Sunday, February 7, 2010

Walt Disney World - Steamboats of The Magic Kingdom

Today we will be staying with the theme from last week, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. These first two photos are from the early 70's and show the Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat alongside it's dock in Liberty Square. This paddle wheeler was named after Joe Fowler, the retired Navy Admiral that played an important role in the construction of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The ship was very similar in appearance to Disneyland's Mark Twain Riverboat.


Unfortunately, the Admiral Joe Fowler was damaged beyond repair during a 1980 rehab, so it was permanently removed from service at that time and scrapped. (In 1999 however, one of the ferries that take guests from the Ticket and Transportation Center across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom, was renamed the Admiral Joe Fowler. That boat had previously been known as the Magic Kingdom I.)


Below, is a 2007 photo that I took from almost the same spot along the riverbank as the photo above. The Haunted Mansion is still visible off in the distance, but notice how much the vegetation has grown over the years.


In 1973, a second riverboat, the Richard F. Irvine was introduce to the Rivers of America and actually coexisted with the Admiral Joe Fowler until 1980. This boat was completely refurbished in 1996 and was renamed the Liberty Belle as seen below. Note the single smoke stack on this vessel. I am wondering why Disney built a second riverboat that so closely resembled the original....especially when that original boat was still in operation. How curious!


I had heard that parts of the Admiral Joe Fowler were later reused in the construction of Tokyo Disneyland's Mark Twain Riverboat, which opened in 1983, but I haven't been able to confirm that for sure. Does anyone out there know if that's true? This last photo is from 2009 and shows Tokyo Disneyland's Mark Twain sitting alongside it's dock in Westernland. Splash Mountain can also be seen off in the distance.

13 comments:

Davelandweb said...

Makes me appreciate Disneyland even more to have 2 completely different large ships to choose from. Had no idea that the Fowler was scrapped and that they'd had 2 Riverboats! Thanks for the awesome post.

TokyoMagic! said...

I agree, Dave. It definitely makes me appreciate having both the Columbia AND the Mark Twain at DL. At first, I didn't know that WDW had two riverboats either. I had seen photos/postcards/etc. of the Admiral Joe Fowler, but assumed it must have been modified at some point into the Liberty Belle. I still wonder why they had two white triple-decker paddle wheelers on the river at the same time? Seems to me they could have come up with something different....or even a duplicate of DL's Columbia Sailing Ship.

Dan Alexander said...

When I was at WDW with my folks in December, my Dad really wanted to go on the boat, because he thought the Tiana's Showboat Jubilee would sing for us! I had to explain to him that it didn't work like that. :-)

TokyoMagic! said...

Did/does WDW do Tiana's Showboat Jubilee too? I regret not getting over to Disneyland to see it before they drained the Rivers of America for rehab.

outsidetheberm said...

Nice 'Then & Now' shot. Like you, have always wondered about the duplicate styles and 'musical chairs' played with the steamship names over the years...

Thanks for the nice post.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Awesome post!

I never bought the "It was damaged beyond repair" excuse, I mean come on, they build these things from scratch, just rebuild whatever was damaged?

I like the Ad. Joe Fowler design better, the single smoke stack version looks odd.

Nice before and after shots!

Nice to see TokyoDL has a super looking Twian!

TokyoMagic! said...

VDT, I'm kind of suspicious of the "damaged beyond repair" remark too. Now I'm starting to wonder if they pulled it from service just so they could reuse the parts on Tokyo DL's Mark Twain and save some money. After all, WDW's Mickey Mouse Revue also closed in 1980 and was packed up and sent to Tokyo because Disney didn't want to spend the time or money to replicate it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great WDW photos! I love all the sites out there chronicling changes at the parks over the years--but so much of it is Disneyland and it's nice to see the Maqic Kingdom for a change.

I also would bet that the primary reason Fowler didn't return was Tokyo. That said, doesn't Paris currently have two riverboats at once?

Brer Dan

TokyoMagic! said...

Hey Brer Dan! I forgot all about Paris having two steamboats also. I just did a little internet research and it appears that they are both still running. I was there in 2005 and rode on the "Molly Brown," but the "Mark Twain" was in drydock undergoing a major rehab at that time. Again, why did they build TWO steamboats and not something completely different like Anaheim's Columbia?

Anonymous said...

The Paris steamships are a bit different from one another. The "Mark Twain" is the traditional sternwheeler like in the other parks; The "Molly Brown" is a sidewheeler, more like the old boats that used to ply the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake at WDW.

steve2wdw said...

As a teenager, I used to visit WDW almost yearly (during the busy Presidents week)and remember when the two steamboats were used simultaniously. Back when MK was the only park at WDW the crowds were insane during that holiday period. Both paddlewheelers would sail with capacity crowds all day long. Not until later in the evening would one be parked in the canal behind the site of what is now Big Thunder. Even with two ships in service, there was still a wait to ride. Oh...the good old days. Keel boats were also in service during this time and some years even the canoes.

I read that the Fowler was being lifted out of the water (north of the Contemporary at the boat maintenance) when it slipped out of the lift and the hull was broken. If this was indeed the case, it would have taken a huge amount of $$ to repair. Building a new riverboat would probably have been less expensive. As the MK had just added BTMRR at this point, management probably figured they didn't need the second riverboat. I also read that parts of the Fowler ended up in Tokyo, most notibly the ships bell.

steve2wdw said...

My above comment was meant to say, "as a teenager in the 70's"

TokyoMagic! said...

Hi Steve...thank you for commenting and also for the additional information about the steamboats!