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"Glide on a Scenic Journey High Over the Magic Kingdom"
The Magic Kingdom Skyway between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland was an opening day attraction. Guests could take a one-way journey from one station to the other. Guests boarded the Skyway buckets through a small door on the outer-side. Bucket could accommodate 4 guests. Upon entering each station the Skyway's buckets were lifted off the ride cable on to a u shaped track which allowed the buckets to stop and unload guests. Then the buckets were pushed around the station's u-turn by a cast member and, after being re-loaded, a cast member pushed them forward out of the station and back onto the cable.
The most unique part of the Magic Kingdom Skyway journey was a 100 degree turn, out in the middle of the Tomorrowland Speedway where there was a large platform 10-15 feet off the ground, with several supports, pulleys and tracks. To achieve the turn buckets entered the platform on one cable, were lifted off their approaching cable, went around the corner on a track and were then placed on another cable traveling on in the new direction. The video shows station loading, the rides turn, and a complete ride from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland.
The Magic Kingdom Skyway closed in November 1999. An official reason for closure was never given by Disney, but some good speculation would include: low guest capacity, the high number of cast members necessary, older equipment needing upkeep, all of which are not cost effective. After closing, the Tomorrowland station sat unused--except for its ground floor bathrooms--until it was demolished in 2009. The Fantasyland Station Swiss Chalet also remained empty, but part of the queue was used for stroller parking, until 2012 when it was also torn down. The old Fantasyland Station area is now under construction and said become home to new Fantasyland bathrooms--Ooooo--and a Tangled themed area.
How did a skyway attraction make its way into Disney Parks in the first place? Walt had heard of a company in Switzerland that was set to start manufacturing a new transportation system using ropes and pulleys. Walt invisioned an everyday application of such a transportations system. He thought a practicle application would be use it in large parking lots and shopping centers. So Walt added this 'Transportation of the Future' to Disneyland in June 1956, one year after opening. It was built by Von Roll, Ltd. based in Bern, Switzerland, and was the first Von Roll Type 101 aerial ropeway in the USA.
The Disneyland Skyway also had a unique feature. A few years after the Skyway's installation construction began on Matterhorn Mountain. The Matterhorn was to built right in the path of the Skyway and so when construction got underway, the mountain was built around the Skyway. The Skyway was never closed during construction and upon the mountains completion the Skyway went straight through two openings in the mountain.
When Disneyland's Skyway closed in November 1994 it was said that a weak structural beam for the Skyway, inside the Matterhorn, was one cause. However and article in the L.A. Times, by Ken Ellingwood said, "But Disney officials said the Skyway’s safety has never been a problem, and its closure was simply a matter of popularity and work force needs. Demand for the ride has fallen off and the 10 workers who staff it will be needed to tend an 'Indiana Jones' ride scheduled to open in February. The closing of the Skyway mirrors the closing of 'Mission to Mars' and the 'Motorboat Cruise' last year following the opening of 'Mickey’s Toontown,' said Scott Swan, a park spokesman. "It’s an evolving change. You look at one attraction and say, "'Its time has come,'" Swan said. "As people have grown up and have memories of the Skyway, there will be a new generation that will grow up and have memories of Indiana Jones.""
During the Fantasyland renovation at Disneyland in the mid-1980s, the Skyway made only roundtrips from Tomorrowland. At Disneyland, the Fantasyland Skyway station remains but is off limits to guests and completely empty (no machinery), and the Tomorrowland Skyway station has been demolished. The holes in the Matterhorn were filled in and the Skyway supports were dismantled within weeks of closing.
Tokyo Disneyland also had a Skyway attraction that opened with park April 15, 1983. It was closed in 1998 and the Fantasyland station torn down to make room for Pooh's Hunny Hunt. The Tomorrowland station became a candy store.
(Pics counter-clockwise from top right: Unused Fantasyland Station, Fantasyland c. 1970's, View of Skyway from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride, Tomorrowland Station, Skyway through Matterhorn.)