If you know about Walt Disney, then you will know he was obsessed with transportation as you can tell, with all the different modes of transportation at Disneyland. This week we will look at Walt’s most ambitious mode of transportation, The Disneyland Monorail. Now keep your hand and arms inside the Monorail at all times, and here we go on our 2.5 mile trip around the park.
In 1956 Walt had started to think about a new transit system for his underperforming Tomorrowland. He knew that he wanted to have a futuristic train when he was initially designing the futuristic land, however, budget cuts had made it impossible to do before the park opened. So Walt turned to the idea of a futuristic train system. Walt had asked Bob Gurr to design the train, and he took inspiration from the GM AeroTrain and called it The Viewliner. The Viewliner was a new way of transportation from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. It opened on June 10th, 1957, and was dubbed the fastest miniature train in the world with a top speed of 30 mph.
In early 1958 Walt and his wife were driving down a road in Germany, and above them, they saw a Monorail race over their head. Walt pulled over and watched for a bit, then went into the test facility and convinced them to give him and Lillian a ride. She was not a fan of typical monorails. Because at this time, most monorails were suspended with the beam causing a lot of swaying. The monorail from the ALWEG Company was built on a beam that was on pillars in the ground that created a safer comfortable ride. With Lillian happy, Walt decided to send some of his Imagineer team to Germany to meet with ALWEG and see if they could use their design at his beloved park.
Of course, Walt went to Bob Gurr to design the Disney version of the monorail. Gurr was not a fan of the ALWEG version, so he designed it to look more futuristic space-age version. His inspiration was the Viewliner and the space ship from Buck Rogers. Walt wanted the project to be completed for the expansion of Tomorrowland in 1959. ALWEG sais that it would be impossible to accomplish shipping trains and all the beams from Germany. When ALWEG came to take a look at the Disneyland site, they realized that Walt and his team had the capability of building the system here in the US, which would make it be able to be done on time.ALWEG did not like Gurr’s design; they said it looked too much like the outer space. Walt had explained to them again that it was going in Tomorrowland, and also it will help promote ALWEG. Needless to say, they still jumped on board.
On June 14th, 1959, the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail opened alongside The Matterhorn and the submarine voyage as part of the massive Tomorrowland expansion. One of the best stories comes from the opening of this attraction. Vice President Nixon and his family were Walts special guests. As Bob Gurr piloted the attraction to the station, Walt and Nixon and families hopped in the car and closed the doors. With all of the vice president’s security on the platform, Walt told Gurr to hit and took off with Nixon without any security detail. Obviously, there was a little worry, but everything turned out great.