A Crack in the Liberty Belle

It has come to my attention that Disney may have been lying to me. It seems that many of the things at the parks have no basis in reality. I mean, besides the wait times listed on that oh-so-helpful tip board (is a little accuracy too much to ask?). Apparently those rifles in Fort Langhorn don’t really shoot, the Swiss Family Treehouse isn’t a real tree (but the Liberty Tree is), and nine times out of ten, Mickey Mouse has the same body parts as Minnie.

A long time ago, when I was a very young and naive Disney fan, I worked up the courage to ask the ride operators if I could steer the Liberty Belle. They used to do this, you know. Maybe they still do, I don’t know. You get to go up in the wheelhouse and guide the steamship around in a big circle. It’s a tough gig. Turn left and you’re screwed. And Big Thunder needs a rehab.

Playing for pinks.

I’ve recently learned that even this cherished childhood memory from my mid-twenties may be false. The Liberty Belle apparently has a big old crack running right up the middle of it, and only the murky waters of the Rivers of America are saving us from a massive case of plumber’s cleavage. Running through the cleft, encircling Tom Sawyer’s island, is basically an underwater monorail — hopefully without the high voltage, or I fear for the Magic Kingdom’s duck population.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Of course the giant behemoth runs on a track! This isn’t NASCAR. You don’t want a hundred ton steamship accidentally plowing into the indian village or chopping through the barrel bridge (well, of course YOU do, because you’re a deviant, but Disney’s lawyers don’t). It’s not quite the same with a keelboat or an explorer canoe. Those things hit ground, and the worst that happens is the animatronic moose laugh at you. If the Liberty Belle comes loose, it’s Titanic all over again, with Haunted Mansion as the iceberg.

Never fear: Should you fall over, this life preserver  can be used to help you stand up in the five feet of water.

But knowing that it’s a track can actually be kind of fun. It’s really more Autopia car than monorail. There’s no accordion joints on the Liberty Belle. Just one big solid riverboat. So it’s not riding snug on the rail. There’s a little bit of maneuvering room down there. Which is great, because next time you ride, you’ll actually be able to feel when the Liberty Belle catches against the edge of the track.

You really can detect this, and it’s not that hard when you know when to look (feel) for it. It happens on some of the tighter turns. You’ll feel a gentle stuttering of the ship as it struggles to stay on course, in spite of the fact that it wants to float off in a straight direction. So a little bit of the magic may be spoiled for us, but at least we can act superior to all those idiot tourists. We know how it works. And besides, it’s not like all my childhood memories are ruined. I still got to steer the Skyway that one time.

Comments (3)

  1. Ah yes, what childhood dream vacation would be complete with a life-scarring Cast Member? (mine deals with a drummer in the parade when I was about 5 or 6 — Yes, they used to have an entire marching band in the parade — yes, I’m freakin’ old)

  2. you’ll actually be able to feel when the Liberty Belle catches against the edge of the track.

    I always assumed we were running over one of the tinhorn riverboat gamblers who had been ejected over the railing. one of them Maverick boys, no doubt.

  3. LOL – I remember a similar lie from when I was 8. I was called up to steer our Jungle Cruise boat, & I took my job very seriously. As we approached Schweitzer Falls where the boat (theoretically) could go one of two different directions, the skipper started to freak out about which way I was going to steer the boat. I panicked and ran back to my seat full of tears. The stress was too much to handle. My aunt & uncle (who always took me to the parks), had great fun relaying my melt down to the rest of the family. Disney scarred me for life ; )

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