Frontierland Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Train

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fun Facts

Hidden Mickeys

pict from hiddenmickeys.org
  1. There are other Hidden Characters here.
  2. Big Thunder Mountain, built in 1979, is covered with 9.5 acres of painted concrete.
  3. Big Thunder Mountain actually has a storyline to it. The mountain received it's name from an old Indian tale warning that if anyone was to deface this sacred mountain, a huge disaster would occur. The beginning of the ride is to show the natural beauty of the mountain and it's caverns. Yet it becomes pretty obvious that miners have now taken over the once peaceful mountain. The Indians' warning becomes reality when a huge earthquake strikes. The same storyline follows in WDW, with a flood replacing the earthquake.
    REPORTED: Robert 19 FEB 99
  4. In Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I was told that the 2 "Donkey Engines" that are by the queue are from the Disney movie, "Hot Lead and Cold Feet." In that movie they were used in a race.
    REPORTED: Greg 24 SEP 98
  5. According to Disney A to Z by Dave Smith Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland (opening 9/2/79) was designed by Tony Baxter and he was intrigued by the scenery at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, so he designed the first Big Thunder Mountain (Disneyland) to resemble it; the three later ones (WDW, Tokyo and Paris) resemble scenery in Monument Valley.
    REPORTED: Barbara 10 FEB 97 pict from hiddenmickeys.org
  6. The Big Thunder Railroad mountains were inspired by real Thunder Mountain in Sedona Arizona. As you look north toward Gray Back Mountain, Thunder Mountain can be seen in the foreground. Look up Sedona pictures on the internet to confirm.
    REPORTED: anon 12 MAR 01
    The Big Thunder Mountain concept comes from the Disney movie "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" starring John Davidson, set in North Dakota. Much of the music in the que building comes from this movie. The movie deals with family vs. politics during the close presidential race between Grover Clevland and Benjamin Harrison. It will remind you a lot of the Bush vs. Gore election. Big Thunder Mountain was a scene in this classic Disney movie. I haven't found it a video store in a long time, but you may find it at Virgin Records at the Downtown Disney West Side. Neat movie to watch.
    UPDATE: Mark Thompson 09 JUL 01
  7. The beautiful landforms featured in this attraction are modeled after Utah's Brice Canyon's Hoodoos. Hoodoo is an indian word meaning "spellbinding", which they certainly are!
    REPORTED: Pretty Pixie 23 MAY 06
  8. When Big Thunder Mountain was being designed, one of the ideas was sort of like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Guests would board their train car and soon would slowly go up a large hill, then the train would make a sound like the brakes giving away and the train would go plummeting down the hill backwards.
    REPORTED: Trevor Kelly 01 OCT 97
  9. The Mountain that houses Thunder Mountain Railroad is modeled after the granite outcroppings of rock that constitute the "Rock Pile" on Broken Arrow Mountain in Squaw Valley, USA. Walt had a house in Squaw for some time after he did the opening ceremonies for the 1960 Olympics held there, and modeled the bare, rough granite of Thunder Mountain after them.
    REPORTED: Livia Simmons 19 SEP 96
    I would like to state the following as an Update: Walt Died in 1966, at age 65, long before Big Thunder opened in 1979. And I've heard that Big Thunder was 7 or so years in the makeing. That's a while but not long enough for Walt to ever even see the plans. I don't even think that Big Thunder was even on the drawing boards when Walt was alive. So it would have been imposible for him to work on the attraction himself.
    UPDATE: Joey (Future Imagineer) 15 JUN 99
  10. To add atmosphere, the imagineers scoured ghost towns of western states and came up with actual ore carts, cogwheels, buckets, and other authentic mining equipment.
  11. The Big Thunder computer's name is Fred. It is voice activated. The ride is also designed so that anyone stuck on the ride due to power failure isn't stuck in a critical spot, and there are 3 places where the trains can stop normally if in a high-gravity location, and 3 places in low-gravity spots where the trains must be winched manually to a high-gravity position. If it happens that a train is stuck in EACH of the 3 spots, Fred used to say (since removed), "Oh Mr. Bill, we're going to be winching all night," in a very mechanized computer voice.
    REPORTED: Meg 21 APR 01
  12. Big Thunder also has a footprint, complete with toenails, embedded in a rock. After the goat eating dynamite, the train goes into a hard right turn and the rock is on the left.
