The History of the Disneyland Monorail: Mark I, 1959-1961

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

The Disneyland Monorail has always been a favorite attraction of mine, much like the Disneyland Railroad. These two iconic attractions are a great escape and offer fantastic views of Disneyland park. I had so much fun writing and researching the ‘Meet the Steam Engines of the Disneyland Railroad’ series, I thought it would be fun to start a spin-off on the history of the Disneyland Monorail! The Mark VII currently transports guests from Tomorrowland to the Downtown Disney District and back, but today we’re going to start at the very beginning – the Mark I.

The Disneyland Alweg Mark I Monorail and the Disneyland Railroad

During the development of Disneyland, a monorail system was planned to be part of the opening of Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers could not find a suitable version to make this dream a reality. It wasn’t until 1958 when two of his Imagineers introduced Walt to a monorail created by the Alweg Corporation in Germany did he see the potential of bringing this system to his original Magic Kingdom. Rather than the traditional suspended-track design, the Alweg Corporation had created a unique straddle-beam track. The benefit of this slender design allowed the beam to blend perfectly with the surrounding landscape in Walt’s world of “tomorrow.” Walt also loved the combination of electric propulsion and rubber wheels on the beam that produced an almost noiseless operation – preventing distraction for guests on the attraction or near it.

The Disneyland Alweg Monorail Station in Tomorrowland

Walt Disney asked Alweg to design the original 8/10-mile beamway around Tomorrowland and enlisted a young designer, Bob Gurr, to design the train. With this collaboration, the Disneyland Alweg Monorail System opened on June 14, 1959, as the first daily operating monorail system in the Western Hemisphere. This “Highway in Sky” featured two trains, each with 3 cabins and the now-iconic bubble top in front. Walt Disney’s hope was not only to provide a scenic journey above Disneyland, but to create a solution for mass transportation needs all around the world. However, the Disneyland Alweg Monorail System was purely an entertainment attraction when it opened and didn’t function as transportation for guests until 1961 … but we’ll save that story for the next installment!

Now for a bit of trivia … Where can you find a tribute to the Mark I Monorail at the Disneyland Resort today? Leave your answer in the comments!


  • As a WDW kid, I was totally blown away by the Disneyland track with all its tight banking curves. At WDW it’s transportation, but at Disneyland it’s a ride!

  • These series are great! Thanks.

  • Awesome, Erin! Loved your DLRR series and really loving this new one! Keep up the great work!!

    • Thanks, Michael!

  • Erin I am loving your series and I can’t wait to read more. I love Disney History so it is great to see these types of articles on the Disney Parks Blog.

    • Thank you, Dawn – glad you enjoy them!

  • I know this about DL…but as someone who grew up on the Mark IV’s and Mark VI’s the monorail has fascinated me for most of my life. It would be awesome if you did a historical look back on each of the trains. My favorite WDW picture ever is from the period of time when rails was implementing the Mark VI’s. I have a fantastic picture of Monorail Black in both Mark IV & Mark VI forms pulling into/out of Base. The passing of the torch if you will. So cool. Oh yeah…Know Your Hold Points!!!

  • I love that picture of the Monorail and the Fred Gurley! I’d really like to use that picture as a background. Do you have it in a higher resolution so that I could download it? Thanks!

  • its such a great feeling of hopping on that monorail and bypassing all the distance and getting dropped off to disneyland hotel. just love the monorail

  • Sure looks like the Mark 1 at the Monorail Pool at Disneyland Hotel. 🙂 I loved your post–thanks for the Monorail history! I look forward to more!

  • Great blog post! I’m looking forward to the next one in this series!

  • Interesting and informative blog! I look forward to reading the subsequent posts!!

  • The slides in the recently remodeled pool area at the Disneyland Hotel pay homage to both the original monorail and the Disneyland sign.

  • Hi Erin,

    What an interesting post, thank you! We love staying at the Disneyland Resort and while there recently I did notice that the pool area at the Disneyland Hotel does have a Monorail theme.

    I think this is the tribute to the Mark 1 Monorail and it’s a great one too!

    Best regards,

  • The plaque at the Monorail Station, honoring the Engineers that put together the monorail system.

  • Can’t wait for the rest of the series. My grandfather’s company worked on the Mark IV in Disneyworld.

  • Pool Slides at Disneyland Hotel

  • is the answer the pool area at the disneyland hotel? i had a great stay there recently, during half-marathon weekend!

    • That’s correct!

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