Tomorrowland Speedway “expansion”
I’ve been looking a lot at the history of Walt Disney World, and I’ve been focusing on the Tomorrowland Speedway lately. The speedway has gone by many names since its introduction with the rest of the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Its track has also changed length and shape a few times since then.
Tracking the general chronology is easy enough, though it’s hard to pin down the specific dates for each variation of the attraction. But one detail in particular has me confused, and I can’t reconcile the information I’ve seen.
Wikipedia states that the speedway was expanded in 1973, a tidbit that was added by an anonymous editor at the end of 2005. In the 9 years since, that particular statement has been picked up — or copied verbatim—on various other sites with information about the speedway, and was also mentioned briefly on the first episode of the Retro Disney World podcast. None of them have cited any sources for this info, and until recently, I hadn’t managed to track down any authoritative information on the subject.
It turns out the Florida Department of Transportation has some fascinating aerial photography of Orange and Osceola counties, dating back to 1969. There are fairly big time gaps in the images, but there are two images that seem to tell the true tale of what happened here.
The first image is dated February 5, 1973, and shows what I believe to be the original track layout. FDOT doesn’t have any images from opening day, but it seems to match photography from before opening. It’s as clear and close to the original we’re likely to get.
Notice the shape of the track in the southeast corner and the bulge in the northern-most portion as well. These features are only found on this version of the track, as you’ll soon see.
The next image in sequence from FDOT is dated November 22, 1974. This is nearly two years after the last image, but should incorporate any changes that happened in 1973, as well as 1974.
What you can clearly see is that the southeastern curve has been shortened significantly, presumably to make room for the queue building for the newly-built Space Mountain. The bulge at the northern end has also been cut down and smoothed out.
If there was an expansion, it would’ve been very short-lived, having been removed (and then some) by the end of 1974. In lieu of any supporting documentation for the 1973 expansion, I have to conclude that the track was actually reduced at that time, not expanded.
I don’t have any documentation of my own, aside from these images culled from a state government source. But unfortunately, the way FDOT provides access to the images, there’s no way to link directly to a hosted copy on their servers. Anyone interested in independently verifying this information is welcome to contact FDOT and request the images themselves.