The Monorail Then and Now – The 60th Anniversary of a Disneyland Original

Along with the Submarine Voyage and Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Disneyland Monorail is celebrating 60 years.  Here’s a look back at the beginning and how it is now.

The Origin of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail

There was a precursor to the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail system.  The Viewliner was a sort-of futuristic train that traveled around Tomorrowland from 1957-1958.  Cars did have a bit of a resemblance to the one beam Monorail cars, but that may be a bit of where the similarities cease.  Walt Disney’s idea of a Monorail seems to have originated from a trip to Europe.  He spied the designs of transportation systems that the Alweg company conceived there and wanted to bring it to the US.  In fact, that’s why it was first known as the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail.  It was a joint production with credit going to the European company.

The grand opening of the Monorail on June 14, 1959, had then Vice-President Richard Nixon on hand to dedicate the first daily operating monorail system in the United States.  There was even a point that Walt technically kidnapped the Vice-President and his family.  Walt, Nixon and his family boarded the new train without the Secret Service, all eager to be some of the first to try the new ride.  The Secret Service was frantically left at the station, but the train was just a round trip and didn’t take long.  Mr. Disney was not prosecuted in any way.

But, that does bring up the point that the first rides on the Monorail were a round trip within Tomorrowland.  Though the Disneyland Hotel was open it didn’t travel there…yet.

Expanding Into the Future

Both Walt and Alweg wanted the monorail system to be expanded in the US.  At one point the Alweg company offered to build Los Angeles a monorail system, and the city declined.  All of us Southern Californians are now very sad at this fact.  Walt was still an optimist and expanded his Monorail about a year after the opening.  1961 saw the second station added to the expanded Disneyland Monorail line over at the Disneyland Hotel.  This was such a sight and attraction to behold that it inspired a whole restaurant – the Monorail Café.  What once was an attraction was now transportation to the official hotel.  It also marked the debut of a new version of the Bob Gurr designed cars.

DISNEYLAND HOTEL (1961) — The Disneyland Hotel opened across the street from Disneyland in 1955, but was built and owned by WaltÕs friend, Jack Wrather until purchased from The Wrather Corporation in 1988. The Disneyland Monorail track was expanded in 1961 to transport guests to and from the hotel, making it the only monorail in the country to cross a public street.

Riding Today

Not much has changed with the Disneyland Monorail other than car design and dropping the Alweg from the name.  Some slight modifications to modernize the system has been done.  A bit of an adjustment near the Indiana Jones Adventure was done to accommodate that.  Though it seems like the Disneyland Hotel station was moved into Downtown Disney it never moved!  That was always the location of that station.  Cosmetically it’s been altered, but previously that area of Downtown Disney was shopping and dining for the Disneyland Hotel.

By 2009 there came a new Mark VII fleet of three Monorail trains.  Red, Blue, and Orange are the three color designations to this new group.  Occasionally there are overlays to celebrate various events and movies of Disney and Disneyland, such as the Mickey Mouse ones for the Get Your Ears On celebration.  These most recent trains pay homage to the original, having a bit of a similar look to the past.  The Disneyland Hotel water slide pays homage as well, having the likeness of the original trains as part of the slides.

The Disneyland Monorail is one of the most known attractions at the Disneyland Resort.  For many, it signifies the arrival or departure of many trips to the Happiest Place on Earth.  It has inspired a main transportation system for the Walt Disney World Resort.  Though trains have come and gone from the Monorail line, it is still a steady attraction and way to get around at Disneyland after 60 years.  So, here is to another 60 years for this sleek highway in the sky!

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