Today, we look back on another classic attraction of Disney World's Magic Kingdom which is no longer with us. The Skyway was removed from the Magic Kingdom in 1999 after a maintenance worker was killed from falling off a gondola while working on the ride. One unique aspect of this particular ride was the fact that it wasn’t laid out in a straight line like the majority of other similar sky ride type transportation rides. Magic Kingdom’s Skyway had more of a L-shape with a bend in the middle.
Overview and Layout
The Disney Skyway was an aerial tramway providing a scenic overview of the park and stretched from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland in the center of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Guests boarded at either end for a one-way trip to the opposite station, traveling in gondolas (cabins) suspended from a moving cable. Each cabin could accommodate up to four adult guests. For guests boarding at the Tension Station in Tomorrowland, the cabins traveled along the moving cable across the Grand Prix Raceway, came down at the Transfer Station and made a 116 degree left-hand turn, then climbed and crossed Fantasyland ending their journey at the Drive Station. The Skyway ride system consisted of 50 cabins, which traveled on 3600 feet of steel wire rope.
How it worked
Like all Disney theme park attractions, the ride was closely monitored and controlled by a Ride Control System (RCS). Emergency Stops were provided at each station, and the RCS could also stop the ride based on certain fault conditions. The Skyway actually was designed with an auxiliary backup diesel motor. This was only used to cycle out the ride if the main drive motor became inoperable. The motor powered a hydraulic pump which provided hydraulic pressure to one of two motors: one located at the gear box to be used if the main drive motor was inoperative, and a second one located upstairs at the bullwheel to be used if the gearbox was inoperative. The second motor turned a ring gear mounted on the bullwheel to drive the wheel directly when the gear box was disconnected from the torque tube connecting it to the bull wheel. The main motor drive shaft had a double action brake actuated by weights which clamped the shaft after the motor had stopped to dampen out reactive force from the stop and hold the shaft stationary. When the motor was started, a relay energized a coil which lifted the brake thus releasing it. Electrical power was supplied into the Skyway attraction from Reedy Creek Energy Services and the transformers were located inside the west end of the It's a Small World ride building.
End of an Era
The station in Tomorrowland was destroyed in 2009. Even after the ride closed the Skyway station in Fantasyland stood for many years, but has recently been dismantled as part of the New Fantasyland expansion project (which saw the closure of Snow White's Scary Adventures).