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Monorails
Monorails
This early attraction poster is a variation on one from
Disneyland that originally showed the monorail near the Matterhorn.


A History of Walt Dated World Monorails
By Chrisrails
(Chrisrails is currently a monorail Cast Member at Walt Disney World.)

 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, five Mark IV monorails were in operation.  Later on, five more trains were added.  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 below 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.   

Walt Dated World reader Wayne O. actually saw the junked monorails:

 "At least some of the trains were sold for scrap to a Tampa metal yard. The Tampa Tribune ran a picture of one of the monorails in a heap and my grandfather and I actually went to the yard to check it out (off Adamo Drive near Ybor City). The monorail had been stripped of anything we could take as a souvenir, but it was clearly the old monorails in a huge terrible pile. You could walk in them and even sit in the seats. It was sad, but kind of neat. We may have been the last people to sit in some of the trains!"

Wayne sent in this article showing one of the monorails at Scrap-All in Tampa.


More Monorail Cast Member Memories


  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."  


Riding Up Front With the Pilot

 In the early hours of July 5th, 2009, Monorails Pink and Purple were involved in a collision at the Transportation and Ticket Center.  This crash resulted in the death of the Pilot of Monorail Purple.  When the parks opened in the morning, Monorail service was cancelled for the day.  On July 6th, the Monorails were cleared to operate again with increased visual safety procedures for Cast Members to follow.  It was also announced that Guests would no longer be able to ride up front with the pilot.  This is at least the third time guests have not been allowed to ride up front.  The others times were in 1974 after a non-fatal Monorail collision between Monorails Red and Blue and also after September 11th.  It's also possible that guests were not allowed to ride with the driver following the 1985 Monorail fire.  It remains to be seen if this will be a permanent ruling or if it is only temporary at this time.  

Former Monorail Pilot (1974-1976) Charles Layne offers his experience with Monorail procedures and his take on what happened July 5th:

 "Each Mark IV monorail was equipped with an anti-collision system (at the time termed WABCO, but was later changed to MAPO), which automatically applied the train's air brakes if it moved too close to the monorail immediately ahead of it. The train had a two-stage braking system.  Electric brakes, which slowed the train's speed to around 5-10 MPH, were engaged first, then air brakes were applied to stop the train.  From what I was told then by cast members who were witnesses, and from what I am able to remember, the collision between Red and Blue happened due to complete loss of air pressure on Monorail Red, which was operating on the Exterior (express) beam.

 The train had been removed from operation at least twice that day, and shop personnel were unable to find any malfunctions after repeated mechanical checks. Several monorail pilots had complained about difficulty in stopping the train in the stations due to low or even no air pressure. When the pilot approached the Magic Kingdom station just prior to the accident, the train's WABCO system was activated, but there was no air pressure to apply the air brakes.  The pilot was severely injured, but he recovered and was able to return to work.  Fortunately, he had no passengers aboard.  The procedure was immediately changed so that no guests were allowed in the monorail cab, and remained in effect until management was certain that the accident would not be repeated.  I believe that guests were again allowed in the cab sometime in late '74 or early '75.

There were two other possibilities for such an event:

1. A manual bypass of the MAPO system, but this required specific and deliberate instructions from the lead at TTC ("Monorail Base"), a supervisor or the Monorail Shop.  If no such instructions were given, then a MAPO bypass would have been unauthorized and a violation of SOP.  This was grounds for immediate termination.  After the 1974 collision, the hold points were moved back: if the monorail immediately ahead of you was stopped, whether at the next hold point or in a station, passing your designated holdpoint would result in an abrupt MAPO stop.  The pilot was then required to radio Monorail Base and notify the lead there that they had experienced a MAPO stop, and was required to wait for instructions before proceeding.  At some point, and I don't remember when, the block light system was added, but it never was intended be used as a substitute for visual confirmation.

2. The MAPO system would not activate if a train was traveling in reverse.  This required specific instructions from Monorail Base and/or the shop and the pilot had to use extreme caution in carrying out those instructions.

 There was a mid-day procedure in which a monorail on the exterior beam would be switched over to the lagoon beam, and required the pilot to switch ends at the TTC and drive in reverse (only after clearance from Monorail Base) through the Contemporary Resort to the west side of switch beam #2, then the train would be moved over to the lagoon beam following clearance from the Monorail Shop.  The way between the TTC and Switchbeam #2 had to be clear, as the MAPO system would not function since the train was not being operated from the forward cab.

