|Opening date||June 14, 1959|
The Disneyland Monorail System (originally named the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail System) is an attraction and transportation system at the Disneyland Resort. It was the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere, and the first in the United States. It opened on June 14, 1959.
Walt Disney originally envisioned the monorail as a practical form of public transport for the future. However, the monorail came about during a time when America's—and particularly Los Angeles'—obsession with the automobile was increasing, and monorails in the United States came to be associated only with Disney's theme parks.
The Disneyland Monorail System (originally, the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail) opened on June 14, 1959, as a sightseeing attraction in Tomorrowland in Disneyland. The Mark I trains (Red and Blue) consisted of three cars each. In 1961 it became a true transportation system when Tomorrowland station was lengthened to accommodate the debut of the four-car Mark II and the additional new Yellow train, the track was extended 2½ miles outside the park and a second platform was constructed - the Disneyland Hotel station. In 1968 Mark III Monorail Green joined the fleet and both platforms were lengthened for the arrival of the more streamlined and efficient five car Mark III monorail train conversions.
From Hotel Station there were two trips above Disneyland available aboard the monorail, a quick tour and general admission. Guests wishing to embark upon a vista-dome view of the park including a leisurely layover in Tomorrowland within the tail-cone could purchase an exclusive round-trip tour ticket at Hotel Station and save the expense of general admission to Disneyland. Nose and tailcone door latches were independent from the main door release button. A simple dial indicator above the tail-cone compartment door could be turned to one of three positions - General admission guests, round-trip only guests, and mixed. Hostess attendants at Tomorrowland Station would check the dial position and open the door for general admission guests. If general admission guests boarded the tail-cone in Tomorrowland, the dial would be set to mixed, then all mixed tail-cone guests disembarked at the hotel.
By the early 1980s, the Mark III trains were showing their age and the wear of years. In 1985, Disneyland began phasing out the Mark III trains one by one. The older trains were stripped to the chassis and rebuilt as Mark V trains. The Mark III Green went first, to become the Mark V Purple followed by the Mark III Yellow becoming the Mark V Orange. The Mark III Blue remained blue (albeit a lighter shade) and the last was Red, remaining Red. The notable difference was the loss of the bubble-top driver's area in favor of a streamlined "Learjet" look similar to the Mark IV trains at the Walt Disney World Resort. The new trains also sported closed passenger compartments (with windows that could be opened) and pneumatic doors. Following the 1985 Disney World monorail fire, a safety handrail was added along the spine of the train, as well as emergency fire exit hatches leading to the roof. The attraction's name remained the "Disneyland Monorail System", as it had been painted on the Mark III trains' skirts. The Mark V trains were built by Ride & Show Engineering, Inc., incorporating bodies that were produced by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm of Germany. Purple first made her appearance for testing in Autumn of 1986 and began regular operations a few months later. Orange was delivered in late Summer of 1987, followed by Blue in early 1988. The oldest train, Red, was also the last to be removed from the line for refurbishment in the Spring of 1988.
The beamway path was re-aligned into the Eeyore section of the parking lot in 1994 to accommodate the construction of the Indiana Jones Adventure show building. The trains were fitted with new electrical pick-up shoes and tail view cameras enabling two-train point-to-point shuttle service where the first arriving train was disembarked, moved along empty to just beyond the station, the second train arrived, disembarked, embarked and dispatched so the first train could be loaded and dispatched for the return. In 1999, the monorail began lengthy periods of closures due to construction of the Disney California Adventure theme park, which the monorail beamway passed through which had formerly been the parking lot. Although the beamway's route was not altered, a significant amount of construction was done around the existing beamway, and much of the terrain under the beamway's support columns was regraded, necessitating the closures. Additionally, the Disneyland Hotel Station and all of its nearby hotel structures were completely demolished and a new station built in the same location. General admission was required to board at the Downtown Disney station. Downtown Disney Station is treated as a second gate into Disneyland Park, so a general admission passport or valid annual pass must be presented to ride the monorail and the tail-cone tour is no longer offered.
