Sunday, November 6, 2011

Disneyland Monorail ~ A fun ride from Yesterday and into the Future

Disneyland® Monorail

Ride this high-speed, "green" transportation system

that rockets along a single rail that circles Disneyland Park!

       I remember as a young child to save a few cents on parking we would often park on Harbor or Ball and then walk into the Disneyland Hotel to catch our first ride of the day into the park. We you gladly purchase our tickets at the hotel and ride the Disneyland Monorail into the park.

          The Monorail still carries passengers around the park but no longer stops at the hotel. Instead it stops in the same location but that is now in the Downtown Disney District of the resort. Still if you want a quick and easy way to enter the park you can bypass the esplanade and enter Disneyland by catching the Disneyland Monorail into the park with its stop at Tomorrowland.
Disneyland Mark VII Monorail Red.jpg

          As you are whisked around the Resort for a 13-minute ride, sit back and enjoy aerial views of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland in Disneyland Park and Condor Flats, Sunshine Plaza and Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Disney California Adventure Park. The route also parallels Harbor Boulevard and travels over the Disneyland Main Entrance and Entrance Plaza, taking you above and beyond the Park scenery.

Boarding Points

          Board at the Tomorrowland station or the Downtown Disney District. It's the only Disneyland Park attraction that can be boarded outside of the Park.

The Trains

          The fleet of trains comprises the Red, Blue and Orange Mark VII trains. Computer monitored, the trains are operated and controlled by onboard pilots. Running on a 600 volt DC at about 30 mph, the trains do not emit exhaust or pollutants. Thanks to an innovative painting technique, the surface of the trains shimmers with a visual electricity. The colors shift with a brush of light — from red to crimson, from blue to teal and from orange to a golden sunburst. It's not just a stroke of technological innovation. It's a work of art!

The First in America

          The Disneyland Monorail was the first transportation system of its kind in America. It was based on a system built by the Alweg company and discovered by Walt Disney while traveling in Germany. It first appeared in Disneyland Park in 1959 with its "Googie" architecture, a space age look that was enormously popular during the 1950s. The Monorail celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 14, 2009!


          The Disneyland Monorail System (originally, the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail) opened on June 14, 1959, as a sightseeing attraction in Tomorrowland in Disneyland. The Mark I trains (Red and Blue) consisted of three cars each. With the debut of the four-car Mark II in 1961 (and the new Yellow train), the track was lengthened to leave the park and stop at a station at the Disneyland Hotel. The monorail trains reached their current length of five cars in 1968 with the arrival of the Mark III. More streamlined and efficient than the Mark II, the Mark III also included the arrival of Monorail Green. There were two forms of access to the monorail. Persons who were leaving the park or persons at the hotel who had purchased tickets to enter the park could purchase a single ticket to go to the hotel or from the hotel to the entrance in Tomorrowland, respectively. Persons who had not purchased admission to the park could purchase a ticket to ride the monorail from the hotel station, into the park, and back to the hotel station. To prevent them from entering the park without paying, persons buying a monorail ticket who did not have a park admission would be loaded in a separate compartment which would remain locked until the monorail returned to the hotel.

          Walt Disney originally envisioned the monorail as a practical form of public transport for the future. However, the monorail came about during a time when America's—and particularly Los Angeles'—love affair with the automobile was increasing, and monorails in the United States came to be associated only with Disney's theme parks.

          By the early 1980s, the Mark III trains were showing their age and the wear of years. In 1985, Disneyland began phasing out the Mark III trains one by one. The older trains were stripped to the chassis and rebuilt as Mark V trains. The Mark III Green went first, to become the Mark V Purple followed by the Mark III Yellow becoming the Mark V Orange. The Mark III Blue remained blue (albeit a lighter shade) and the last was Red, remaining Red. The notable difference was the loss of the bubble-top driver's area in favor of a streamlined "Learjet" look similar to the Mark IV trains at the Walt Disney World Resort. The new trains also sported closed passenger compartments (with windows that could be opened) and pneumatic doors. Following the 1985 Disney World monorail fire, a safety handrail was added along the spine of the train, as well as emergency fire exit hatches leading to the roof. The attraction's name remained the "Disneyland Monorail System", as it had been painted on the Mark III trains' skirts. The Mark V trains were built by Ride & Show Engineering, Inc., incorporating bodies that were produced by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm of Germany. Purple first made her appearance for testing in Autumn of 1986 and began regular operations a few months later. Orange was delivered in late Summer of 1987, followed by Blue in early 1988. The oldest train, Red, was also the last to be removed from the line for refurbishment in the Spring of 1988.
          In 1999, the monorail began lengthy periods of closures due to construction of Disney California Adventure theme park, which the monorail beamway passed through. Although the beamway's route was not altered, a significant amount of construction was done around the existing beamway, and much of the terrain under the beamway's support columns was regraded, necessitating the closures. Additionally, the Disneyland Hotel Station was completely demolished and a new station built in the same location.  The system began limited operations in 2000, when the Downtown Disney Station became operational, but a significant portion of the beamway was still unusable due to construction. In 2001, the monorail resumed full capacity operations, passing through the new park, as well as the hotel within the park, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