 So, as to what happened on July 5, and assuming that the newer Mark VI was an improvement over the Mark IV: if all safety procedures were being followed, the train's MAPO system should have prevented the collision.  The only answers I can come up with are that either some component of the MAPO system failed, the system was bypassed, or improper clearance was given to the pilot to enter the station.  At any rate, the death of a monorail pilot performing his duties is unprecedented and tragic. It could very well be that the days of guests riding in the cab are over.

Co-Pilot Licence

Guests are sometimes awarded Monorail co-pilot licenses.  This one is from the 25th Anniversary.

The Monorail spiels have changed through the years.  Early ones were done by Jack "The Voice of Disney" Wagner.  You can still hear his voice on the monorail reminding everyone in English and Spanish to "Please stand clear of the doors."  

1972 Jack Wagner Express Monorail Spiel
(Departure from TTC)

 Hi everyone.  Welcome aboard the Walt Disney World Express Monorail.  We're now embarking on a scenic journey over the Highway in the Sky.  We'll be traveling nonstop directly to the Magic Kingdom, so we ask that you remain seated at all times and no smoking, please.  

 And now, ladies and gentlemen, we're entering the Vacation Kingdom of the World.  Today, you'll be seeing what we call "Phase One", which stretches more than three miles east to west and two miles north to south.  But that's just the beginning.  We have many exciting plans for the future.  Walt Disney World covers 43 square miles.  That's about twice the size of the island of Manhattan.  

 Out on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, you can see some of the boating and water sports activities, but what you can't see from our Monorail are things like golf courses, camp grounds, nature trails, tennis courts, the Polynesian Village Resort, and just about everything else for a family vacation.

 Incidentally, you can take the World Cruise over both the lake and lagoon aboard old-fashioned side wheel steamships.  You'll find them docked at the Magic Kingdom entrance.  Just ahead is one of the real wonders of our world, the exciting Contemporary Resort.  In a few seconds, we'll be passing directly through the center of the Contemporary's Tower building for a look at the spectacular Grand Canyon Concourse.  

 As we ride through the Grand Canyon Concourse, you can see one of the largest ceramic murals ever created.  It's nine stories high and it's made up of 18,000 hand painted tiles.  Elevators running through the center will carry you high above to the Top of the World restaurant, where famous stars entertain.  

 You can see many of the guest rooms high in the sloping walls overlooking the restaurant terrace and shopping plaza below.  In addition to the Towers building, the Contemporary Resort also features lakeside living.  Additional guest rooms are located right on the shores of beautiful Bay Lake.  You're invited to return to the Contemporary Resort anytime by simply taking one of the local Monorail trains from the Magic Kingdom.  They'll drop you off right at the Grand Canyon Concourse station.

 Here's a special program note while you're visiting: out on the Seven Seas Lagoon our exciting Waterski Spectacular will be taking place throughout the day.  Information and tickets are available right near the Magic Kingdom station.  

 We're now on the final leg of our journey over the Highway in the Sky.  Just ahead you can see the beautiful Cinderella Castle, with its spires rising nearly 200 feet high.  The Magic Kingdom is made up of six special theme lands; Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street U.S.A.  The steam railroad at the entrance will take you on a grand circle trip around the entire Magic Kingdom for a glimpse into each land.

 And now, as we approach the station, please check for all your personal belongings and remain seated until the train comes to a complete stop.  We ask that everyone disembark at this point.  The doors will open automatically to the right of the train.  When you leave, please lower your head and watch your step.  Thank you for joining us on the Walt Disney World Monorail and I hope you have a pleasant stay in the Magic Kingdom.  Again, may we ask that everyone disembark at this station.

1972 Jack Wagner Express Monorail Spiel
(Departure from the Magic Kingdom)

 Hi everyone and welcome aboard the Walt Disney World Express Monorail.  We're now embarking on a nonstop return journey to the Main Entrance and parking area.  During the trip, we ask that you remain seated at all times and no smoking, please.

