Like ancient Rome or New York City, Disneyland its built on its own ruins.
Working with only 160 acres of very prime real estate, Disneyland Imagineers have removed old attractions to build new ones.
But some of Disneyland’s ruins can still be seen.
Once upon a time, beginning in 1956, Disneyland hosted an attraction called Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland.
Located in Frontierland, the mine train ride began life as the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, traveling into the glowing cave formations inside Rainbow Mountain.
Once a Disneyland “D ticket” that cost 50 cents, the highest price for any ride at the time, the train shared the desert with the Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules, Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches, and Conestoga Wagons, all powered by real horses and mules.
The Living Desert scenery was redone in 1960 to become Nature’s Wonderland. The Mine Train also was upgraded and continued service along with Pack Mules through Nature’s Wonderland.
The train departed from the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge, passed under a waterfall of Cascade Peak, through a tunnel into Bear Country and then through the Living Desert, past cacti, geyser paint pots and tipping rocks.
In 1973 Nature’s Wonderland was mostly removed to make way for new attractions. The mine train kept on its run until 1977. Cascade Peak, once a near rival to the Matterhorn Mountain, remained until 1998 when it was demolished due to lack of structural integrity from years of wear by its Big Thunder waterfall into the Rivers of America,
The Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland was replaced by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a roller coaster thrill-ride version of its slower and more sedate predecessor.
Presaged by the mild danger of a rickety trestle crossed by the old mine train ride, Big Thunder simulates an out-of-control mine train plunging through mine shafts and desert wilderness, complete with dinosaur bones.
The Nature’s Wonderland area also was paved over to create the Big Thunder Ranch, a show stage, barbeque and sometimes petting zoo.
But remnants of the old Mine Train ride can still be seen.
For a time, on a section of track near where Cascade Peak once stood, a locomotive and two mine cars were staged as a train wreck, removed in 2010 when Rivers of America was refurbished.
Still visible along Thunder Mountain Trail are the Mine Train tunnel that once entered Bear Country, the Bear Country river (now a pond) with animatronic jumping fish, the buttes from the Living Desert. The tunnel into Rainbow Caverns is now boarded up and half buried in concrete. Some of the mechanical animals were buried in concrete.
Some buildings from the town of Rainbow Ridge, along with Living Desert animatronic animals, still remain as scenery for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The voice of the original conductor of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland can still be heard offering directions to Thunder Mountain victims, er, passengers.
The original mine train is gone but you can still experience the narration and photos from Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland.
See an astounding collection of historical photos of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland.
Even as you seek out its ruins, enjoy Disneyland today. For it is a production, a show, designed to entertain and destined to change, at least as long as the Imagineers can dream.
Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”