Before there was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a roller coaster that hustles about, there was a battery-powered mine train that rolled along in that same stretch of Disneyland, an attraction that its former cast members fondly remember. Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland was the first major attraction added at the park following its summer 1955 opening.
"Walt's choice was, right after Disneyland's first summer, "What do we do next? We'll do a railroad. They're easy to design and build."
The train took guests on a journey through Rainbow Caverns; it eventually was expanded to include a trip through Nature's Wonderland including visits to Beaver Valley, Bear Country and the Painted Desert. The landscape was barren desert with large boulders; there were geysers, a wooden bridge over the water and large bears, one in the water with a fish in it's mouth. The men who worked the attraction as attraction hosts formed a club, the Order of the Red Handkerchiefs. Part of their costumes were red handkerchiefs, worn around the neck, then that costume was changed,and then this red handkerchief were carryed in their pockets. At first, the attraction hosts did live spiels, that was changed to a recording and the attraction hosts would focus on driving the trains.
This was Walt's Disney favorite park attraction: When he brought guests to Disneyland, he would take them to the Golden Horseshoe to watch the live show then have the guests take a mine-train ride.
Disney also used to walk the track to keep an eye on the auto-animatronic animals that populated the attraction.There are still signs of the long-gone attraction. Along the banks of The Rivers of America are some of the original tracks, coming out of two tunnels. Along the trail next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad sits the pond that was home to Bear Country, along with the other side of the two tunnels.
Many of the buildings around the waiting line for Big Thunder are the same ones from the mine Train. That area is still referred to as the town of Rainbow Ridge, like it was for the original Mine Train attraction.
The attraction closed in 1977, because of the attraction's limited capacity and the park's desire for an attraction with more thrills. Also, there was rarely a line for Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland during its last years.
Once a year, cast members gather for dinner and to swap stories about working on the attraction. Because of the cast members dwindling numbers, it now allows anyone who worked on the west side of the park while the Mine train was opened to join. Early next month, in an Anahiem hotel, the stories will fly again.
I remember as a kid, riding this attraction...DR LEE RETIRED, BARTENDER