Disney Monorail 50 Years

Monorail Archaeology 2011

Monorail Archaeology 2010

The Alweg Phenomenon

Alweg's Heritage in Las Vegas

Alweg Konzept in LasVegas

Goofy Spoofers

ALWEG Schuco Monorail

Monorail Archaeology

Monorail Archaeology 2009

THE 50th

Disneyland-Alweg Monorail
1959 - 2009

A tribute to the Alweg Company and the Disney Company teams that designed and developed the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System
in memory of my father, Rolf Krischer, Alweg mechanical engineer, who also participated in the Alweg Disneyland project
of Chuck Lindholm, the wonderful American friend, who worked on the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail and the Seattle Alweg Monorail

© Reinhard Krischer

With a big Thank-You to Walt Disney
and his Imagineers !!!

And last but most certainly not least
to my wife, Bärbel, who so patiently supports my Alweg research!!!

The names Schuco and Disneyland are registered trademarks.
Die Namen Schuco und Disneyland sind eingetragene Markenzeichen.

The train that convinced Walt Disney! This is the legendary Alweg Company 1:1 test-train that was introduced in 1957 on the Alweg Cologne-Fühlingen test-site. Here it is seen crossing the Neusser Landstrasse in Cologne-Fühlingen. Photo Maria Wendt. Copyright Sammlung/Collection Reinhard Krischer.

On June 14, 1959, Walt Disney officially dedicated the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail in his Disneyland® in Anaheim, California, USA. That was 50 years ago and so on Sunday, June 14, 2009, there’s reason to celebrate. There are many ways to celebrate an anniversary. The President of the American Monorail Society has put out a call to come and meet in Disneyland® on that day to commemorate the event. The Disney Company itself is issuing commemorative pins to mark the event and has evidently planned no other commemorative activities. But last year it put its seventh generation of monorail trains into service, - sleek vehicles that still convey a very futuristic feeling. They can be seen as a tribute to this anniversary, particularly since their design looks like a Century 21 version of the iconic original 1959 look created by Bob Gurr, a designer who was for many years one of the leading Disney imagineers. He was a member of the Disney team that together with mechanical, electrical and construction engineers of the Alweg Company (based in Cologne-Fühlingen in Germany, with an American subsidiary in New York) designed and built the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail.

The story of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail and its follow-up generations of trains is by now well-known. Most Disney-fan-websites on the internet contain information about the much-loved Disney monorails. Not all of it is correct, most of it is “borrowed” without asking for permission and without naming sources. It’s one of the ironies of the strange Disney-fan-devotion to the ideals of the “Magic Kingdom” that however excludes respect for the work of others. It doesn’t really fit in with the much revered “old-time-values” that are part of the “Magic Kingdom” mystique. But that is another story …

So since the Disney-Alweg Monorail story has been and is being repeated in many different ways there’s no need to do this here in detail on this special ALWEG ARCHIVES page. This particular time in modern monorail history calls for innovative thinking that needs forward-looking ideas much more than nostalgic memories. The Alweg monorail concept is very much alive and is heading for an “acceptance breakthrough”. The Hitachi Company of Japan, Bombardier of Canada and Scomi of Malaysia are working hard for this aim. The results can be seen e.g. in Dubai (Palm Jumeirah Monorail), Las Vegas (The Las Vegas Monorail) and in Kuala Lumpur (The Kuala Lumpur Monorail).

The classic Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System red train in Disneyland in 1959. Sammlung/Collection Reinhard Krischer.


See and hear “YouTube 1959 Monorail Dedication”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5e129tiEcM

Thank you, Kim Pedersen, President of the Monorail Society, for pointing out the internet existence of this news-clip!

As a small tribute to the 50th Disneyland-Alweg Monorail anniversary Reinhard Krischer built this diorama displaying a Schuco Disneyland-Alweg train. These models in approximate 1:72 scale were based on the Disneyland originals and were produced by the German Schuco firm in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Diorama photos by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.

