Yesterland

Yesterland-Alweg
Monorail

Presented by Santa Fe Railroad

“E” Ticket
Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Mark I Monorail Blue at the Tomorrowland Station—the only station on the loop

You’ve just boarded the Yesterland Alweg Monorail for a nonstop, round-trip journey.


Now you’re gliding along the gently curving “Highway in the Sky.” As you look out the windows, you enjoy scenic views of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Fred M. Nelson, Sr., 1959

Mark I Monorail Red passes over the queue for the brand new Matterhorn bobsled ride.

As you travel around the Matterhorn, you’ll have a fine view of the Midget Autopia. You also see the orange groves and vegetable fields that surround the park.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Heads turn to watch the sleek Mark I Monorail pass the mighty Matterhorn

Your brief, 8/10-mile journey is over as your Monorail returns to the station.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Stylish! The lights at the rear of the train are like upside-down Cadillac tail fins.


The Disneyland Alweg Monorail System was dedicated on June 14, 1959, with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included U.S. Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his family. The Monorail was part of a major expansion of Tomorrowland which also included the Submarine Voyage, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and the Motorboat Cruise.

But what in the world is an Alweg?

Alweg, or ALWEG, was a company in Cologne (Köln), Germany, founded by wealthy Swedish entrepreneur Dr. Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren. The ALWEG company developed a working monorail prototype, which caught Walt Disney’s eye in 1957. Disney worked out a deal with ALWEG, in which his designers would develop a monorail using ALWEG’s basic design as the starting point.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

ASME plaque at the Tomorrowland Station in 2005

Disney’s young design genius, Bob Gurr, designed a sleek train with a rocket-ship nose, stainless steel side panels, and the famous bubble top in front. The Disneyland Alweg Monorail’s appearance was a complete departure from the plain, functional design of ALWEG’s prototype (or ALWEG’s later Seattle Monorail, built for the 1962 Seattle “Century 21” World’s Fair).

By early July 1959, there were two Mark I trains—one was red, the other blue—serving Disneyland guests.

When Walt Disney decided to add the Monorail ride to Disneyland, he wasn’t just looking for a new way to entertain Disneyland guests. The Disneyland Alweg Monorail would demonstrate a revolutionary solution to urban mass transportation. Quiet, electric trains would glide above the avenues and rooftops of American cities on slender concrete rails in the sky.

Disneyland Monorail

Historical photo from 1961 © The Walt Disney Company

Monorail service across West Street to the Disneyland Hotel

In June 1961, the Monorail became a true transportation link instead of just a sightseeing ride. With an extended 2½ mile track, Disneyland Hotel guests could board the Monorail at the hotel and begin their park visit in Tomorrowland. And Disneyland Park guests could exit at the Disneyland Hotel to drink beverages at the Monorail Lounge that weren’t readily available in the park. Not only was the track extended, but trains grew from three cars to four cars and the fleet grew to three Mark II trains with the addition of a yellow Monorail.

In 1968, the first of four all-new, five-car Mark III trains began service. The Alweg name remained on the Disneyland Monorails until 1976, although the actual ALWEG company had long ago faded away.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

Mark V Monorail Red at the Tomorrowland Station in 2006

The Mark V Monorails, which began operating in 1987, outwardly resembled the Walt Disney World Monorails. Despite their similar appearance, the Florida system uses much larger, heavier, longer trains, operating on more substantial beams.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

Monorail service continued while the lagoon was rebuilt for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

It’s The Year of a Million Dreams!

The Mark V Monorails remained in service for over 20 years—with occasional promotional “wraps” on one train during the fleet’s final years.

Disneyland Monorail

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Mark VII Monorail Orange above the Submarine Lagoon

Disneyland now operates a fleet of three Mark VII Monorails. Monorail Red and Monorail Blue began service in 2008. They were joined by Monorail Orange in 2009. The Mark VII Disneyland Monorail trains don’t look like scaled-down Walt Disney World Monorail trains any more. The new design is strongly influenced by Bob Gurr’s original, sleek Mark I trains, but without a bubble top—and without upside-down Cadillac fins either.

The Disneyland Monorail continues to entertain and transport Disneyland guests, but the trains and the route are very different than in 1959.


The original Disneyland Monorail was just one of Bob Gurr’s many great achievements.

The MiceChat Fantasy Cruise, featuring Disney legend Bob Gurr

This October, you have an opportunity to participate in an experience that promises to be truly amazing.

A week on a Disney Cruise Line ship is wonderful to begin with. But now imagine being part of a small group of passengers who really get to know Disney Imagineering Legend Bob Gurr—thanks to MiceChat and Fairy Godmother Travel.

Get all the details here: MiceTrip: Sail Away on the Disney Fantasy with MiceChat - October 19th - 26th, 2013.


Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.


Submarine Voyage
Tomorrowland Station
Home


© 2013 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated August 23, 2013.