Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Disney World Attractions (#11)

#11: The Monorail

I'm ranking this attraction at the very bottom because many people would contend whether or not this even counts as an attraction. It's not in any of the theme parks, and it's essentially a big fancy train.

But that's the cool thing about it: it's a big fancy train!

The monorail may be used solely for transporting park guests from Point A to Point B, but its very design and existence is quite the technological marvel. Most other trains run with wheels on tracks. The monorail has no wheels. Instead, it uses air compression to suspend itself over the track—the same way a hockey puck remains afloat atop an air hockey table—and it uses magnetism to propel itself. This is a train that rides on air and runs on magnets. That along with its sleek design make it a really futuristic addition to the parks.

The Disney monorail system has its roots in (where else but?) Disneyland. When the Disneyland monorail system was built in 1959, it became the first train of its kind to be built, not only in America, but within the Western Hemisphere. Originally, it started out as simply an overhead sightseeing tour of the park (sort of like a giant People Mover), but as the park expanded, so too did the monorail track, along with its role. Now the system is used for transporting guests around the park and the resort.

Being the grandiose transportation wonder that it is, a similar system would be built and used for transporting guests in the much larger Walt Disney World resort in Florida. When that monorail opened with the resort in 1971, it was primarily used for transporting guests to the Magic Kingdom Park from the various hotels around the main lake. This included the equally-futuristic Contemporary Resort, through which the monorail would travel, with special air walls keeping out the outdoor elements. The Disney World monorail later received an expansion in 1983 with the opening of the second park, Epcot Center.

Spanning nearly 15 miles, the system is one of the longest of its kind in America, and serving 150,000 passengers daily, is one of the busiest systems in the world. The only system busier is the Chongquing Rail Transit in China.

So, yes, this is, indeed, a big fancy train, and that's what makes it so impressive. The system really shows how above and beyond Disney is willing to go in order to accommodate and impress guests. Most other amusement parks would simply settle for a tram or a train. Disney World give you an air-propelled space train from the future.

Its special features and designs give the train a futuristic design. In fact, when Walt Disney himself had the train built in Disneyland, he initially created it in order to showcase the monorail technology, dreaming that it would be the mass transit option of the future. (Sadly, that dream would be literally run over by both the automobile and airplane, both much more reliable options for traveling long distances these days.)

I remember several times in the recent past when my folks and I would visit the resort without going to any of the parks, and I have to admit, riding the monorail alone was a good enough experience in and of itself. If I could just go back to the resort just to ride the monorail, that would be enough for me.

The monorail: because the Simpsons didn't turn it into a show-stopping song and dance number for nothing!