/ Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

The forerunner of the modern monorail system was tested in Germany in the 1950s where it caught the attention of Walt Disney, then in the midst of planning Disneyland in California. In 1959, when the Disneyland monorail system premiered at the theme park, it became the first new-style monorail to operate daily in the United States. Today, the Mark VI Monorail Trains at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida incorporate nearly 40 years of research and development in monorail technology. The system, in operation since 1971, was expanded in 1982 with a four-mile extension to Epcot and updated in the early 90s with new trains to complete the 11-train fleet.

Each of the twelve, six-car trains is 203 feet long and has 124 rubber tires powered by 600-Volt DC propulsion systems, including eight DC motors rated 113 HP each. Train bodies are made of a high-strength composite honeycomb material that allows high strength at a low weight. Trains travel on a 26-inch-wide concrete beam supported by tapered concrete columns approximately 110 feet apart. The beams and columns are constructed in sets of six and post-tensioned together to form a single 600-foot structure. As trains move along the beamway, they pick up electrical power from a metallic buss bar. On a typical day, more than 50,000 guests utilize monorail transportation.

Walt Disney World Resort’s monorail is a true “highway in the sky,” with a 14.7-mile system of elevated beamway that services seven stations throughout two theme parks and several hotels.

For years, rumors have swirled about the monorail being extended to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and even Downtown Disney. Of course, none of those rumors have come to pass, despite (untrue) urban legends such as the one of the “black square” in the middle of the Swan and Dolphin hotels representing the “drawer” that can be removed to open the buildings to a new monorail loop.

Actually, there were plans as far back as 1977 to extend (no, really) the monorail line as part of a 10-year growth to what was then the Lake Buena Vista Village (now known as Downtown Disney), and soon-to-be Office Plaza which never came to be.

Photo of scale model of the Lake Buena Vista Village shopping area, from Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World, circa 1977

And while new rumors persist, there are currently no plans to extend the monorail system (other than a small, 62-foot maintenance spur off of the system’s Epcot line to serve as a permanent staging area for one of the work tractors) to any resorts, shopping districts or theme parks. But that begs the question…

If you could extend the monorail line in Walt Disney World between any two points, where would you choose, and why?

Post your thoughts and comments below. Get creative!



45 thoughts on “Extending the Walt Disney World Monorail”

  1. Landon says:

    To Hollywood Studios

  2. Jessica says:

    I would love to have the monorail extended to Orlando Intenational Airport. The Magical Express could still take people to thier resorts along with your luggage, but how magical would it be to get off your plane and take the monorail right to the Magic Kingdom. 🙂

  3. Tom Peterson says:

    Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The monorail is part of the fun and magic at WDW, you can ride a bus in the real world…but only at Disney you can ride the monorail.

  4. Stefan says:

    I was at EPCOT in 2000 and was asked to take part in a focus group meeting at which we were presented with multiple hypothetical scenarios for changing the theme park transportation system, including extending the monorail system to include all four theme parks. The focus group enthusiastically supported the monorail proposal over all the others that were shared with us.

    I still think it would be wonderful to extend the system to the final two parks, especially Animal Kingdom since it is so remote, and I have kept my hopes up over the past decade that Disney is still mulling this over.

  5. BostonWriter says:

    Personally I would like to see it extend from my home in the Boston area directly to the Ticket & Transportation Center… but that’s just being greedy. I would love to see an extension from the T&TC to Animal Kingdom… always seems like such a long drive from the MK resort area, especially with little kids.

  6. Adding another spur at the TTC would be a nightmare, but the only candidate is the Animal Kingdom. You would need to have the drop off be far enough from the park entrance as to not ruin the ‘Jungle’ theme with a modern transportation vecile like that. You can take a boat from Epcot to Hollywood studios or walk it if need be so that is already covered.

  7. scotth says:

    OK…OK…..So we have all heard the stories about every foot of track costing like six trillion dollars. I understand that it is not necessarily cost effective for Disney. However the monorail even though more common now than 30 years ago….still is almost as Iconic to Disney Fans as Cinderella Castle. I’d like to see that mother go to every resort and every park. Get rid of all the buses and let the fantastic state of suspended disbelief begin.