    REPORTED: Meg 21 APR 01
  13. On Thunder Mountain at Disneyland. They have cameras placed around the track. If you look back you can see them (they are usually on the lift hills) There is on for sure on the overhead woodenstructre that is by the engine thingy. BEWARE, If you look abck and the operator catches you they can yell at you trhough a speaker by the camera. We turned back and we got warned and then we got spoken to again and told we could be thrown out of the park.
    REPORTED: Geoffrey Honda 04 MAR 02
  14. There is a horseshoe above the first part of the "mine" that is entered (the area housing the bat room and the stalagmites and stalactites). This horseshoe is right side up.
    REPORTED: Matt Mendenhall 24 OCT 96
    CONFIRMED: Benjamin Rockwell 03 FEB 97
  15. Above the entrance to the part of the mine where the avalanche occurs, is a horseshoe. It is upside down - According to superstition, this is bad luck!
    REPORTED: Matt Mendenhall 19 SEP 96
    CONFIRMED: Kendra 29 SEP 99
  16. Some of Big Thunder Mountain's rocks are made from real gold ore from Rosamond, CA. The mountain itself is made of tons of steel, cement, and 3000-4000 gallons of paint.
    REPORTED: Meg 29 JUL 96
  17. I have always riden on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad during the day, so I was surprised to find some part time scenery on the ride. Right when the ride begins, you go into a tunnel where you can see red eyes. In the day, your train goes through the dark until it comes to the ramp for the first hill lift. But at night, after you see the eyes, on the side is a blue background with bugs floating around it.
    REPORTED: Perry 04 JUL 01
  18. Before you go down for your first drop, notice the rattle snakes and goat on the right and left, people don't notice them since they are scared of going down for the first time!
    REPORTED: Sam 28 JUN 99
  19. After you climb the hill with the rattlesnakes and you start going down the next hill, there's a shack to your left. On the wooden slat floor are a couple of skunks, standing on their front paws, "mooning" you (their tails are even quivering--the effect is probably them spraying us). This always cracks my husband and me up, and we always yell "skunk butts!" as we go by.
    REPORTED: anon 05 JUL 02
  20. After going up the second hill on Thunder Mountain, there is a spiral-like turn. At the same place there's a goat eating a dynamite stick. Watch the goat all the way through the turn and you'll be propelled towards the side of the car. It's very cool if you can get it to work.
    REPORTED: Sean 15 AUG 99
    CONFIRMED: steven serna 11 FEB 00
    On Big Thunder Mountian Railroad, the "spiral-like" turn is called "the Goat Trick". When my family went last summer, we asked to sit in the back of the train (cause that's the coolest spot on ANY roller coaster), and this hottie Cast member saved the set in front of us. He then got on and told us that we were going to do the "Goat Trick," which is to turn towards and train your eyes onto the goat that's chewing the dynamite. It's cooly mad g-force effects that happen... It's so much fun.
    CONFIRMED: Hannah 15 APR 02
  21. At the top of the first cave, the one that contains the rainbow ponds, there is a waterfall that used to have water falling on either side of the track. In January of 2000 I noticed that the falling water is now a mist. I am bummed, because when we passed this part I used to stick my hand out and throw water from it at the unlucky passenger next to me!
    REPORTED: Dana Frees 16 JUN 00
    When Big Thunder Mountain re-opened in November of 2000, I noticed that the waterfall is back!!! (And so did the poor guy next to me when I splashed it in his face!) Another thing I noticed from the rehab is that the rainbow ponds are now more nicely lighted, and you can see the rainbow dripping effect better!
    UPDATE: Dana Frees 09 JAN 01
  22. The first drop after the second hill is called Monument Valley. During one of the first test on the attraction, the train derailed with a Imagineer on it, causing him to break his toe. So as to a memorial to him, they built one of the mesas into a big foot, with a missing big toe. It's hard to see, while on the attraction itself. But it's on the left, right after you bottom out on that first drop, after the second hill.
    REPORTED: Jonathan Reuel 07 JUN 96
    Now instead of a hidden Mickey being built into this attraction, there is something else that not that many people know about. There is a Foot out there somewhere in the attraction. The foot was produced and shaped by an Imagineer in honor of a co-worker who broke his foot durring the inital testing of Big Thunder Moutnain Railroad
    UPDATE: anon 29 JUL 00
  23. The 'falling rocks' in the earthquake cave appear to have been mortared in place at the bottom position.
