The Walt Disney World Monorail is easily one of the most distinct park symbols to come to mind when you think of Disney World—right along with other iconic images like Cinderella Castle, the Epcot Ball, and several others. Serving as both an attraction in and of itself, as well as a most unique mode of transportation, the monorail is a right of passage for countless Disney vacationers each and every day. But have you ever stopped to wonder about how it came to be, or how it operates on a daily basis? We’ve compiled a list of 10 fun facts about Disney World’s Monorail System that we feel you ought to know.
Back in the 1950s, while still in the conceptual planning phase for his California theme park, a new and innovative mode of rail travel being tested in Germany quickly caught the attention of Walt Disney. He was so fascinated that he established his own adaptation of this working monorail system, which premiered in Disneyland back in 1959, becoming the first of its kind ever operating in the United States.
With the opening of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida by 1971, a sister fleet of the Disney Monorail System was established with new modernizing developments being incorporated over the next several years. The current 12-train Mark VI fleet serving Walt Disney World Resort has been in operation since the 1990s. Unlike its earlier predecessors in the process, the Mark VI boasts a higher passenger capacity along with improvements in air conditioning, operational door systems, and other overall safety features.
9. The Disney World Lines
Did you know that the monorail system at Walt Disney World Resort really consists of three separate monorail lines, each with its own designated destination route? These lines include the Resort Monorail, Epcot Monorail, and the Express Monorail. The Resort Monorail runs on a continuous loop within the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, making stops along the way at Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and the Transportation and Ticket Center.
The Epcot Monorail runs a back and forth route between Epcot and the Transportation and Ticket Center. The Express Monorail travels to and from the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center—a great alternative for those not wishing to make the multiple stops along the way that the Resort Monorail performs. In all, the grand total track mileage comprising of the Disney World Monorail System spans 14.7 miles.
8. A popular way to travel
The reliability and timeliness of the Disney World Monorail makes it a popular pick among vacationers. Each day, services start running 30 minutes prior to the earliest park opening and remain in full operation up through one hour after the latest park closing. And in addition to providing guests with an efficient and most convenient means to travel by, the Walt Disney World Monorail System is heavily sought after as an attraction—one of the famous Disney World must-dos. On any given day the monorails carry thousands of people, with an estimated average of more than 150,000 daily and about 7,000 every hour on the hour. Well over 50 million people travel via Walt Disney World Monorail every year, and since its debut more than one billion people have utilized its services.
Daily maintenance is vital for keeping the monorail trains up to par in safety standards and efficiency, and Disney takes all the necessary precautions quite seriously. There’s even a special maintenance track area just northeast of Magic Kingdom Park, down the road from Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where maintenance and tests are performed each and every morning. Also note that this is where the train cars are retired for the evening after a day’s work and is also where a monorail is taken in the less common event in which it breaks down and cannot be restarted quickly.
Safety tests and daily maintenance first thing in the morning are crucial for carrying out the monorail’s safe and reliable initiative as a popular mode of transportation everyone can count on. While many tests are performed to insure that everything is working well, one such assessment pilots perform by intentionally getting trains too close to each other is done to test the monorail MAPO system, ensuring that the on-board computer turns off the manual controls and initiates the emergency break. The MAPO system, which is such an integral part of all Disney Monorail Systems, was named after Mary Poppins by Walt Disney himself, when profits from the movie were used to create Disney’s new transportation company.