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Catching Monorail Mania

This Sunday, members of The Monorail Society will gather at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System. Back on June 14, 1959, ever-cheerful then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon dedicated the original three-car Mark I monorail. His daughters Julie and Tricia were official ribbon cutters, as can be seen in this video. Despite an amusing cardboard scissor mishap (check out the jump cut — I call cover-up!) the task was completed and guests then boarded the spanking new vehicle and soared over Tomorrowland (with Nixon oblivious to what his own personal political Tomorrowland had in store!).

Too bad the Disney people are completely ignoring the event. Although you can buy a commemorative pin for $12.95.

Disney World monorailThe Disneyland Monorail was the first single-rail transportation system in the United States and Uncle Walt had hopes that monorails would be a viable form of public transportation in American cities. Monorail boosters are still trying to make their case.

Over in Osaka and Kuala Lumpur there are sleek modern monorail systems. In May 2009, the Monorailex 2009 conference was held in the ever forward-looking (and until recently, quite irrationally exuberant) city of Dubai. But back in the USA, there’s not much monorail action. Seattle has a one-mile-long monorail and Las Vegas’ example almost stretches to four. And that’s about it.

But who cares about floating Maglev technology or fancy straddle-beam systems? We like our monorails homegrown and funky and/or rickety and obsolete.  Like the Sky Trail Monorail at Gilroy Gardens, CA (formerly Bonfante Gardens) with its birds-eye view of weirdly woven “Circus Trees.” Or Jungle Jim’s International Market’s “Foodie Tram” in Fairfield, Ohio—acquired from Wild Animal Habitat of King’s Island and now serving mass munchers.

Monorail ruins are also worth a detour. Like the defunct Santa’s Village Bumble Bee Monorail in Skyforest, CA — you can still see it when buzzing by on the highway. Or why not track down reports of rusting World’s Fair 1964-5 car #4 in Alvin, Texas?

The most heart-tugging long lost monorail just might be the one that served children at the Meier and Frank department store in Portland, Oregon. At holiday time, kids rode above the store Santaland; the monorail hung from the ceiling and looked a bit like a third-grader’s art project.

But most of all, we would really like to befriend Kim Pederson, President of the Monorail Society, because he built his very own personal Niles Monorail in his backyard in Fremont, California (for under $5,000!) It’s not open to the public. Mr. Pederson, we admire your soaring ambition! [Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

Sections: Attraction News, Trends 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Catching Monorail Mania”

  1. Susie K Says:
    June 12th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Ever see the hilarious monorail in “You Only Live Twice”, the old Bond movie? There’s something inherently dated and naive about monorails, despite Dubai’s embrace of the concept. Come to think of it, perhaps the dated aspect jives well with that country’s place in the modernity continuum.

  2. ADalton Says:
    June 15th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    You know there’s this episode of The Simpsons where Springfield gets a monorail but it turns out that it is from 1964 and is in bad condition. Anyway, I think this says something about how people today tend to think of monorails:They are yesterday’s vision of today.

  3. Jerry Roane Says:
    October 5th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Advanced transportation on a personal scale takes the monorail for sage high speed and the street to get you home. Dual mode cars could be the next evolution in the monorail. The monorail itself being fabricated by extrusion rather than cast and erected puts up guideway at $170,000 per mile at 3 mph. Walt Disney was even smarter than he often gets credit for.

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