Seattle Monorail 50 Years

Alweg Seattle Chronology

Alweg Seattle Brochure

Alweg Seattle Future 1962

Alweg Seattle EMP

40 Years and Technology

Seattle Monorail Debacle

Monorail Memories

Alweg and the Baker Boys


Alweg Seattle

A short history of the last existing original Alweg monorail
 in the world.
Please see the numerous other ALWEG ARCHIVES website pages about various aspects of the Seattle ALWEG story.

Deutscher Text

Special Alweg Archives Page / Sonderseite der Alweg Archives
Seattle Alweg 1962 - 2012

Photo Rolf Krischer, 1962 - Copyright Reinhard Krischer


is the direct descendant of the first fullscale test train developed by the Alweg company in Cologne, Germany, during the early 1950s (see the "Cologne" pages of the ALWEG ARCHIVES). Both of the Seattle trains were built in Germany and were expedited from Bremen by freighter to the United States in January 1962. Together with American engineers and technicians the Alweg engineers from Cologne supervised the construction of the concrete pylons and beams, their placement and the installation of the "Blue and Red Trains" onto the line. (The above photo of the "Red Train" was taken from one of the windows of the Alweg Company's office by Alweg mechanical engineer Rolf Krischer in 1962. Copyright Collection Reinhard Krischer.) The whole construction period in Seattle took just ten months and traffic on busy Fifth Avenue, main artery for the monorail line, was only minimally obstructed during this time.



Souvenir button from the Seattle World's Fair 1962.

For the Alweg Company the Seattle line was the ultimate reference project to showcase all the system's advantages in comparison to conventional two-rail lines. A research office was therefore kept by Alweg's American subsidiary Wegematic in Seattle till 1966.

During the proposal stage for the rapid transit line for Seattle's 1962 World's Fair Alweg had offered to completely finance their monorail project. This naturally helped to win the bid for construction. During the World's Fair the monorail turned out to be a huge success, carried several millions of guests and more than paid for itsself. In 1963 Alweg presented the monorail as a gift to the "Century 21 Center", which was a good way to avoid possible demolition costs and at the same time to preserve the line as a demonstration system for future Alweg customers. In 1965 the City of Seattle became the owner of the Monorail.

Back in 1963 it had for a moment looked as if no one was willing to take over the Seattle monorail, not even as a gift. Luckily the line was saved and the Seattle Alweg Monorail is still one of the city's special attractions travelling from the year 2000 on right through the new "EMP" complex. And despite the fact that it is the last existing original Alweg monorail in the world it has with the help of the "EMP" at last reached the century for which it was originally built!

During the 1962 "Century 21" World's Fair one could purchase a large glossy souvenir booklet entitled "World's Fair Pictorial Panorama". It of course contained photos of the "swift, silent" monorail and on the last page one could read about "Post-Fair Planning". According to this text the Monorail Terminal on the Century 21 site belonged to the "permanent structures". Towards the end the text stated: "Among the several conjectures about the use of the Monorail include extending it south to the Seattle-Tacoma International airport in order to alleviate mass-transit problems." The wording may be a bit oldfashioned, but it is a fact that this exhibition, the Space Needle and the Monorail contributed to the "global" status that Seattle has attained today. They were indeed the starting signals for leading the way to Century 21! But as the Alweg Company had already learned in "old Europe" city administrators tend to be innovative only when the world is watching them. Without this attention they tend to quickly return to their set ways and do not seem to dare to risk decisions with long term future in mind.

So Seattle's Alweg Monorail reached "Century 21". The Seattle city government had never had the courage (or enough farsightedness) to extend the original line. Thanks to several very dedicated Seattle citizens' initiatives a new monorail line - to be called the Green Line - was planned during the first half of the first century 21 decade. It was a dramatic and even somewhat tragic attempt to oppose the "city government machine" that was opposed to a monorail system and favored a conventional two-rail system. It is an interesting "political" story (and lesson) about how the initial choice of the voting tax payers was finally "turned round" to fit the plans of the established "city government machine", aided decisively by the disastrous financial planning of the monorail initiative.

The Seattle Alweg monorail - the last still existing original Alweg line in the world - is today known as the "Seattle Center Monorail" and has been in continuous operation since its inauguration in 1962 is operated by Seattle Monorail Services.
Both Alweg trains have with great dedication by the Seattle Monorail Services team been refurbished and technically updated to today's safety requirements. 

Link to the official Seattle Monorail Services website



Construction of the Alweg monorail beamway on Seattle's Fifth Avenue. On the right the Orpheum Building. (Alweg Company publicity photo. Collection Reinhard Krischer.)