  8. Beth says:

    I would extend the monorail to MGM, Animal Kingdom, and DTD. I would provide more resort locations with access to the system. I believe the monorail line is a symbol of Disney and is one area that the Magic exists. I can’t ride a monorail back in the real world, but I can a bus.

  9. Bruce says:

    I would love for it to extend out to Animal Kingdom. And they should go over the savanna, with it. How neat would that be to be above the Animals?

  10. From the TTC to Animal Kingdom. That park is more secluded than Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is not a long distance from Epcot. So if I had to pick 2, I guess Animal Kingdom would be it from TTC. What would really be cool is maybe some kind of People Mover themed to Animal Kindgom… have it pass closely by or through The Polynesian Resort on it’s way from the TTC! (I know, that would take a lot of track motors…)

  11. Ricky Kirkland says:

    Would love to see the Monorail extended to Hollywood Studios as well as Animal Kingdom. Can easily envision a spur going by part of the Savanna where you could see some of the animals. Would be better than the Raffiki’s Planet Watch Train !! I agree with an earlier post that, even though it would be expensive, the monorail is an Icon for Disney and should be given preferential treatment !! Cinderella’s Castle, Tree of Life and Spaceship Earth do offer some entertainment value. The dreadful Sorcerers Hat (which does nothing but block the original wonderful view) at Hollywood Studios does nothing. The monorail does, at least, provide an important service and is loved and enjoyed by millions of people each year. I make a point to ride it each and every visit as it just doesn’t feel like Disney without riding it. It should be treated as a major attraction because it is !!!

  12. Bryan, Charlotte, NC says:

    The best place to extend the monorail would be to the Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom just feels so far away from everything else. I think there would be more traffic to that park if there were a monorail system. But the Swan and Dolphin hotel would be nice as well since they are in between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Have a Magical Day everyone!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Would LOVE seeing a monorail line to the Studios. It’s SOOOOOOO close.

    An Indian Steam train to Animal Kingdom from TTA and AK Lodge would be a perfect fit.

  14. Jim says:

    Add me to the list of extending it to the Studios and Animal Kingdom. It just seems the natural thing to do.

  15. Mark Vitek says:

    I would like to see the Epcot line extend to DTD, where a second monorail hub could then be built with lines out to the Studios and then to Animal Kingdom. The Epcot line would then add a station at Golden Oaks. The DTD line would do a loop of the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club and Dolphin and Swan resorts on its way to stops at the Studios, the Animal Kingdom Lodge and AK. Finally, either the MK or Epcot line is developed out for a stop at the Wilderness Lodge. This puts a monorail stop at all of the Deluxe Resorts, DTD and the 4 Parks.

    And ticket prices double. 😉


  16. Kevin Z says:

    Between the new high speed train station and EPCOT. I’m sure we could wind it around property to hit some other places like DTD, TL, BL, DHS, AK along the way…..

  17. gaylin says:

    I am thinking that extending it to Vancouver, BC would be a great idea!

    Okay to be more realistic I think Hollywood Studios would be good. I wouldn’t want it to go to the Animal Kingdom, I like the remote feeling while I am there.

  18. Michael Campe says:

    I would love to see a spur to AK but I also do not think it would fit with the theming…but since this is all pipe dreams anyway could the AK spur monorail be themed as an old Afrian / Asia train…or… the Orient Express.

  19. colaboy29 says:

    I’m a bit torn on only two Parks like you suggest. The main station needs to be at Epcot. Actually, when Disney was considering expanding the monorail that grassy area next to the current station is where the new construction was to go. Epcot has plenty of parking, and they could install a parking structure if the demand was there for more parking.

    Then I see it going to DownTown Disney as one stop. For the other stop it would either be AK or DHS. Or how about AK and DHS and no DTD?

  20. DisneysFolly says:

    Extending it to DHS doesn’t really make sense to me. For one, it’s just so close to Epcot. It would be difficult to continue that spur onto DHS without some serious reconfiguring of the Epcot approach. Plus that would be a logistical nightmare for transporting passengers from MK resorts/TTC. The other option would be running another track which is just plain nonsensical to have so much track running parallel to Epcot and then breaking off.

    As for Animal Kingdom, obviously you couldn’t have it run too close to the park entrance but i think you could still make it happen. It’s so far apart from everything else and would make that area more appealing and reachable.