          In 2004, Monorail Orange was removed from the line and taken to Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale to be reverse engineered. Monorail Blue was removed in September 2006 for rebuilding. The monorail was closed from August 21 through late December 2006 to prepare for the opening of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in 2007.

          The refurbishment from Mark V to Mark VII was done one train at a time. The first Mark VII train, Monorail Red, arrived at Disneyland on December 20, 2007. It was originally expected to be in service by the end of February 2008, but due to design change issues, it did not begin serving park guests until July 3, 2008. Mark VII Blue arrived on-site on April 10, 2008, began daytime riderless testing on August 1, 2008, and began guest service on September 16, 2008. Monorail Mark VII Orange arrived on-site on August 14, 2008, began riderless testing in March 2009, and began guest service on April 7, 2009. Monorails Red, Blue, and Orange make up the entire Mark VII fleet.


          The Disneyland Monorail has two stations: one in Tomorrowland, and another in the Downtown Disney district. The original Monorail was a round trip ride with no stops. In 1961, the track was expanded to connect to a station at the Disneyland Hotel, making it an actual transportation system. The original Hotel station was torn down in 1999 and a new station, now called the Downtown Disney Station, was built in the same place. All riders must disembark at Tomorrowland Station, and during peak traffic periods, the monorail offers only one-way trips where all passengers must also disembark at the Downtown Disney Station and re-board for the return trip to Tomorrowland.

          In the fall of 2006, the Tomorrowland Station was remodeled due to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage construction. The original speed ramps were removed, and a new concrete ramp was added on the east end of the station to handle the queue and access to the station, with concrete stairs on the west end to handle the exiting Monorail passengers.

          All passengers board at a single platform. Leaving Tomorrowland station, the monorail crosses the Disneyland Railroad and continues along Harbor Boulevard on the eastern edge of the park. Turning to enter Disney's California Adventure, it passes Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and Muppet Vision 3D. The track then crossed the "Golden Gate Bridge", the gateway to the California Adventure park. At this time that golden gate is being changed. Passengers can see Disneyland on the right and Disney's California Adventure on the left. The monorail then passes through Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa then makes a sharp curve to the right and enters the Downtown Disney station, which has a rainforest theme, covered with several jungle-themed canopies, to complement the adjacent Rainforest Cafe.

          Downtown Disney station has one platform. After a five-minute loading, the train leaves Downtown Disney and makes a short loop around the district before crossing above the esplanade between the two parks and heads back to Disneyland. Once inside the park, the monorail crosses the railroad again and goes into a series of sharp bends and curves around Tomorrowland. The track travels above the Submarine Lagoon and Autopia. The track actually crosses the lagoon four times. The track then curves around the Matterhorn Bobsleds, giving a view of Fantasyland, then turns left to reenter the Tomorrowland Station.

          All monorails are equipped with Grover 1016 horns. The horn must be sounded when departing a station, at one point where the track parallels the currently-unused PeopleMover/Rocket Rod track, and when approaching the Matterhorn. They are also sounded when a bird lands on the track.


          "Monorail Shop", as it is officially known ("Shop" for short), is Disney's monorail maintenance facility located behind It's a Small World at Disneyland and provides space for four monorails on its upper level (the bottom level houses the five steam locomotives that circle Disneyland and a bus repair facility on the west side). No train will ever be left outside the facility because routine maintenance is performed nightly.


          The diesel-powered "work tractors" are the tow trucks of the system, and can tow a train to Monorail Shop.


