Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

by josh on May 14, 2010

Opened: September 23, 1980

Location: In the very back of Frontierland near Splash Mountain

Extra Magic Hours: Evening

FastPass+: Yes – high priority. Consider using one of your three pre-selected FastPass+ or secure as a 4th or 5th at a kiosk as soon as possible.

Type: Roller coaster

Similar To: A tamer Expedition Everest

Requirements: Must be 40” or taller to ride

Scary Factor: Medium.  Big Thunder Mountain is tame for a roller coaster by just about any definition, but it still moves forward with a maximum speed of about 30 miles per hour.  There are no corkscrews, inversions, or significant drops.  If you adamantly “hate” roller coasters then this probably won’t be for you, but anyone who enjoys Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, or any similar roller coaster will enjoy Thunder Mountain.  If Expedition Everest is a 7/10 on the intensity scale then Big Thunder Mountain is about a 4, if that.

What to Expect: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s queue is long and winding, though interactive elements help reduce boredom during longer waits.  The ride is themed like you’re on a runaway train as it careens down Thunder Mountain without a conductor or crew.  Each train has five cars that can seat up to three people in each of its three rows, for a maximum of 45 people per train.  Most rows usually seat one or two people.  The emphasis is on the scenery and theme rather than exciting drops or turns.  Pay attention to the authentic mining equipment strewn throughout the ride and the 20 animatronic animals.  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a good “beginner’s coaster” for people who aren’t sure what they can handle.  If this is too much for you, then you probably want to stay away from Disney’s other coasters.  If you thoroughly enjoy it, then you should enjoy Space Mountain and be ready to try Expedition Everest and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.

Where to Sit: Request the front if you’re looking for a tamer ride or the back for the most exciting ride.

When To Go: Visit before 10:15am, in the final two hours of operation, or use FastPass+.

Expect to Wait: Before 10:00am, wait times are usually less than ten minutes.  After that, waits will build to peak levels of 40 to 60 minutes between 11:30am – 7pm, before dropping again in the late evening.

Length: 3 minutes 30 seconds

Rating: 9/10

Commentary: While not really a thrill ride compared to coasters at Six Flags or Universal Studios, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of Disney’s best-themed rides and a real treat for anyone who appreciates Disney magic.  On the other hand, it may be a bit of a letdown for diehard “thrill junkies” due to relatively slow speeds and a lack of significant drops.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Don January 23, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Since it is a train and all of the cars are connected, I’m curious how it is that the car in the back is going faster than the car in the front?


Kelsey September 10, 2014 at 5:43 am

Don – it has to do with the length of the train compared to the length of the hills/drops. The hills are very short, and the train is very long. So, the front car is already at the bottom of the drop while the back car is still “climbing” the hill. Since the climbing mechanism will still be holding onto the back car until it tops the hill, the front car doesn’t get a chance to “drop” like the back car will – it kind of crawls down the drops.


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