Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A monorail is a metro or railroad with a track consisting of a single rail (actually a beam), as opposed to the traditional track with two parallel rails. Monorail vehicles are wider than the beam they run on.
Types and technical aspects
There are two main types of monorail systems. In suspended monorails, the train is located under the track, suspended from above. In the more popular straddle-beam monorail, the train straddles the rail, covering it on the sides. The straddle-beam style was popularized by ALWEG. There is also a form of suspended monorail developed by SAFEGE that places the wheels inside the rail.
Modern monorails are powered by electric motors and generally have tires, instead of metal wheels which are found on subway, streetcar (tram), and light rail trains. These wheels roll along the top and sides of the rail to propel and stabilize the train. Most modern monorail systems employ switches to move cars between multiple lines or permit two-way travel. Some early monorail systems--notably the suspended monorail of Wuppertal (Germany), dating from 1901 and still in operation--have a design that makes it difficult to switch from one line to another. This limitation of the Wuppertal monorail still comes up at times in discussions of monorails despite that fact for both the suspended and straddle-beam type monorails the problem has been overcome.
Advantages and disadvantages
- The primary advantage of monorails over conventional rail systems is that they require minimal space, both horizontally and vertically. The width required is determined by the monorail vehicle, not the track, and monorail systems are commonly elevated, requiring only a minimal footprint for support pillars.
- Due to a smaller footprint they are more attractive than conventional elevated rail lines and visually block only a minimal amount of sky.
- They are quieter, as modern monorails use rubber wheels on a concrete track
- Monorails are capable of climbing, descending and turning faster than most conventional rail systems.
- Monorails are safer than many forms of at-grade transportation, since the monorail wraps around its track and thus cannot derail and unlike a light rail system, there is minimal risk of colliding with traffic or pedestrians
- They cost less to construct and maintain, especially when compared to underground metro systems.
- Monorails require their own guideway .
- While a monorail's footprint is less than an elevated conventional rail system, it is larger than an underground system's.
- A monorail switch by its very design will leave one track hanging in mid-air at any given time. Unlike in the case of regular rail switches, coming from this track may well cause derailing, with the additional risk of falling several meters to the ground.
- Most countries (apart from Japan) do not have standardized beam specifications for monorails, so most tend to be proprietary systems.
- In an emergency, passengers cannot immediately exit because the monorail vehicle usually sits on top of its rail and there is no ledge or railing to stand on. They must wait until a fire engine or a cherry picker comes to the rescue. If the monorail vehicle is on fire and rapidly filling with smoke, the passengers may face an unpleasant choice between jumping to the ground (and breaking bones in the process) or staying in the vehicle and risking suffocation. Newer monorail systems resolve this by building emergency walkways alongside the entire track (though this reduces the advantage of visually blocking only a minimal amount of sky).
- There are also some lingering concerns over the speed and capacity of monorails.
Partial list of monorail systems
Monorail systems have been built in many countries around the world, many of them on elevated tracks through crowded areas that would otherwise require the construction of expensive underground lines or have the disadvantages of surface lines.
- Japan has employed monorails for rapid transit in seven cities, including Tokyo and Osaka - The Tokyo Monorail carries around 100 million passengers yearly. See monorails in Japan.
- Shanghai, China - Completed in 2004 the Shanghai Maglev Monorail runs for 30 km between Pudong Shanghai International Airport and the Shanghai Lujiazui financial district. Designed for speeds up to 500 km/h (310 mph) its regular service speed is in the region of 430 km/h (267 mph). The Shanghai Maglev Monorail is the fastest commercial railway system in the world.
- Belgium: There's a monorail in the Plopsaland theme park.
- Germany operates a suspended monorail in Wuppertal, the Schwebebahn Wuppertal, dating back to 1901; Dresden's Schwebebahn has a similar system; The university of Dortmund has developed a magnetic Monorail Einschienenbahn . The system is the one used for the Düsseldorf SkyTrain, which operates at Düsseldorf International Airport. There is also the experimental Transrapid in Emsland that has been build by the German producers as a link from the City of Shanghai (China) to Shanghai International Airport.
- England has monorail systems at Chester Zoo, Gatwick Airport, and Birmingham International Airport
- Moscow, Russia
- Listowel, Ireland is the site of the worlds first commercial monorail, named the Lartigue system after Charles Lartigue who constructed this railway in 1888.
Monorails can be found in the following places in North America:
- Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida - Arguably the world's best-known, it serves over five million passengers yearly.
- Disneyland in Anaheim, California
- Seattle, Washington - short monorail (Seattle Center Monorail) built for the Century 21 Exposition in 1962
- Jacksonville, Florida - public transit
- Las Vegas, Nevada - public transit
- Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Florida - people mover
- Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook - death trap
- Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey - people mover
- Six Flags La Ronde in Montreal, Quebec - once part of a larger monorail systems built for Expo 67
- Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minnesota
- Toronto Zoo in Toronto, Ontario - mothballed after a fatal accident
South America and Australia
- Sydney, Australia has a monorail originally designed as public transport but has found more use as a tourist attraction.
- The Gold Coast, Queensland has two monorails:
- Brazil has recently built new monorail systems.
Future monorail projects
- The 1-mile monorail built in Seattle for the Century 21 Exposition in 1962 is expected to be replaced by the Green Line, a 14-mile monorail line that will serve as public transit (construction begins in 2005).
- Extensions of the Las Vegas Strip monorail north to the city center and south to the airport are being planned.
- As part of the DestiNY USA project in Syracuse, a monorail from Syracuse University to Syracuse Hancock International Airport via downtown and the DestiNY complexes is planned.
Several new systems are being built in Asian cities including:
- Tehran, Iran .
- Putrajaya, Malaysia
- Sentosa Express, linking Sentosa, Singapore to the main island
- Chongqing, China
- Jakarta, Indonesia 
- West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong, linking the WKCD with Tsim Sha Tsui
- Hyderabad, India
Monorails in general:
- The Monorail Society, home page of a volunteer organization promoting monorails, with separate pages on monorail switches and a backyard monorail
- Innovative Transportation Technologies, a website for the Transportation engineering and Urban planning programs at the University of Washington
- Schwebebahn Monorail in Wuppertal, Germany
- Jacksonville SkyWay
- Las Vegas Monorail
- Seattle Monorail, separately managed from the new Seattle Monorail Project
- Sydney Metro, partly a monorail system
Monorail Advocacy Groups:
- Austin Monorail Project, a non-profit advocating monorail transit for Austin, TX
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