The art of transit

photo by Harold R. Senthee, via his Flickr photostream

If it looks like something out of another century, well it is. This is the famous “floating train” of Wuppertal, Germany. It was built in 1900 and is actually a monorail; the idea was to find a transit system that would fit in with the city’s hilly terrain. For more of the train’s history, here’s a good website.

The current odds are showing that there’s a 70 percent chance a monorail versus subway debate will now break out on the comment board.

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Categories: The Art of Transit

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7 replies

  1. I have nothing against monorails EXCEPT when they are used as the all-purpose, cure-all for all transit situations.

    Monorails do have their uses, just as subways, streetcars, light rail, commuter rail, trolley buses, bus rapid transit and cars have their uses.

    Besides hilly terrain, monorails do well in waterfront areas with lots of bridges. That might explain why Tokyo’s two monorails are near the harbor.

    It would be like running a monorail from Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro to Rainbow Harbor in downtown Long Beach.

  2. I wonder if that elevated structure leaks current as much as 3rd rail electrification. I see metal all the way way into the ground.

  3. A monorail is just a train. There’s nothing magical about it. It is an elevated electric train with one rail instead of two.

    Sure, they usually make the cars look streamlined and “futuristic” (is 1959 futuristic anymore?).

    There are things about it that are awful.
    The infrastructure is more expensive.

    Not as many manufacturers worldwide make the parts as they do for conventional two rail trains.

    It doesn’t carry as many passengers as our two rail light rail technology does. (The cars are much smaller.)

    The elevated train structures of two rail versus monorail are almost identical; the monorail structures are only marginally thinner than the elevated Gold Line tracks we have now in Chinatown.

    Stop romanticizing monorails. There is not one advantage to it.

  4. I think there are good places for monorails. Obviously it works well in Wuppertal. I could even see this working in certain hilly parts of L.A.

    I don’t think it would work well along Wilshire Blvd. Wuppertal’s trains have a capacity of 260 passengers (2-car trains, 130/car). Our subway trains can each hold over 1000 passengers (6-car trains, 170/car). Not to mention the visual impact on our iconic boulevard.

  5. Great photo. I first saw this “monorail” in the Tom Tykwer film Princess and the Warrior which was set in Wuppertal.

    Once I saw this futuristic rail line I googled with conviction to find out more about it. To my surprise it was not some CGI trick but a real rail line that was 100 years old.

    As for the Monorail debate, I think you can make the argument for one, but NIMBYism is the going theme in this city.

  6. My understanding was Wuppertal is in a narrow river valley and this design allows it to straddle the waterway. The sole fatal accident in 1999 was due to neglect by repair crews.

    Most of us concede in certain circumstances monorail has its value. But the boosters oversell it and avoid the unpleasant reality that after nearly a century it is still only a minor footnote in mass transportation. They are quick to offer excuses and explanations for this state of affairs, unable to deal with the reality that it is the shortcomings of the mode that is why it never has been widely adopted beyond limited applications…