Thursday, August 8, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Monorail History


One of the most quintessential features of the Disneyland Resort is its groundbreaking monorail system. The monorail itself was first introduced as far back as 1820 in Russia, and didn't find its way to the US until the 1950's. In 1959, the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail System was first constructed. It circled the Disneyland park perpetually, being the first daily-operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere.



The Mark I monorail system was initially a ride, having only one station and two three-car trains. By 1961, it was upgraded to four cars per train and a third train was added. In addition to being able to accommodate more guests, the track was expanded to meet a station at the Disneyland Hotel, and the monorail's primary function became transportation. This was the beginning of the Mark II.

The newly enlarged Tomorrowland Station was extended once again in 1968 to hold four, five-car trains. Known as the Mark III, this was the most drastically changed model to date, as it no longer had an observation bubble, glass windows were added, and the doors were pressurized. After the Mark III monorail, the quantity of cars became five-per-train, and it remains that way to this day. However, four trains appeared to be too many, and the number was shortened back to three in 1988, during the lifespan of the Mark V.

But it seems that the Monorail jumped from Mark III to Mark V. Was there ever a fourth model?

The Mark IV monorail was introduced at Walt Disney World in 1971, and only existed in that park. It held an astonishing 10 trains, half with five cars and the other half with six. It came to Disneyland in the form of the Mark V, a slightly improved Disney World monorail that was German-manufactured. In 1998, the Disneyland Hotel station was demolished, and the Downtown Disney station that stands today, was erected.


The Mark IV/V is perhaps the model that most guests will remember, as it boasted the longest lifespan of any Disneyland monorail. The white chassis and colored stripe were an icon of Disney Park culture, as the design (introduced in 1971) is still employed on the Disney World Mark VI monorail today.

However, in 2008, Disneyland adopted the Mark VII, the most advanced Disney monorail to date. Its sleek design is a throwback to the original Mark I monorail, with likenesses of the red and blue trains that debuted in 1959. It also added a third, orange monorail to the fleet more recently in 2009.


Today's monorails are a far cry from the ones that were introduced in the 1950's. They stand as a testament to both the longstanding technologies that Disneyland pursues with each passing decade, and to the space-age transportation that Walt Disney envisioned to be the defining path to the future.

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