From Academic Kids

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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

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Sydney Monorail


  • 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.
The Disneyland Monorail
The Disneyland Monorail


  • 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.
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The Las Vegas Monorail (Convention Center Station)
  • 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.

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The Ueno Zoo Monorail carries passengers within the zoo in Tokyo.


  • 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.


North America

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Monorails can be found in the following places in North America:

South America and Australia

Future monorail projects

Several new systems are being built in Asian cities including:

See also

External links

Monorails in general

Specific monorails

Monorail Advocacy Groups

de:Einschienenbahn eo:Unurelvojo fr:Monorail nl:Monorail sv:Monorail zh:單軌鐵路


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