Wildlife Express Train
Early plans for Disney's Animal Kingdom called for a steam engine railway which would have taken guests through the Savannah plains. This idea was modified however, when concerns about the safety of the animals was raised. Instead, Disney decided to create a steam engine that would take guests from the Village of Harambe in the Africa section of the park to Conservation Station. Imagineer George McGinnis came out of retirement to design the locomotives for the attraction. They were designed to give guests the impression that the trains had been traveling through Africa for a hundred years, collecting grime and rust along the way. According to Imagineer Joe Rhode:
We're creating a look for vehicles that would be seen today in Africa and Asia, long after their original use in Europe in the late 1800s
The rail cars and engines themselves were built in 1997 Stratford-on-Avon by the model-railroad firm of Severn Lamb, Ltd., at Alcester, England . Production of the locomotives was overseen by Imagineers Bob Harpur and Joel Fritsche. Finally, on April 22, 1998 the Wildlife Express Train opened with the rest of Disney's Animal Kingdom.
On October 11, 2018, the Wildlife Express Train closed along with the rest of Rafiki's Planet Watch . The attraction reopened on July 11, 2019, with a new narration that showcases the relationship between Walt Disney and nature .
The Wildlife Express Train is a locomotive steam engine that takes guests from the village of Harambe in Africa to Rafiki's Planet Watch and vice versa. The train takes guests on a 1.2 mile circuit, along a narrow path between Africa and Asia . Along the way, guests can get a backstage view of the animal care facilities where the park's animals are kept overnight.
Fun Facts and Trivia
- According to the attraction's backstory, the Wildlife Express Train is a part of the fictional Eastern Star Railway .
- On the way from Rafiki's Planet Watch to Africa, guests can get a glimpse of the backstage behind Asia .
- It takes seven minutes to get from Harambe to Rafiki's Planet Watch, but only five minutes to make the return trip .
- The builder’s plates on the trains say that the engines were built in 1926 by Beyer Peacock of Gorton Foundry, Manchester .
- On top of the trains, red and green bins can be found. These are meant to represent the luggage that passengers have brought aboard the train. The color of the bins is a good way to tell the trains apart .
- The trains used on the Wildlife Express have the serial numbers 02594, 04982 and 00174 .
- The train with the serial number 02594 has been named the R. Baba Harpoor in honor of Imagineer Bob Harpur .