    Alternately, you could have the monorail run a big loop from the TTC towards Animal Kingdom area and then loop around the southern end of the property and swing past DTD, Typhoon Lagoon and some of the resorts, before heading back North.

  21. Fredrick Vuvuzela says:

    I think that the Epcot monorail should be extended to DHS because it’s so close already. Plus, what could be better than hopping on Test Track right after you’ve tested your stomach at ToT? ;D

  22. Lynn B says:

    From the front of EPCOT to the back of EPCOT. And then to my house over by Sea World .

  23. EdisonDave says:

    I’ll agree with the monorail to DAK but I’d also like to see more resorts in the loop. A stop at Downtown Disney would be great. BTW if you want to see the prototype that was tested in Germany in the 50’s then rent the movie “Farenheit 451” where it is featured prominently. The main difference is that the cars hang down from under the track instead of riding on top of it.

  24. Bill says:

    The original monorail was designed as an emotional transition, taking the guest out of the real world of the parking lot and transitioning them into a land of magic. The irony is that most casual guests do not appreciate this. It is seen as an inconvenience and a delay rather than a time to anticipate, decompress, and reflect. For those of us who “get it”, the monorail has become a powerful and very unique icon. I believe that this is due to a subconscious reaction to the purpose of the original design. It is the vehicle that takes us from the real world into the park.

    When looking back on past trips, the monorail was most useful to me as resort-to-park method rather than parking-lot-to-park or a park-to-park method. Capacity has always been an issue. 20+ minute waits for a monorail is not unusual, even on an average day.

    As such, if I was dreaming large, I would do two things:
    1. Stop using the monorail as a link between the parking lot and the front gate.

    Give the parking folks 3 choices to get to the gate: tram (w/ optional stop at ticket center), ferry, bus,

    2. Run a monorail loop to each resort.

    My first resort link would be between the AK and Animal Kingdom lodge. It would tie in the furthest park.

    Practical reasons why this will probably not happen:
    a. Cost has always been cited as a major problem

    Keep in mind that to a large business like WDW, costs are relative to alternate solutions. Even if the price of monorail construction dropped enough to make extensions feasible, they still wouldn’t do it if the bottom line for an alternative was cheaper. It is likely there will always be a cheaper alternative.

    b. The monorail is a huge risk for liability

    We found out last year that the monorails cannot sustain even a mild collision without catastrophic results. Additionally, I cannot imagine what would happen if a fire broke out. My understanding is that the current evacuation plans for an elevated section is to have the guests climb up to the roof (of a train that is on fire, mind you), and then climb down a rope ladder to the ground. A fire on a monorail would be an epic disaster.

  25. WordVixen says:

    I don’t know about point A, but I’d definitely want point B to be Downtown Disney! I’m only a fan of the buses if I can get a seat, and parking there is horrendous! If we’re not staying at Port Orleans, the DTD day is usually dreaded as much as anticipated.

  26. Mike says:

    It should be extended from every park, shopping area, waterpark, and resort within Walt Disney World to every other park, shopping area, waterpark and resort within Walt Disney World. Period.

    The Monorail is one of the quintessential elements that makes Walt Disney World Walt Disney World, a major part of the magic, and there’s no need to worry about it “not fitting in with the theming” of places like the Animal Kingdom as conjectured in some of the earlier posts above. After all, one could say that the monorail “doesn’t fit in with theming” of the Polynesian or even the Grand Floridian…yet doesn’t it? It’s more a matter of how the stations are designed.

    On the other hand, there is almost nothing one encounters at Walt Disney World that DESTROYS the immersiveness of the experience than having to take a boring, dull, ordinary, run of the mill OLD FASHIONED bus (or taxi, or personal car) anywhere. The ongoing LACK of unlimited monorail access would actually do more in the way of “not fitting in” than would its ultimate completion.

  27. Mike B says:

    Straight from the TTC to my beloved Beach Club front door of course (as the grouchy guy at the bus stop demanded in July!).

  28. anna says:

    Studios to AK….AK closes early, this would make park hopping faster…

  29. Kevo says:

    To the Hess station for some quick/cheap (er) snacks and beer!

