A lucky Guest gets to see the WDW Monorail Safety Check

Once on board we learned that we were going to take part in a standard safety test for the monorail.

The test we witnessed is called the MAPO test and is Disney´s forward collision avoidance test.The name MAPO comes from Mary Poppins. The system is named for the much loved British nanny as it was the same Imagineering team who worked on the technology for Mary Poppins who developed this particular train safety system back in the Disneyland days. The money made from the movie was invested into Disneyland and used to design the MAPO system and the technology was later transferred to Walt Disney World.

So how does the test work? Well, it´s actually very simple. As any Monorail buff will know, each of the concrete pillars that support the track is numbered; if you´ve never noticed this before – take a look on your next trip. For safety, the Monorail trains must remain a certain distance apart at all times, this distance being measured in concrete pillars.What the MAPO system does is to track the locations of the trains on the monorail track.

If the distance between two monorails becomes too close, the first thing the “back” monorail will do is to try and inform the driver that another train is in front of it.This is done simply by a beeping alarm in the cockpit. At this point (providing this is an intentional test of the system and not a driver forcing MAPO to engage through carelessness) the driver will inform the passengers that the train will be coming to an abrupt stop and to sit if possible or hold on tight. If the back monorail continues to move forwards and the front one has not moved away, the back train will automatically engage its brakes. It then will not let the rear train move any further forward until the front train has moved forwards, effectively removing any chance of an accidental collision as well as preventing an intentional collision (a situation that will hopefully never arise) as the driver cannot disengage the MAPO system.

Our test went as perfectly as could be hoped, we were in the cockpit of the rear train (monorail black). We pulled away from the Ticket and Transportation Centre but the train ahead of us (monorail green) did not leave the EPCOT monorail station as normal. Our train made it all the way to EPCOT and most of the way around the EPCOT loop, coming to a complete stop several pillars behind the forward train (pillar 207 to be precise) exactly where it was supposed to. The train does jolt slightly when it stops as the brakes engage rather suddenly, but our train driver informed the passengers about the test before it happened as he should and the jolt was certainly not hard enough to knock anyone over. Once the test was completed, the forward train pulled out of the EPCOT monorail station and we entered.

One final thing our driver mentioned on the trip was about the repercussions if a driver “tests” the MAPO system accidentally. Drivers get 3 accidental engagements; if the MAPO system has to come online for them again, that´s the end of their Monorail driving careers for life. As our wonderful driver said, “if you do that by accident, you don´t drive monorails very long!”


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