Although the mine trains on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which seem to have a mind of their own, had already been thrilling guests for a couple months after the attraction’s “soft” launch, Big Thunder had its official grand opening in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on this day in 1980.
Although Disney’s Imagineers can move mountains, quite literally, it’s no small task. While the final attraction takes place in the gold rush era long before computers existed, the latest in the computer technology of the time was used in the construction. A 16X20 foot model was constructed and then sliced into one-foot square sections that were then computer analyzed. A computer-guided machine then bent the steel rods that formed the framework of the rocks, reproducing the model on a much larger scale.
Materials used in the actual construction of the attraction included 6,500 tons of steel beams, rods and mesh, 4,675 tons of cement and sand, 90,000 gallons of water, and 4,000 gallons of paint. To add an authentic touch to the surroundings, actual mining artifacts were acquired from private collections and defunct mines. That’s just a few facts of what went into creating the wildest ride in the wilderness!