There are numerous inside jokes and tributes in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but let’s focus on just one of them today. It has layers like an onion!
Have a look at this image:
This can be found on the wall of the Standby queue, as part of a larger set of diagrams.
What probably leaps out to you is the mention of T.W. Baxter, as Tony Wayne Baxter is the Imagineer well-known to have created the idea and first model for Big Thunder. So far, so good.
I thought for a brief moment the diagram showed the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland train and cars, but the cars are a bit of a giveaway to be Big Thunder instead. It never occurred to me before how similar Big Thunder’s trains are to the Wonderland trains–surely, this was an intentional resemblance.
Then the numbers came next. There are no accidental mentions of July 17 in Disney parks; this was the day Disneyland first opened (in 1955). But the mention of 77 was a bit more puzzling; Big Thunder opened at Disneyland in 1979 (it was Space Mtn that opened in 1977 on the West Coast) and the East coast version of Thunder opened in 1980.
Simply googling the numbers on the left side of the image brought the answers. It’s a patent for automatic train brakes. Only at that moment did I notice the drawing actually mentions train brakes. What had looked like random information stuffed in there to make it look authentic turned out to be actually the case.
And the best part is? That patent was publicly recorded on the actual date of July 17, 1877. It’s almost as if Imagineers went looking for a patent related to trains that had something to do with July 17, and they found the perfect one!
Still more evidence of the deep, deep rabbit hole that is Disney fandom and obsessive geekery!