The system resumed limited shuttle operations in 2000, when the Downtown Disney Station became operational, but a significant portion of the beamway was still unusable due to construction. In 2001 the monorail resumed full capacity forward direction circuit operations, passing through Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa as well as showcasing the new park.
In 2004, Monorail Orange was removed from the line and taken to Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale to be reverse engineered. Monorail Blue was removed in September 2006 for rebuilding. The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage show building was extended into the lagoon beneath the monorail which closed from August 21 through late December 2006 to prepare for the 2007 opening of Nemo.
The refurbishment from Mark V to Mark VII was done one train at a time. There was no Mark VI at Disneyland. The first Mark VII train, Monorail Red, arrived at Disneyland on December 20, 2007. It was originally expected to be in service by the end of February 2008, but due to design change issues, it did not begin serving park guests until July 3, 2008. Mark VII Blue arrived on-site on April 10, 2008, began daytime riderless testing on August 1, 2008, and began guest service on September 16, 2008. Monorail Mark VII Orange arrived on-site on August 14, 2008, began riderless testing in March 2009, and began guest service on April 7, 2009. The entire Mark VII Monorail fleet consists of three trains - Red, Blue, and Orange.
In May 2012, the monorails received new decals depicting eyes and a mouth covering and below the front windows, to tie in with the opening of the Cars Land section of Disney California Adventure. Each train was given a new name and unique narration, depicting the trains as if they were in the Cars film universe. Monorail Red became Manny Monorail, Monorail Blue became Mandy Monorail, and Monorail Orange became Mona Monorail. By the end of January 2013, the decals had been removed and the trains were running with standard narration.
The Disneyland Monorail has two stations: one in Tomorrowland, and another in the Downtown Disney district. The original Monorail was a round trip ride with no stops. In 1961, the track was expanded to connect to a station at the Disneyland Hotel, making it an actual transportation system. The original Hotel station was torn down in 1999 and a new station, now called the Downtown Disney Station, was built in the same place. All riders must disembark at Tomorrowland Station, and during peak traffic periods, the monorail offers only one-way trips where all passengers must also disembark at the Downtown Disney Station and re-board for the return trip to Tomorrowland. Admission to Disneyland Park must be purchased to ride the monorail.
In the fall of 2006, the Tomorrowland Station was remodeled due to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage construction. The original speed ramps were removed, and a new concrete ramp was added on the east end of the station to handle the queue and access to the station, with concrete stairs on the west end to handle the exiting Monorail passengers.
The monorail travels in one direction only. All passengers board at a single platform. Leaving Tomorrowland station, the monorail crosses the Disneyland Railroad and continues along Harbor Boulevard on the eastern edge of the park. Turning to enter Disney California Adventure, it passes Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and Muppet*Vision 3D. The track then crosses through the gateway to the Disney California Adventure park. Passengers can see Disneyland Park on the right and Disney California Adventure Park on the left. The monorail then passes through Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa then makes a sharp curve to the right and enters the Downtown Disney station, which has a rainforest theme, covered with several jungle-themed canopies, to complement the adjacent Rainforest Cafe.
Downtown Disney station has one platform. After a five-minute loading, the train leaves Downtown Disney and makes a short loop around the district before crossing above the esplanade between the two parks and heads back to Disneyland. Once inside the park, the monorail crosses the railroad again and goes into a series of sharp bends and curves around Tomorrowland. The track travels above the Submarine Lagoon and Autopia. The track actually crosses the lagoon four times. The track then curves around the Matterhorn Bobsleds, giving a view of Fantasyland, then turns left to reenter the Tomorrowland Station.
All monorails are equipped with Grover 1056 horns. The horn must be sounded when departing a station, at one point where the track parallels the currently unused PeopleMover/Rocket Rod track, and when approaching the Matterhorn. They are also sounded when a bird lands on the track. The original monorails were equipped with horns that sounded more like real ground-level trains.