 As we travel over the Highway in the Sky, I'll be pointing out some of the other resort and recreation activities here in the Vacation Kingdom.  The beautiful Seven Seas Lagoon is one of the most interesting man-made creations here in Walt Disney World.  Even the islands are man-made.  It took more than three years from the time the lagoon was started until it was filled with water.  Now you can use all kinds of boats for sailing, water-skiing, and excursion cruises on both the lagoon and Bay Lake.  

 The large neck of land jutting out of the water is the site for another exciting resort being planned for the near future based on an exotic Asian theme.  

 To the opposite side just beyond the trees is something special for you golfers.  Our two 18-hole championship courses, open to the public.  They're the site of the annual PGA Walt Disney World Open, featuring the top touring stars of professional golf.  Jack Nicklaus is the currant champion and will return to defend his title November 30th through December 3rd.

 Looking back on the water side, the white sandy beach is the beginning of our own tropic island resort here in Walt Disney World, the Polynesian Village.  The Village is all nestled around a South Seas harbor, complete with native outrigger canoes, waterfalls, luaus, and plenty of Tahitian dancing.  You're invited to return and visit the islanders anytime during our operating hours, simply by taking the local Monorail trains from the Magic Kingdom station.  They'll drop you off right here at the Polynesian Village.  

 We're now on the last leg of our journey to the main entrance station.  I'll be cutting back our ground speed in a few seconds so please remain seated until the train comes to a complete stop.  We ask that everyone disembark at this station.  As you leave, you'll find a courtesy tram directly ahead through the exit turnstiles that will take you to your parking area.  Be sure to check for all of your personal belongings and as you leave, please lower your head and watch your step.  The doors will open automatically to the right of the train.  

 Thank you for joining us on the Walt Disney World Monorail and I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in the Vacation Kingdom.  Again, we ask that everyone disembark at this station.    

Express Monorail Spiel Circa 1998
(Departure to Magic Kingdom)

This spiel was spoken by Matt Hanson on the Express Monorail.  

Welcome aboard the Walt Disney World Express Monorail, our Highway in the Sky to the Magic Kingdom.  For those of you standing, please hold on to the handrails throughout our journey and stay clear of the doors.  For the comfort of others, no smoking please.  Thank you.

We are circling the Disney-created Seven Seas Lagoon.  Rising from the Magic Kingdom on the opposite shore is Cinderella Castle.  You can also see Disney's mountain range, Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain in Frontierland and Space Mountain in Tomorrowland.  

To the right hand side on the shores of Bay Lake is Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which captures the spirit of the National Park Service lodges built in the west during the early part of this century.  Also on Bay Lake, you can enjoy a natural setting at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  More outdoor recreation can be found at River Country, Disney's version of the old-fashioned swimming hole.  

Discovery Island, an 11-acre zoological park, is located in the center of Bay Lake.  Launches to Discovery Island depart from Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney's Contemporary Resort.

We are entering Disney's Contemporary Resort, where on the Grand Canyon Concourse, you can start your day with Chef Mickey's Character Breakfast.  For a panoramic view of Walt Disney World, the California Grill, located on the 15th floor,  offers an exquisite array of fine dining experiences, with each meal prepared on stage, as a specialty of the house.  

While your group is together, now is a great time to pick a place to meet if you become separated in the park.  Should you become separated, stop by City Hall on Main Street U.S.A. for assistance.  Guest Relations at City Hall can also help you plan your day, make dining arrangements or provide a special guided tour of the Magic Kingdom.  

In front of the Magic Kingdom is Disney's Walk Around the World, a pathway that will eventually stretch more than three and a half miles around the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Each stone in the pathway commemorates the name and year of an individual guest visit or an entire family vacation at Walt Disney World.  

Ladies and Gentleman, we're approaching our station at the entrance to Main Street U.S.A, gateway to the seven themed lands of the Magic Kingdom.  If you're standing, please hold on to the handrails and stay clear of the doors until the Monorail stops completely and the doors open.  Ladies and Gentleman, this is the Magic Kingdom Monorail station.  On behalf of the cast of the Walt Disney World Resort, we'd like to welcome you to the Magic Kingdom.  

Ladies and Gentleman, please collect your belongings and watch your head and step.  Please assist small children by the hand.  Once again, we hope you enjoy the Magic Kingdom.  

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