The exuberant mood of the Seattle World's Fair 1962 is best illustrated with the "Official Souvenir Program" issued by the Washington State Dept. of Commerce & Economic Development. In it two pages are dedicated to the Alweg Monorail. One page shows the front of the "Red Train" in all its sparkling technical beauty, looking almost like the visor of an astronaut's helmet. The other page shows an old view of a busy Seattle street with streetcars and horse drawn carriages and also a view of the colonnade of monorail pylons on 5th Avenue. The accompanying text describes a ride on the Monorail almost in the style of an heroic poem:
"The two slim white rails, narrowing in unison toward infinity, skim over the noise and the clutter of street traffic ... over the distracting winking signals and the do and don't directions and the counteractive intersections. Slowly at first, then faster, the light aluminum train glides from Westlake Station, its eight drive wheels and thirty-two guide wheels clutching its own monorail.

Four cars tandem bend into the curve above Stewart Street and ahead is the straightaway, a mile of unswerving concrete beam. The driver accelerates and four electric motors suck in power. Twenty miles per hour ... forty ... sixty ... seventy. Down the other monorail the second train appears and speeds forward then swishes past in an amazingly quiet rush. At eye level, the colonnade of trees along Fifth Avenue appears as a blur of foliage and the buildings flicker past like a picket fence.

The driver decelerates and the motors brake for the Denny Way curve. The monorail train eases over the crowds and across the fence and slips into Century 21 Station. One hundred twenty-five persons rise from their seats and step out to enjoy the Seattle World's Fair. The elapsed time from downtown - ninety-five seconds."

As if to further underline the drama of this monorail-epic (which is technically speaking not correct since each train has eight 100hp electric motors and 64 wheels and the trains have a passenger capacity of up to 450 people = seating space for 124 + standing room) the Official Souvenir Program ends with an advertisement by the then very posh Frederic & Nelson department store, located across from the downtown monorail station.This ad is illustrated with a wonderfully futuristic drawing of an aerial view of this station, a monorail train and the store's building in the background.

What better way to describe the mood of those very first "Century 21" days in Seattle in 1962 ...



Alweg's Blue Train on Seattle's Fifth Avenue in a classic Alweg publicity pose in 1962. On the left the Grosvenor Building. (Alweg Company publicity photo. Collection Reinhard Krischer.)

For a detailed look at the long and continuing Seattle Alweg history please see the

See also the interesting story of the
Alweg Seattle Monorail and the EMP

A very personal look back on
Alweg's 40th Seattle Anniversary

Please see also the official website of the company that today manages the SEATTLE MONORAIL



In 1962 the two Seattle Alweg trains demonstrate how elegant monorail can look in a modern city. On the left the Orpheum Building. (Alweg Company publicity photo. Collection Reinhard Krischer.)


As a historic footnote see the currently still existing website of  FRIENDS of the MONORAIL, - the dedicated Seattle supporters of the Seattle "Green Line" monorail project, who unsuccessfully aimed to "promote through local, grassroots advocacy a monorail-type public transit system for the Seattle area".


The Seattle Alweg Blue and Red Trains resting in the Fairgrounds Station in 1962. - Photo + Copyright Collection Reinhard Krischer

Links to some ALWEG ARCHIVES website pages about various topics concerning the history of the Alweg monorail concept:

ALWEG Opposition



ALWEG: Airborne Rail Travel

ALWEG Seattle Future


And for a ride with the Alweg Monorail from downtown to the fairgrounds in 1962 please see this nostalgic short film:

Commemorative button kindly provided by Glenn Barney, former General Manager of the Seattle Monorail Services.

Text und Illustrationen (falls nicht anders vermerkt)
Text and Illustrations (unless otherwise noted)
von / by Reinhard Krischer
Reinhard Krischer
Jegliche Verwendung von Material dieser Website nur mit schriftlicher Genehmigung.
Any type of use of the material contained in this website
by written permission only.


Für die Inhalte der Websites/Webseiten, zu denen Links von The Alweg Archives aus führen, wird keine Verantwortung übernommen.

No responsibility taken for the contents of websites/webpages reached via links from The Alweg Archives.

For a complete history of the Alweg Monorail Company (including a history of monorails in general) in Germany and the USA (and of course about Hitachi-Alweg) see the richly illustrated German book ALWEG-BAHN by Reinhard Krischer (the author of this ALWEG ARCHIVES website). The book also describes and illustrates Alweg's role in transportation history, showing that the Alweg concept is - despite experts' opinions to the contrary - still very much alive and retains, thanks to its timeless modernity, a very bright future ! As shown today by the numerous Hitachi-built monorails (the Hitachi Company is currently building a monorail line in Daegu, South Korea, the Las Vegas Monorail by Bombardier (the Bombardier Company is currently building a monorail line in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and one in Saudi Arabia) and the Kuala Lumpur Monorail by Scomi (the Scomi Consortium has won two contracts for the construction of monorail lines in Sao Paulo and Manaus, Brazil). 

(See the Alweg Book page.)