Friday, July 06, 2018

80s Flashback: Big Thunder Mountain

Let's journey back to the 80's, when MTV actually played music videos and I was enjoying the virtually stress-free existence of college. While the image quality of some of these photos is not the best, I think the content more than makes up for the scratches, fingerprints, tears, and water stains that plagued the set of negatives I scanned for this series of vintage Disneyland images. First one up is an interior of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction. I don't know the actual year of these photos, but I am guessing it is somewhere around 1983 after the Fantasyland remodel.

How would YOU like to be able to walk along the tracks of this attraction?

I know absolutely nothing about the origin of these shots, but can fairly safely assume they were shot by an employee. Who else would be able to do a walk-through AND be interested in a shot of a drain?

Maybe one of my readers will recognize the people in the shots?

That's a lot of keys! I can only imagine the magical places at Disneyland that those might open!

Stay tuned for more 80's photos!

See more Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain photos at my main website..

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Anonymous said...

To this day, I still miss the old Mine Train! KS

Matthew said...

Hi Dave,

The gentleman with all the keys is the Working Lead that morning. His name is Mark (I'm checking with my friend Chris "mind like a steel trap" Lamberth to get his last name). Mark was still working Big Thunder when I started there in 1986. This is a morning track inspection and the gentleman and woman with him may be from WED. I will write more shortly to explain what you are looking at.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Matthew said...

Mark Friedrich! Thank you Chris. The gentleman whose back is to the camera carrying a lot of keys that open magical places is none other than Mark Friedrich! More to come... and Chris if you are reading this... please feel free to chime in.

Always your pal!

Matthew said...

Hello again Dave and all you wonderful Daveland readers! Well... in case anyone was stuck waiting for me to place more detail around these photos (I seriously doubt that), here it is. I typed this all up and blog spot said I said, "too much" by someting like 1,400 something characters... so I'm going to have to break this post up perhaps just one or two images at a time. Hopefully this won't bore to many of you.

Slide #1: Here You can see the show lighting at the top left that would illuminate the waterfall at the top of "Lift-A" or "A-Lift" or just the first hill past the bat cave. I cannot identify the man or woman with Mark that morning; however, to the immediate left of the woman you can see what appears to be a small cave (between the gap in the railings). In this location you would find an intercom and a panel with a series of buttons that would allow you to start the chain on A-Lift. Interesting fact is there is a door here that connects the top of A-Lift to the top of C-Lift (third hill). You can also see a silver chain hanging down and that was used to hold the door open. Speaking of the chain... you can see it in the trench between the track rails (right side). The other piece that looks like a chain is actually the anti-roll back. The bright white lights above the woman are actually the work lights that were on for track inspections and evacuations (basically when the ride wasn't operating). Those lights illuminate the stairway. Way too much detail... moving on.

Next slide please.

Matthew said...

Slide #2: You are now at the base of "B-Lift" (or "Lift-B" for those playing the home game). The approach has the chain on the right side and then transitioned to chain on the left once on the hill. Notice again the anti roll back mechanism.

The winch house (structure with the rope spool near top) you can see the camera near the top of the roof mounted between two vertical boards.

The engine you see here to the right side of frame is a "Donkey Engine" and was one of the many proud findings by Imagineer Pat Burke (whose name we all know is on the suspended box in the queue). See more about Pat over at Disney and More I had the pleasure of speaking with Pat on more than one occasion about the pieces of mining equipment on Big Thunder. He was wonderful!

the Donkey engine does not actually pull the trains up the hill but is still a lovely show effect. Speakers are hidden in a box and a "smoke" effect was used at the top to give the appearance that it was working.

Next slide please.

Matthew said...

Slide #3: Again more of some of the Imagineers findings out in the desert. Cog wheels and an old gold ore bucket. The electrical outlet on the backside of the timber powers a work light over the center of the track.

Slide 4, Mark and an unknown gentleman walking down from the top of B-Lift. Note that the dynamite shack with the skunks would be behind you and the goat would be to your right. You can also see the rope netting to prevent anyone walking this turn from falling to the tracks below. The track turn you see bottom left corner is headed toward the opossum tree (I can't see any of the opossums though).

Next slide please.

Matthew said...

Slide #5: You are now looking at the bottom of the second turn in "Spiral Butte." Above the wooden pulls in the ground you can see the exit from the "Snow Shed." This is the approach to B-Lift in slide 2. B-lift is just outside the cave on your left. The second rail there was to help keep the train on the track as you are picking up some serious speed here. Next slide please.

Slid #6, is a drain... next slide please. Oh... I should say something about that drain. I'm not quite sure but this drain may have been either near the top of B-Lift near the dynamite shack or at the base of "Spiral Butte." Don't ask me why... it just seems a little out of place here.

Next slide.

Matthew said...

Slide #7: "Hippity-Hop." this is when the train comes out of Spiral Butte up a hill at great speed and then back down into another cave/cavern (notice the two tracks in the center of the track to keep the train from jumping the track). Looking through that cave you can see the Safety 2 (The larger safety breaks that would stop the train from approaching the Lift-C should there be an Emergency stop (bringing the trains to pre-programmed stopping points on the ride (tops of each lift and in the station) or a "Power Stop" which would stop all the trains on the nearest lift or breaking area (like Safety 2). You can also see they just cut down the willow trees on the left side of the track and the leaves and landscaping rake are visible on the right. You may have some very early 80's pictures as the Park may be closed (Disneyland used to close on Monday's during the winter to do large scale work).

Slide #8: Here you can see Safety 2 breaks in the bottom right of the picture between the tracks. Also, some more beautiful mining equipment and a show scene preparing you for Lift-C where the earthquake and cave-in sequence (now dynamite blast) occurs.

Final slide please.

Matthew said...

Slide #9, Welcome back to the station, Main Side (Spur side is closest to the guests). Notice again the wiring going down into the track. Judging by shadows we are still kinda in the morning I think.

Things of notice are the large linear induction motors (the things with the wheels on the front of them) that push the train forward when the break (between the two motors) is released. These linear induction motors are what are used to move the WEDWay Peoplemover in Florida. This was a change from the catapult launch system used on Space Mountain and are quite... compared to all the air compression you hear in the station on Space Mountain.

Finally, Mark Freidrich was an amazing Working Lead and had a lot of knowledge about how that attraction operated. Some felt he wasn't always the easiest to get along with (probably because he was quiet spoken), but I remember he was very well respected by myself, many other Cast Members, and Supervision. AND YES... those keys do open some magical places on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But those are stories for another day.

Thanks for allowing me to bore you with random facts and semi useless information. Please exit out to your right and watch your step.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle