Each and every time I step through the Main Gates of Disneyland®, I am immediately transported back in time. With the beautiful floral Mickey Mouse waiting there to greet me, and the iconic Disneyland® Railroad right above it, I can feel the presence of what life must have been like for Walt Disney himself in an era of days gone by. One of the most magical ways to fully take in all the history that Disneyland® has to offer is to step aboard the Disneyland® Railroad and take the journey around the Park. Here’s an Disneyland® insider tip-you can not only ride the train, but if you’re very lucky, you can experience it from inside the Lilly Belle, the Presidential Parlor Car.
Our love affair with riding in this special car first came during a summer visit to Disneyland® during the Year of a Million Dreams Celebration. A simple pin trade with a wonderful Cast Member led into a week of dreams come true for our family. Each morning Josie would call bright and early with a place to meet up with her for our Dream of the Day and it was one of those daily wishes that found us inside The Lilly Belle.
From the moment you enter this most magical of cars, you can feel the history all around you. Attached to the end of the Disneyland® Train C.K. Holiday, The Lilly Belle was named after Walt’s wife, Lillian, who also helped to decorate the car.
As we quickly learned, The Lilly Belle was not just any car that was redecorated but one of the original cars from Disneyland’s opening back in 1955. Back then, of course, it was not as lavishly decorated as it is today. In 1974, Disneyland Transportation Superintendent Ken Kohler realized the need to have a special train car where VIP guests and associates could be given tours of the park in a private, secure setting within two years the observation car ‘Grand Canyon’ was carefully transformed into the Disneyland® Railroad Presidential Parlor Car.
Numerous family photos and select memorabilia were placed within the car and little has changed from that day. The Year of a Million Dreams promotions have come and gone but you can still ride inside this traveling piece of Disneyland® history. Like piloting the Mark Twain, riding in the Lilly Belle has been up until now, free for the asking. Upon arrival at Disneyland®, simply head to the Main Street Train Station and ask any of the Railroad Cast Members if there are available reservations for the day. The Cast Member will give you a time to return as well as a wonderful souvenir ticket to keep. You should allow 20-30 minutes for your trip around the Park. It’s important to note that The Lilly Belle is not added on every day and over the last few months I have heard it may no longer be available to the general public but it may now be a part of Walk In Walt’s Footsteps Tour as well as still being available to Club 33 members.
Another fun way to ride the Disneyland® Railroad is from the front of the train in the tender car, which is located just behind the steam engine’s cab. Most of the Disneyland® Railroad trains now have a cushioned seat in the front part of the tender that easily fits two adults or and adult and a child. Not only does riding in the tender car offer great views, but it gives you a chance to talk to the engineer and fireman and you take your journey around the Park. Make sure you arrive first thing in the morning to check with the Railroad Cast Member about availability for the day and they will check with the engineer to check to see if a ride is offered on the next trip. Sometimes it can be a 20-40 minute wait, but the wait will be worth the memories you will make. Now that you’ve ridden aboard The Disneyland Railroad, coming up next we will show how to hitch a ride on the Monorail –riding up front of course!