Listening to or reading the inaugural words spoken at the opening ceremony in Disneyland® and the media coverage back then one wonders today, what revolutionary technical development pushed aside the monorail concept to better solve the traffic problems that already existed 50 years ago. Because if in those days the monorail concept was considered to be the ideal solution, something better must have come up to replace it. After all there aren’t many monorails around today, - but, hold on, the traffic situation has become much worse since then. In addition we have come to recognize the environmental hazards of automobile traffic and in view of decreasing fossil fuel sources we are heading toward energy supply problems in the not too distant future. On top of that the often idolized leaders of the automobile industry have just lost their cult status because their industry as it is managed today has turned out to be a disaster endangering the world’s economies.

And what then replaced the ideal monorail solution in the 1960s?


The decision makers did nothing new. They kept on pouring concrete for highways for automobiles. The only not exactly new development was that more and more old rail transit systems were displaced by bus lines.
The automobile was touted as part of modern life, ensuring personal freedom. The consumers trusted their elected decision makers and failed to realize that the “pursuit of happiness” was not originally intended as a commercial concept. Modern life was instead quickly based on the flourishing production of automobiles. As a result the automobile began to dominate life. Its purchasing price, gasoline price, maintenance costs, insurance costs became fixtures of personal household expenses. Quickly the automobile became a status symbol and more and more a part of culture.

But there were always people who were uneasy about this domination of culture by a machine. The introduction of assembly lines in automobile factories had been a first inkling of what machine dominance might mean. As a consumer product automobiles became cheaper, but the real price to be paid was the combination of physical stress dictated by the speed of assembly lines and the mental stress of monotonous work. It did not take long till other negative dominating factors became evident. Traffic in the cities increased from year to year. Terms like traffic congestion and complaints about more dirt in the air appeared. But the newfound mobility and the fun of driving outweighed all critical arguments for many, many years to come. One of the few people always interested in new forms of technical mobility to alleviate traffic congestion was a certain Walt Disney.


Train model by Schuco. Diorama photo by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.


Walt Disney was a practical genius and in that spirit he simply decided to use the success of his film company to create a place where people could enjoy themselves in the atmosphere of something like a contemporary amusement park. But his park was to have various sections presenting different themes from for example history, folklore, geography and technology. Walt Disney also wanted to present visions of the future like space travel and transportation. For transportation of the future he introduced the Alweg monorail concept.
 Only trouble was that with his visions of futuristic technologies Walt Disney intruded in the established world of technology. Had he pleaded for more streamlining of classic rail vehicles no one would have seen this as a serious intrusion. But Walt Disney dared to show a revolutionary new way. He was the first to present the Alweg concept in North America. The two-rail lobby at once branded the Alweg monorail system as amusement park stuff. No matter what had been said on the Disneyland® monorail station platform in the short speeches during the official opening on June 14, 1959.
 Despite the opinions of transit experts, city planners ( + politicians), railway builders, etc., etc. the Disney-Alweg Monorail quickly became one the most popular attractions in Disneyland® and that is still true today, - also in the Disney parks in Florida and near Tokyo (where the monorails do a job no less strenuous than regular city transit service). The interesting and also baffling thing is that the millions of people (that’s actually who transit experts, etc. should be working for) who get to know the monorail concept and who come away asking, why this system isn’t used in cities as transit, are totally disregarded by the experts. There was one instance when citizens of a city tried to vote for a monorail transit system (the Green Line campaign in Seattle; a city well acquainted with the Alweg concept because since 1962 such a monorail operates there successfully). The two-rail lobby managed to ruin the campaign and in the fifth (!) voting finally killed the project.

The pebbles used for the diorama were collected on the banks of the River Rhine, not too far away from Cologne-Fühlingen. Train model by Schuco. Diorama photos by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.

The Alweg Company had no chance against the established experts. Its last office closed in 1971. Yet its concept, saved through the purchase of Alweg licences in the early 1960s by the Hitachi Company of Japan, is very much alive today and has a bright future particularly in Asia and Arabia and in what today are called emerging countries. Places where innovative transit concepts are seriously considered.

