierland, riders passed by a wooden shack and water tower that marked the future location of the line’s next depot.
Right around May 1972, the Frontierland Railroad Station opened a few feet northwest of the Pecos Bill Cafe. It marked the westernmost point of Frontierland for nearly nineteen years, stealthily weathering extensive development in the surrounding vicinity. It also provided the only alternate point for boarding or disembarking the trains until 1988, when a third station opened in what was then called Mickey’s Birthdayland, now Mickey’s Toontown Fair.
The old Frontierland station was a tiny building with toy-like features – most notably the gingerbread molding on its rooflines and scrolled woodwork on its facade. Most guests accessed the station by ascending steps that raised them about five feet above Frontierland street level. Wheelchair guests entered along a winding exit pathway connecting with the north end of the structure. The building’s interior consisted of a single open-air room in which a short series of benches accommodated guests waiting for the next train. A set of posters on the walls perpetually denoted that the service was “on schedule.” Plenty of hatchets and red water barrels marked “Fire Only” were on hand in the event of incendiary outbursts.
A covered loading platform extended south of the station toward Caribbean Plaza. The train approached the station from the tunnel built into the berm that segments the two Pirates of the Caribbean show buildings. That was the true western end of the Kingdom’s guest areas. Guests waiting for the train may have wondered what lurked beyond the climbing pines on the hill. The reality was probably not in keeping with anyone’s suppositions, as the other side was the collection and incineration point for the park’s vacuum-operated (AVAC) trash system.
The grassy area in front of the train station was the first setting for the Frontierland Stunt Mens’ robbery and gunfight exposition. This brief show revolved around the Frontierland marshall’s apprehension of Cactus Jack Slade and his thieving lackeys after they robbed the depot’s safe. After some fist pounding, knife slashing and rifle blasting, the marshall triumphed over the bad guys and recovered the money. This summer season spectacle began in the mid-1980s. By the summer of 1988 the show had moved down the street, where it was staged in front of the Trading Post and Country Bear Jamboree. That migration allowed for the execution of fight scenes on the rooftops. The final showdowns took place in 1994.
Just north of the railroad station was a vast expanse of grass sandwiched between the train tracks and the Rivers of America. This land, dotted with pine trees and a few totem poles, was for several years the intended location of the
Western River Expedition. When plans for that attraction fell through, the northern part of the land became the site for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which opened in 1980. The grassy plain between Thunder Mountain and the Frontierland station remained untouched for a seeming eternity. Its sole functioning occupant was the twisting roadway that allowed the Kingdom’s parades an exit from the park.
That new station, incidentally, was built directly over the portion of grassland that contained the parade’s old exit road. The new parade exit route was relocated south, directly through the center of what used to be the old station. In all probability, that means absolutely nothing. More meaning could perhaps be found in the company’s positioning of Splash Mountain itself, which is something of a southeastern U.S. red clay monster, between the Pecos Bill Cafe and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, both part of a once thematically unified vista depicting the southwestern U.S. And if you ever thought, as I did, that the original Frontierland station felt more like Kansas than something further west … below is a photo of a Claremont, California depot from 1906, which is a mere 30 miles east of Glendale. I don’t know if it was the inspiration for WDW’s station or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. A train full of cowboys and Indians pulling into town and dancing on Splash Mountain to Burt Bacharach songs would surprise me.