Emergency Evacuation

          Emergencies requiring train evacuation will be handled differently depending upon the location of the train and the nature of the emergency.

          If a train is stopped at a station platform or at the work platform, guests can exit the train onto the platform. Exiting a train is possible even when the doors of the train cars are closed. A cast member outside the car can also forcibly open the rightmost door panel of the car by releasing the air pressure holding that panel closed. The air pressure release is a handle beneath the rectangular center window that is similar in appearance to a car door handle.

          If a train is stopped on open beam, then guests evacuate through emergency exits located in the roof of the train. Guests open roof hatches by first removing decorative plastic from the ceiling above a bulkhead footstool and then by lifting open a hinged hatch that will flip across the bulkhead dividing two train cars. Guests evacuate to the roof by climbing through the open hatch onto the top of the train. The bulkheads separating cars are designed as firewalls that will contain a fire within a car to just that car. The open hatch allows guests in the affected car to transfer to an adjacent car where they can safely wait for evacuation by fire response crews.

          If the emergency affects the entire train, then guests are evacuated to the surface of the beam. Guests again open the emergency roof hatches, but do not simply move to the adjacent car. Instead, they use a small handrail present along the top of each train car to move all the way to the front of the train. The Disneyland Fire Department assists in the safe evacuation of the disabled train.

Platform Safety

          Platform gates are operated manually and remain closed until the next train arrives and cast members determine that it is safe to board.

          The trains are powered by over 600 Volts DC, drawn from a small rail (bus bar) running along the right side of the beam. This bus bar is similar to the electrified or "third" rail of a subway train.

Attraction Facts and Figures

·         When originally built, every mile of monorail track cost over a million dollars (which computes to more than 620,000 dollars per kilometer).

·         Grand opening: June 14, 1959

·         Designer: WED Enterprises

·         Trains: 3 Mark VII Red, Mark VII Blue and Mark VII Orange

·         Max Trains on Track: 3

·         Track length: 2.5 Miles (4 kilometers)

·         Ride duration: 10:30

·         Ticket required: "E" (Ticket system is no longer implemented, anybody with a valid Disneyland admission ticket may ride for free.)

·         Ride system: Monorail system powered by DC electric motors located on each car of the train, not just the front car

·         On opening day, the ribbon cutting hit a snag when the scissors failed. So Walt tore it instead.

Disneyland Monorail trains

·         Mark I : 1959 - 1961

o    3-car trains

o    colors: red and blue

·         Mark II - 1961 - 1969(Added with track expansion to Disneyland Hotel)

o    4-car trains

o    Bigger dome on top of front car

o    colors: red, blue and yellow

Built by Walt Disney Imagineering/WED Enterprises

·         Mark III : 1969 - 1987

o    5-car trains

o    137 feet (41.8 meters) long

o    colors: red, blue, yellow and green.

·         Mark V : 1987 - 2008

o    5-car trains

o    Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering

o    Car bodies built by Messerschmtt-Bolkow-Blohm of Germany

o    Seats 24 passengers in each of the five cars, plus 7 passengers in the tail cone, and 5 passengers with 1 driver in the nose cone.

o    Total number of passengers per train: 132

o    Utilizes Mk III chassis as re-engineered by Ride & Show Engineering, Inc. of San Dimas,CA.

o    The Mk V was designed to resemble the appearance of the Mark IV series monorails which were operating in the Walt Disney World Resort.

o    colors: red, blue, orange and purple

Built by Dynamic Structures

·         Mark VII : 2008–Present

o    Sleek/Retro design accomplished by installing a MkIII style nose on the existing MkV trains.

o    New island seating configuration, with one row of inward-facing seating at the front and rear ends of each car.

o    The main cabins have a capacity of 22 passengers

o    The tailcone has a capacity of seven passengers while the nosecone has a capacity of five passengers and a pilot.

o    Designed and engineered in-house by Walt Disney Imagineering and TPI Composites

o    Colors: Red, Blue, and Orange.

o    The first Mark VII monorail, Red, was delivered to Disneyland on December 20, 2007. It began service on July 3, 2008.

o    The second Mark VII, Blue, was delivered to Disneyland on April 10, 2008. It began service September 16, 2008.

o    The Third Mark VII, Orange, was delivered to Disneyland on August 14, 2008. It began service on April 7, 2009.

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