    REPORTED: Andrew Lambley 08 JAN 97
    The falling rocks have been replaced gold flowing through the rocks.
    UPDATE: brian 23 MAY 00
    CONFIRMED: adSimba 11 JUL 00
  24. There has been another addition to Big Thunder's avalanche effect within the last few years: a projected shadow of falling rocks and dirt, right where the solid rocks used to "fall". It doesn't appear every time, probably due to intermittent technical difficulties, so don't be too disappointed if this effect is a no-show the next time you ride the train.
    REPORTED: Kellee Richards 26 FEB 02
  25. At the end of the ride, it appears that the train splashes through water. Actually, there is not enough water there to cause the big splash created by the train, and the water is really sprayed out by a couple of pipes under the tracks. You can see the pipes if you are standing in line watching the trains go through the water, as the pipes continue to dribble water until the next train comes along.
    REPORTED: Molly Ellett 11 MAR 97
    CONFIRED: Shawn Richardson 06 APR 97
  26. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the best mine-train coasters in existence, due to its extensive special effects and theming.
  27. The average speed of the train around the track is 23 mph, with a top speed of 35 mph, through the Spiral Butte.
  28. If the train travels too slow/fast through an area it will cause the computers to initiate an Automatic Emergency Stop (AES).  
  29. There really is a Big Thunder Mine. Although the mountain idea came from elsewhere, the mine is in South Dakota, just around the corner from Mount Rushmore.
    REPORTED: Scott M. Leonard 12 MAR 97
  30. A number of animals have been mentioned appearing on this ride, but I have yet to see any mention of the opossums! Right before you enter the cave, atop which the coyotes are howling, there is a dead tree. Hanging from that tree are a number of oppossums hanging from their tails, one of which is swinging around in a full circle!
    REPORTED: Becky Richards 04 SEP 00
  31. As many of you know, the Mouse House has a long standing tradition of "testing" new rides out on the park guests in the weeks and months before the "Official" opening. I was there for some of the first test rides on Big Thunder. Any roller coaster rider has at times sat in the front car and in the back car, and very likely requested to wait for one end or the other. Big Thunder had an oversight regarding how the roof of the train engine tilted back into the area of the first seat of the first passenger car during some parts of the ride. Apparently people had been bonked - producing a sort of thunder?? The result was that on that day no one was allowed to sit in the first seat of the first car. If you look at the Train engine you will note that the roof looks rather stubby - now they are but once they stuck back proportionately like a real train engine (look at the D.R.R. next time). In fact on at least two engines, years ago, you could see what were the apparent seam lines where they removed the excess material to make front seat sitting safe.
    REPORTED: Dan Roberts 08 MAY 98
  32. A Former Cast member and friend of mine told me of the Various and Unexpected Personal belongings found in the most unusual places, one of which is the water ponds below the Tracks of Thunder Mountain Railroad. While cleaning the pond he mentioned finding Purses, Eyeglasses, wallets, coins, hats, keys, and just about anything one could possible loose, including false Eyes!!.
    REPORTED: Eric Martinez 29 JUN 98
    CONFIRMED: name witheld 04 JUL 98
  33. While waiting in line for Big Thunder, I saw a small green lizard sitting on top of some rocks right by the line. It darted away a few seconds later. Don't know if lizards like that are native to that area of California (I wouldn't be surprised), but I thought it was a neat touch.
    REPORTED: Sam Etler 05 JAN 99
    The lizard seen by Sam Etler was probably a blue-belly, a very common species in Southern California. I almost always see one or two of them while in line for Thunder Mountain, which must be very attractive to them because it simulates their natural desert/chaparral habitat but lacks predators.
    CONFIRMED: Kellee Richards 04 FEB 01
  34. While waiting in line (or any where when the train it isn't going to fast), after the train hits down in the splash down pool then hit the brake pad, look at the engine in a green area under where the windows are there are some sayings: like U.R. Daring or U.R. Bold. It's fun to see how many trains are running at one time or just look at them for the fun of it.
    REPORTED: Disneylandwiz 09 JUL 00
  35. I've noticed on Big Thunder Mountain that when you're going up the hill where the boulders are moving on the sides of the walls that if you look up above you can see a train track rail steering off to the right. I was wondering if anyone has ever noticed it and maybe know what it was.
