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 systemâ€™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!