It’s the busiest time of year at Walt Disney World and crowds have surged in recent weeks. Lines have been astronomical. To put it in perspective, I judge crowd levels by whether Magic Kingdom’s PeopleMover has a line or not– it saw waits of over an hour this week!
This holiday season looked a lot like a pre- pandemic Christmas at Disney Parks. No one wants to wait in line all day and heavy crowds can cause tempers to flare. This presented Disney with a big problem: what to do with everyone?
While the crowds mostly are back to pre-pandemic levels and the Parks are getting there they still aren’t 100%. There just isn’t as many ways to disperse people as there used to be. With the rise in poor Guest behavior, this creates something of a powder keg for Disney. They had to find a way to keep people busy. Luckily they had a high capacity ace up their sleeve! The Walt Disney World Railroad has been closed for more than 4 years but Disney has finally reopened it to the public, just in time to absorb Christmas and New Year’s crowds!
The extended closure of the Railroad has become a problem in recent times because not only is the train nostalgic (hardcore Disney fans will wax poetically about how important trains were to Walt Disney), but it also happens to be one of the highest capacity rides at Magic Kingdom. The train can carry an impressive 3,000 people per hour! Other rides, such as Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world”, and Pirates of the Caribbean come close (at roughly 2700 people per hour respectively) however, despite the close capacity numbers, the train is the clear winner in terms of crowd distribution. To ride around the entire park takes 20 minutes which keeps guests occupied longer. Guests who are occupied are happy Guests. The second longest high capacity ride at Magic Kingdom is “it’s a small world” which clocks in at just over 13 minutes making the train a much more efficient way to reduce crowd size.
You might be thinking “But wait, you don’t HAVE to ride the train around the entire Park! You can get off at any station.” You’re right, but “consider this [not so] dismaying observation,” if Guests are being moved through the Park on the train, then they aren’t clogging up walkways and clumping in the same areas. The train can easily send Guests all over the Park which reduces crowding as people tend to walk in packs.
Opening the train for the holiday season was a win for Guests and a genius move on Disney’s part. No, it wasn’t a cure all. Crowds were still insane, but think of how much worse they’d have been without it! The timing couldn’t have been better for this beloved ride’s long awaited return.