    REPORTED: Melissa 01 FEB 99
    The falling rocks have been replaced gold flowing through the rocks.
    UPDATE: brian 23 MAY 00
    The story goes that in that part of the ride, you're in an earthquake. Normally, if it weren't for the earthquake, you'd continue up higher, through a now blocked off opening. If you turn around when you come out of that lift, there may be tracks on the outside part, too.
    UPDATE: J.J. 12 JUL 00
    There is indeed a spare bit of train track running into the avalanche/gold flow area of the Thunder Mountain ride. I believe it is meant to look as though your train is headed right for the disaster, as you can't see that it is sheared off at first (the part of the train in front of you obstructs your view).
    CONFIRMED: Kellee Richards 04 SEP 00
  36. The names of the trains on Big Thunder Mountain are: U.R. Courageous I.M. Brave I.M. Bold U.R. Fearless I.B. Hearty U.R. Daring
    REPORTED: cwmm 26 OCT 00
  37. Although The Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland closed in the 1970's, my daughter, Erin, and I noticed the following elements of The Mine Train still living on at Disneyland, many of them associated with The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which occupies most of the Mine Train's former site:
    1. Both the attractions used open mine cars pulled by a miniature steam locomotive to carry guests through the attraction, only at much different speeds!
    2. The name "Big Thunder", which originally referred to the falls that thundered down next to the mine train tracks lives on, not only in the name of the roller coaster, but also for a while in the ranch nearby and later the barbecue portion of the ranch.
    3. The Mine Train narrator sounded like an old miner, much like the voice that now warns guests to keep their hands and arms inside Big Thunder's cars.
    4. The little mining town of Rainbow Ridge, which used to greet guests at the boarding/de-boarding area still lives on withlittered with partial dinosaur skeletons. Big Thunder features a large partial dinosaur skeleton near the end of the ride (at the "splash" zone, very evident from the queue).
    5. An old film of a group of dignitaries riding the Mine Train shows a well-dressed lady (Mamie Eisenhower?) holding up her hand in a knee-jerk reaction to the "falling" rocks in "Balancing Rock Canyon". A similar special effect startles guests at the peak of the tracks on Big Thunder today (or at least did until recently).
    6. The Mine Train (opened in 1960) was an expansion of the previous attraction, The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train (opened in 1956), still featuring the caverns. Deep inside Big Thunder Mountain, guests are still treated to a view of a brightly-colored artificial limestone cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites.
    There may be any number of other such similarities, since both featured hundreds of animated animals and scenes evocative of North American ecosystems.
    REPORTED: Sean Catherall 02 MAY 01
  38. The train used for the Rainbow Caverns tour still exists. It can be seen, crashed into a large pile of rocks, from Tom Sawyers Island on the backside of Big Thunder Mountain. There also are numerous other elements used from the site's former atraction.
    REPORTED: Josh Hess 17 FEB 02
  39. When you dip into the dark section of the ride (right at the beginning) yell or scream like you are going down a hill or like your scared and all of the other people on the train will also start screaming. This works 99% of the time. Every once in awhile you will get on a train with a bunch of people who are no fun and they won't yell or scream with you. At least when this happens you are in the dark and nobody sees you. This always works and you should not worry about people not going with it. It has only backfired on me once.
    REPORTED: Anthony Bingham 14 JUN 02
  40. The train from the accident that occured in September 2003 that killed a person and injured ten is still visible from Tom Sawyer's Island and Mark Twain on the opposite bank. They usaully are able to see it with a telescope. People beleive it is haunted from the spirits of Thunder Mountain and from the person who had died in that accident. But I'm not positive because it might of been removed a while back.....
    REPORTED: Ashleyp 09 JUN 06

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Facts and Figures

Fact

Figure

Type

Steel, Mine Train

Designer

Walt Disney Imagineering

Manufacturer

Arrow Development
( now known as Arrow Dynamics )

Year

1979

Length

2,500 feet

Ride Time

3 minutes, 15 seconds

Speed

23 mph (avg), 28 mph (max)

Trains

Five 5-car trains, 6 riders per car


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