Walt Disney’s belief in the monorail concept has also contributed continuously throughout the many years of successful operation to the popularity of the monorail idea. It has raised a monorail consciousness that has helped to keep the concept in the public mind. That may have irritated the transit experts throughout the years, because the “monorail virus” simply wouldn’t go away, but it may now contribute to a new transit consciousness.

Now that the transit experts need to come up with timely solutions that would comply perfectly with the old Alweg slogan “faster, safer, cheaper” and with environmental considerations such as clean electric energy, quiet drives and minimal visual and physical obstruction that were always also part of the Alweg concept, the monorail idea even has new chances and possibilities in the so called First World.

The global economic crisis has exposed many areas that have been dominated too long by experts who in reality are anything but experts. That is not only true in the banking world or the automobile industry, it also holds true for the fields of city planning and transport industry. The chaos created by all these dubious experts vividly demonstrates that visions of a practical genius like Walt Disney show solutions that reach beyond the horizons of established experts.

 The Alweg monorail concept, first commercially presented to the public by Walt Disney, is one such vision.

 The fashionable trend in certain circles to disdain Walt Disney’s work and visions has lost its attraction. Germany saw recently an art exhibition showing the classical origins of the art of Walt Disney’s illustrators. The ingenuity of Disney’s illustrators and imagineers as pioneers on the road to the digitalized wonders of today is widely acclaimed and admired. And even writers of permanently critical cultural commentary have quietly allowed themselves to like Walt Disney’s world in the time we live in today.

 So it’s good to celebrate another Disney anniversary.

June 14, 1959, - 50 years ago the Disney-Alweg Monorail was officially dedicated …  


The futuristic Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System - "The Highway in the Sky" - crossing a conventional two-rail track. The General Railway Signal Company of Rochester, New York, provided the "Monorail Automatic Block Signaling Continuous Cab Signal, Speed Control and Train Stop System" (Title of GRSC Pamphlet 985). Photo Sammlung/Collection Reinhard Krischer.




For more detailed information about and history of the Alweg monorail system and the Disneyland-Alweg story see the Alweg Archives pages about

The Alweg Vision


Model by Schuco. Diorama photos by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.

An unexpected and amazing tribute to the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail and the Disney replica of the Matterhorn Mountain can be found in the fascinating "Matterhorn Museum" in Zermatt, Switzerland (at the foot of the real Matterhorn Mountain, 4478 meters high). In one of the museum's show-cases (photo below) is displayed the colorful box of a Schuco train-set that shows a drawing of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail in front of the Disneyland Matterhorn replica. The box stands next to a painting showing the legendary Swiss mountain guide Ulrich Inderbinen (Zermatt, December 12, 1900 - June 14, 2004), who climbed the Matterhorn for the last time at the age of 89.

A big thank-you to Peter Graf of the Matterhorn Museum for so kindly providing the photo below.


Photo Copyright The Matterhorn Museum, Zermatt, Switzerland.

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.

Diorama by Reinhard Krischer. Monorail model train by Schuco. Diorama photo by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.


(a selection)

by Reinhard Krischer
transpress Verlag 2003

Walt Disney - The Triumph of the American Imagination
by Neal Gabler
Vintage Books, a Division of Random House 2007

Walt Disneys wunderbare Welt
und ihre Wurzeln in der europäischen Kunst

Herausgegeben von Bruno Girveau und Roger Diederen
Hirner Verlag München 2008

Walt Disney
by Reinhold Reitberger
rororo monographien 2002

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland
By The Imagineers
Disney Editions, New York 2008

Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends
and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park

by Jeff Kurtti
Disney Editions New York 2008

The website of The Monorail Society

Information kindly provided by Bob Gurr

Model train by Schuco. Diorama photo by B.G., Imaging and Copyright Reinhard Krischer.