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Taking a close-up view of the parks
Mark Twain Pilot House
Text and photos by Karl Buiter, contributing editor
On most days of the week, visitors to Disneyland's Frontierland can take a quiet river ride on Disneyland's paddlewheeler - the Mark Twain. From Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955, the Twain has taken visitors around Tom Sawyer's Island along the Rivers of America - passing New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and into America's deep frontier.
While the Twain's three main decks provide unique views, not many know they can visit the Pilot House of the Mark Twain for a wonderful 360 degree view. All it takes is a knock on the door located on the third deck, or a kindly shout up to the Twain's pilot to ask permission to go upstairs. Space is usually limited to one small party and is absolutely at the discretion of the cast members.
The "Pilot" cast member stationed in the Pilot House is responsible as lookout and operator of the show elements. Always on the lookout for canoes, rafts, and the Columbia, he can signal with the horn or signal to the operating engineer below when to slow down or stop. The music and pre-recorded spiel are controlled on a switchbox to the left.
To signal the departure and arrival of the Twain, along with various signals to other river craft on the Rivers of America, a horn and bell system is controlled by pull strings on the right side of the cabin. With a little luck, the cast member may invite you to pull the horn cord for two long blows as the Twain enters the wilderness.
Just above the wheel, a handle controls the high intensity rooftop spotlight used for nighttime excursions. While rare these days with the nightly Fantasmic show, it is sometimes possible to ride the Twain into the dark twilight, especially on shorter winter days.
An operating engineer from the Roundhouse complex operates the Twain's steam-powered paddlewheel system from the lower deck. Near the front, a boiler continuously heats water into steam at pressure. Steam is then routed back to two pistons which turn the physical paddlewheel. Spent exhaust is then routed back to the boiler.
The operating engineer controls the speed and direction of the Twain through a Johnson Bar and a steam intake valve located on the pipes above. The Johnson Bar is connected to the pistons located on both sides of the ship. A set of automated controls maintains a preset pressure in the boiler.
Construction, Opening Day and Joe's Ditch
Jason Schultz, keeper of Magic Kingdom Chronicles here on MousePlanet, provides us a historical background on the Twain:
Spring 1999 saw a long overdue rehab of the Mark Twain. During this stretch of time, all the decks and the boiler were replaced over a several month stretch. By July, the Twain was ready to once again cruise the Rivers of America.
End of the Cruise
You sign the Guest Book, take one last turn on the horn and bells, and thank the Pilot. Your trip on the Rivers of America comes to an end as the Mark Twain once again returns to the Frontierland Dock.
One of the founding members of MousePlanet, Inc., Karl Buiter is now a contributing writer. He lives in Las Vegas, NV, and is a software developer with an interest in monorails.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Karl here.
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