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Monorail History

Monorail History

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Walt Disney World monorail concept art picture

A History of Walt Dated World Monorails
By Chrisrails

 Many will remember the times of the Mark IV monorail.  Folks still reminisce about the old days of slamming monorail doors and goofy helmets.  Though the monorail still operates today, many hold a special place in their hearts for the old "Highway in the Sky".  The first ten Walt Disney World monorails operated for eighteen years and carried a total of 250 million people.  They were designed in Burbank and built in Orlando by the Martin Marietta Corporation.  

 For the 1971 opening of Walt Disney World, three Mark IV monorails were in operation (three more came later).  The first five trains were 171 feet long with five cars.  The second group of five were 201 feet long and had six cars.  In the mid 1980's, two more monorails were added and given the colors coral and lime.
 The seats on the Mark IV faced each other and were royal blue in color.  Four aisles went across a car.  A five-car Mark IV monorail could hold up to 210 guests, while 244 could ride in the six-car train.

 Each car had four doors on both sides.  The middle of the train had a special "double-door" that could open wide to let guests in wheelchairs board.  The doors opened automatically using a horizontal door pad near the driver's cab door.  Guests knew that the monorail would soon be departing the station when they heard monorail doors slamming, as Cast Members had to close each door manually.  Each door had a red light to show the pilot which doors were still open because sometimes they wouldn't close all the way.  

 Guests waiting to board a monorail were held in chutes.  Each chute held the number of people that could sit in a row.  This number was usually ten people, with five people in each row.  When guests reached their destination, they were not allowed to stay on board because another group would be waiting to use those seats.  

 Like today, folks would exit on one side of the train, while the next group entered on the other side.  Before the late 1970s, guests boarding the monorail at the Magic Kingdom would walk up the middle ramp, while departing guests exited down the two side ramps.  This caused a traffic backup at night that blocked the access to the Resort monorail line so the loading system was changed to the way it is now.  

 Cast Members loading guests onto Mark IV monorails sported polyester jumpsuits in the colors of green and blue.  The men wore blue jumpsuits with a green turtleneck jersey and the woman wore the same thing but with the colors reversed.  A hard royal blue helmet with a monorail emblem was also worn.  

 The Jack Wagner monorail spiels (see here for sample spiels) were played on something very similar to an eight-track system.  It was a continuously looping spiel, which was activated by the driver.  Pilots could also choose to announce their own spiels using a microphone.  

 After the Mark IV monorails were replaced by Mark VI trains, two of the old trains were sold to Bally's in Las Vegas, where they still operate.  Monorail Red and Silver are in storage in Kissimmee, although the front cab of Red was recently sold.  For many years, the front cab of Monorail purple rested backstage on the south side of the Contemporary with a blue tarp covering it.  It was put there after being used one year during a Disneyana convention.  It was moved by the entrance to the Contemporary in the summer of 2003.  The rest of the fleet was sent to the garbage dump.   

More Monorail Cast Member Memories

Monorail pilot Walt Disney World

  Charles Layne has this to say: "I was a monorail cast member from March 1974 through December 1976.  I have one thing to add to the information provided by Chrisrails – the original loading platform configuration was five "holding" areas each at Magic Kingdom and the TTC.  A Cast Member stood at the top of the center ramps and "grouped" guests into groups of 35-40.  There was a single gate for each holding area (one per car), with one Cast Member for each.  When the train arrived, you would simply open the gate and let the guests board.  The chute system was supposed to speed loading, but I'm not convinced that it made a whole lot of difference as we didn't see the cycle times improve dramatically.  It was also more of a safety risk as it was much easier to pinch (or worse) someone’s finger or hand in the gate.

 One memory I have is being stuck in Monorail Blue (I think; it's been a long time) one evening on what was then called the primary hold point outside Magic Kingdom (lagoon beam, top of the hill just outside Magic Kingdom).  I had a CB1 off (Traction Control Circuit Breaker) and had to wait for the tow tractor for about 45 min with a train full of guests.  I also remember a couple of WABCO stops (before they were MAPO stops), but I won't go into detail about that.

 Did you know that guests were not always allowed in the cab?  The first year I was a Cast Member, monorails were still recovering from the collision between Red and Blue a couple of months prior, and it was a safety precaution.  But we used to get many requests to ride in the cab and we had to say no.

Some of my favorite things:
Driving trains in reverse when switching from exterior to lagoon mid-day.  I loved driving in reverse.
The Electrical Water Pageant on the Lagoon.
Closing shift (you usually got to go home before the end of your shift and got paid for it.)
Walking through the tunnel to go to the Monorail Shop (to bring another train online.)
Getting to drive a tram between TTC and Magic Kingdom when the summer crowds were heavy (air conditioning!)
Relaxing with fellow cast members at Captain Cook's Hideaway after work.

I enjoyed my time there and like to go back whenever I can.  Thanks for your website.  The photos bring back lots of great memories."  

Early monorail uniform Walt Disney World

This is an unofficial fan site that is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or Disney theme parks.  All copyrights acknowledged.  Please respect the work I put into compiling both existing and my own information on this site by not linking to any text or pictures without crediting that they were located on this site.
See ya real soon!