  30. Paul in CT says:

    When they first announced the Wilderness Lodge, I thought that it was going to be a monorail resort because of its proximity to the line, but that was not to be. If it had monorail access, it would be a different resort class and priced accordingly. I doubt that Disney will create any new monorail resorts unless they build it along the existing loop where it would be more cost effective. The only extension that I might consider if I were Disney is from the TTC to Downtown Disney since it might create the extra traffic to the shops that would help to justify the cost. IMHO, I am happy with the monorail system as it is and would rather see Disney invest the capital in improvements/additions to the theme parks.

  31. Steven says:

    Animal Kingdom

  32. Nick says:

    To Hollywood Studios with a stop at the Beach/Yacht Club

  33. Rudy in VA says:

    We usually stay at the Beach Club so we’re close to the Studios as it is, but it’d be grate to have the monorail go to the Animal Kingdom. Catching a bus that also stops at a water park too just takes time away from the parks.

  34. paul perrin says:

    When I was reading all the post i must amint that i like the monorail and consider it to be an attraction in itself. I am lucky to live in a city that has a monorail of its own. It goes a whole 9 blocks . Walt did want the break between the real world and the magic of WDW. He was sadend by the delopment around Disney Land, that is why he bought 43 sgare miles for WDW.

    I enjoy taking the monorail to MK. Taking the bus to the gates of MK does take the magic on the trip. Taking boats from the Port Orlins to DTD is also magical. I know that there is boats avable from the Swan, Dalphin. Board Walk, Yacht, and Beach Club to Epcot, and DHS. There is also boats from WL and FW to MK. The buses are a cheap way to transport people to the other areas. No mater what transpertation is avaible people will still complain about waits. If they put an extention of the momorail from Epcot to DTD or DHS it would cause more wait times for all people at all three ends.

    An extention of the monorail is not needed. A train from the TCT to AKL and AK like one poster stated it could be themed as the Orent Express. The other areas could be reached by an expention of the boat system.

  35. Chris V. says:

    I believe the best place to get another monorail would be from hollywood studios to downtown disney, or possibly make an additional route from epcot going to downtown disney or hollywood studios. Either way, it’d be more convenient to all those guests with a ParkHopper ticket.

  36. Helen says:

    @paul perrin, yeah, I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a monorail, too. I’m in a suburb of Seattle. I may soon work at a place less than a mile from the Space Needle (one end of the monorail). If so, I will be severely tempted to move to Seattle, to the OTHER end of the monorail, just so I can ride the thing to work every day and tell folks I commute by monorail.

    Absolutely, the WDW monorail is an attraction in and of itself. When I was a 17 year old in 1980, I spent a large part of my second 10-day WDW vacation learning about the monorails. I probably spent 3-4 hours a day riding around, enjoying the view, and just being happy to be in WDW. I talked monorail pilots’ ears off, asking questions and asking what they liked and disliked about driving monorails. My interest amused the staff enough that I was allowed to sit in on hours of driver training in the cab. LOL, I took notes on a steno pad, and think I still have them somewhere! There’s no telling how annoyed the drivers in training must have been when some random obsessed kid knew the answers to questions they couldn’t answer. Payoff came around 7am on the last day of my vacation when I, while lamenting that I had to leave was asked — to my great surprise — if I wanted to sit at the controls for a few hundred feet on a train that contained no one but me and the driver. Never having been a fan of bumper cars, not having bothered to get my driver’s license yet, and not being from a boating family, it was the first time I’d ever taken the controls of something larger than an Autopia car (though I certainly didn’t admit this at the time), and it was SUCH A RUSH.

    LOL, since almost every teen girl has her diva moments, it even amused me a couple times when one of the training monorails was at the station and they saw me, they’d wave me through to go sit up front after having told the other people waiting (in front of me) that they couldn’t go on that train because it was being used for training. LOL, “I am special” and I’m getting to learn about something I am fanatical about — now THAT is a vacation for a teenage girl (albeit most teen girls wouldn’t choose monorails ;-). Although I understand the reason why it’s so, I was sad to hear that guests are no longer allowed to sit up front in the monorails as of last year.

