BACKSTORY (1962—Present): Four generations of Monorail trains have been used in the park, since their lightweight construction means they wear out quickly. The Mark V, was installed on April 17, 1987 when more modern trains built by Ride & Show Engineering eliminated the old ALWEG Buck Rogers-style trains. The monorail shuttles visitors between two stations, one inside the park in Tomorrowland and one in Downtown Disney. It follows a 2.5 mile (4 km) long route designed to show off the park from above. As of 2004, three monorail trains (Red, Blue, and Purple) were in regular service. A fourth train, Monorail Orange, was removed from service and shipped to Disney's engineering department in Glendale for disassembly and study so that new blueprints can be created from it, since ALWEG has gone out of business, and the current trains, built by Ride & Show Engineering in 1987, use some of the same parts as the ALWEG trains. Monorail Blue was sent to Canada for major rebuilding in late August 2006. Monorail Red & Purple remain at the Monorail Barn at the Disneyland Resort.
David worked the Monorail from 1973—1975 when the Monorail and Disneyland RR cast members worked for Retlaw and not Disneyland. He only worked the Monorail, operating (piloting) the Monorail train as well as directing passengers and manning the ticket gate as needed in the shift rotation. Here's his story of a chance encounter one day:
I was working the Monorail and was taking tickets at the bottom of the escalator that led up to the Monorail platform in Tomorrowland. At different times the lines could be very long and at other times not at all. The Monorail was an E ticket attraction and was used for round trip rides or, for some, a one way ride to the Disneyland Hotel. It was nighttime and a little girl ran right up to the turnstile since there was no one at all in line at the time. She was being followed not far behind by a man who was holding out the tickets. The little girl proceeded through as the man behind her held out their E tickets. I immediately recognized the man to be Cary Grant. Very handsome as well as distinguished looking and well dressed. I said, "Thank you," as he handed me the two tickets. Then I said, "How are you?", with a familiarity that I felt with him, having seen countless films of his over the years, and he being a celebrity known worldwide. He was very cordial and said, "Fine, thanks. And how are you?" I was a complete stranger to him but he spoke with the sincerity of a longtime friend or acquaintance. "Great, thanks", I said. "Nice to see you." "Thank you very much," he said, as he proceeded through the turnstile after his daughter and disappeared at the top of the platform.
He does not remember the exact date but does recall that it was one of the nights that Cary Grant read the narration for the Candlelight. The child in the story was Cary's daughter with Dyan Cannon, Jennifer. In fact she is the only child of either actor/actress.
I made several visits to see Ken Kohler, the roundhouse supervisor. Ken had been hired by the family in 1957 and worked for quite a few years as the Maintenance Manager for Retlaw (the company owned by Walt’s family). I think they are still around, but at that time they owned the steam trains, monorails and the copyright name to Walt Disney; it started to take care of his family. On this visit, Ken was rather busy, so I asked if it was alright to look around the shops and he said “ok.” I nosed around the monorail area and noticed that yellow was in there on this slow week day. Ken had told me it was ok to climb on board, so I climbed into the cockpit. As I remember it, there was a step up into the bubble canopy driving compartment, compared to the current ones that have the driver sit with the front guests. There was a small instrument cluster showing volts used, speed, etc and on the consul on the right next to the seat was the “Ford Mustang automatic shift lever” as it looked to me. This controlled it to move forward or reverse. Everything looked very compact. It was really neat to sit up there and view the world from that lofty perch. I climbed down and viewed that several of the doors were open showing the large truck tire and wiring that made up the machine. It seemed to me that a truck tire was too mundane for this animal. The monorail rides on a truck tire? Yes, several—along with the side tires that hold it to the rail. And there were disk brakes, too, and a ton of wiring and hoses neatly running from the front all the way back to the rear. With the doors open, “Yellow” was still quite impressive and very aesthetically beautiful. Which brings me to a story Ken had told me about a grizzly accident that occurred at Disneyland in the 60’s during a party. A 19 year old tried to sneak into the park on a Grad night and scaled a sixteen foot fence to climb onto the monorail track. He was spotted by security and they shouted to him to “get off” while the monorail was bearing down on him. I guess he panicked as he jumped onto a blue fiberglass canopy that protected people under the monorail from water and debris. The canopy is only 2" below the rail, which wasn’t enough to protect him; he was hit by the train and sucked into the assembly. The driver didn’t see what had happened and the train just came to a stop. Ken told me it sat out there for hours so the coroner could do his investigation. They brought the tug out and towed the train back to the shops. The hourly help didn’t want to clean up the train, so Ken and a few of the other Maintenance Managers got into yellow rain slickers to hose everything out. Work at Disneyland? I’m sure that wasn’t what most people think of when it comes to the Magic Kingdom. Still, the Old Monorails have a special place in my heart—they really were unique and special.
A few years later we went to Walt Disney World and Ken talked to the manager of the shops there for us to see their Monorails and steam trains. Well, we cordially introduced ourselves and then were shown their huge shop area—very impressive. As we walked back to the shop office, next to the door was a dark wood crate with a panel cut out and a clear window covering it. Inside was the door to Old Monorail Red. On the outside was a paper with the Disneyland shop worker’s initials signed and a poem: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, polish this door so it won’t rust.”
MANY THANKS TO MIKE FOR SHARING THESE PHOTOS FROM HIS PERSONAL COLLECTION!
Built in Rhode Island, assembled in Vancouver and caravanned thousands of miles, the first in the fleet of new Mark VII Monorails arrived at the Disneyland Resort. Bringing the future of technology, entertainment and fun to the forefront of today's culture is an ongoing mission of the Disneyland® Resort, and with the arrival of Monorail Red, the future has only just begun.
“In addition to the exciting enhancement plans we recently announced for Disney's California Adventure®, we continue to invest in other areas of the Resort," said Ed Grier, president of the Disneyland® Resort. "The renovation of this classic attraction is part of our ongoing strategy to find new ways to refresh existing assets to exceed our Guests' expectations. I think they'll love the new look, which is very reminiscent of the Monorail trains Walt Disney first introduced in 1959.”
As the first new Monorail design at Disneyland® Park in over 20 years, the Mark VII features a design inspired by the original Mark I. It boasts an innovative custom-paint on the exterior, which shifts colors depending on the angle of light and the point from which it is viewed. Monorail Red can be seen changing from bright red to a deep crimson with hints of gold. In addition, for the first time, the Monorail windows are tinted, adding to the beauty and color of the new exterior. The new interior design and seating arrangement allows for Guests to face outward and view the parks as the Monorail travels through them. As a completely electric system since its inception in 1959, the new Monorails will feature another environmentally friendly element, with new custom low-voltage LEDs being used to illuminate the inside of the vehicles.
“The Disneyland® Monorail is a classic attraction and an integral part of Disneyland" said Scot Drake, lead creative designer for the new Monorails. "Walt Disney Imagineering is constantly looking at ways to update or refresh classic attractions and we are so excited about the new Monorails.”
Unfortunately, problems in the manufacturing caused the original dates to be delayed; the Monorail Mark 7’s began to run for guests in July 2008 (scroll down below for more Daveland photos).