    I’d name names in a thank you, as I still remember them, but I heard a few years ago from a friend who was then in monorails that one of the culprits (more of a look the other way participant than an active co-conspirator) in this adventure is still employed by WDW and might even be in a position of Some Responsibility, so I think I’ll keep my mouth shut about it for a few more years. But at least a person or two who was in monorails in June/July of 1980 might remember me if, as I suspect, a female teen monorail nerd was a somewhat unusual occurrence. I hope it had a couple of them feeling better about their jobs for a week or so, as whenever people have thought I had a cool job and asked me lots of questions about it, I have felt good myself (while also getting a few chuckles out of thinking, “You who think my job is cool, if you ONLY KNEW what really went on here….”).

    The last time I went to WDW about 4 years ago, I was chatting with the driver and mentioned my 1980 escapades, only to get a reaction of, “Ohhhh, you learned the OLD trains. I heard the Mark IV’s were HARD. It’s a lot easier now.” I’m in my 40’s now. I’ve got a career in tech, and a life in Seattle. I didn’t ask for lessons. But ya never know what I might do when I retire….

  37. RRMike says:

    I dont know if is an urban legend. But I heard that there were already concrete footings for the monorail columns between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.I was told that they put them there for posible expantion. I read somewhere that at EPCOT at the monorail stop there is a platform for this expantion. I looked for it and there is an area that looks like a roof, but is a platform ! So when I got home from my trip to WDW I looked at photos and looked for a possible route. A separate line to DHS could work but is it cost effective? The way I see it passengers would have to change trains at EPCOT and take a separate monorail to DHS. This line could even be extended to Downtown Disney and even to Saratoga Springs. Though I think a monorail through SSR would spoil the theme they are going for at the resort. I have the same thought about Anminal Kingdom. I think a monorail would spoil the theme they are going for there too. That is not to say I’m against a system to AK. Perhaps a light rail system at ground level from the TCC might work. But would they have the ridership numbers to justify the cost to build and run the system. Busses are cheaper to opperate and dont require tracks. That is why alot of cities took out the trolleys and went to busses when they were able too.

  38. Ryan says:

    I really think the monorails shuld connect all parks, DTD, water parks and all deluxe resorts.

  39. Kos says:

    We just stayed at the Polynesian in July and the monorail was key for a family with a stroller. If you take the bus you have to fold it up, but you just walk on with the monorail. For this reason I think they should extend monorails to as many resorts and parks as possible. My favorite resort is the Beach/Yacht Club and would love to see a monorail stop near bye as the busses simply are not fun.

  40. Vincent says:

    i would put it in saratoga springs. its huge and monorails would be helpful

  41. Ashleigh K. says:

    I think there needs to be some sort of special transportation from Animal Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom Lodge…A jungle themed monorail would definitely do the trick!

    Or, how about from EPCOT to DHS. As everyone has said, adding another line from the TTC would be very confusing, so add it at EPCOT and then it wouldn’t be a very long ride to the studios.

  42. Jake says:

    I think that extending the monorail track would be awesome. It costs a lot of money to build the track, but Disney has the money and I think it will pay back in the end. Put it this way. If Disney extends for T&TC to Downtown Disney then families who just want to go out for dinner at Downtown Disney. They don’t have to get in their cars and deal with hotel parking and driving there. Sure they have to switch tracks at the T&TC but that takes no more then 5 minutes. Its also financially wise for Disney because Monorail fans will be riding there just to check everything out. Monorails are also ECO friendly so its better then have hundreds of buses transporting people. Making a track to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios would be awesome and financially bright for Disney because connecting the parks means that they can cut down on bus staff. But if they did make any new Monorail tracks they would have to enlarge the Monorail Barn which would be costly. In all I think in the end extending the Monorail track would be beneficial and awesome for both Disney and guests.

  43. Doug says:

    I think the only choice for Disney is Hollywood Studios and perhaps the Boardwalk area. If the monorail is extended to DTD it would create parking problems. Why would anyone want to pay $12 or more for parking, if they could park for free at DTD and hop on a monorail to any park?

  44. Larry says:

    Be happy with the monorail you have. It is enought of a job for disney wto keep the system they have now inoperation. They will never expand the system in our life time.

  45. Kylie says:

    Ok, the monorail is NOT unique to Disney first off. It’s been around since the 1820s and went to basically every other country before we decided to build one. Since Disneyland there are like 5 other major cities who use it as transportation. That being said I think one would best fit from Hollywood studios to downtown Disney.