Novelty Monorails - Expo '67
by David B. Simons Jr.
When we think about monorail systems at the several World's Fairs that have occurred in the century about to end, we are usually reminded of the two most famous ones: the ALWEG monorail at the Seattle World's Fair of 1962 and the AMF monorail at the 1964 New York World's Fair. For extra points, we could name fairs with no longer functioning monorails like Expo 86 in Vancouver, the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans, the 1876 United States International Exhibition in Philadelphia, and the little known HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas.
The Montreal International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 67 for short, was held on two islands built in the St. Lawrence River for the fair. Massive feats of engineering were pulled off to double the size of one of the islands and to create from scratch the second, build a new bridge to them, and to construct an entirely new subway--the Montreal Metro--to help move all of the visitors to the fair. Huge pavilions were constructed by the the myriad countries of the world, by geographic regions of the United States and Canada, and by corporations intent on advertising their products and advancements. (And you thought Epcot was the first big sell-out with AT&T, MetLife, and United Technologies "presenting" the exhibits!) To move guests around between the two islands and among the exhibit buildings a monorail system was built which utilized some interesting design elements.
The fare structure for the system called for forty cents per passenger on the two small loops and the more extensive "blue" line--so named because of the color of the trains--charged fifty cents to "ride where you wish". The trains became so crowded with people that new passengers often could not board. After revising the fee to fifty cents for a half circuit and giving the boot to "looky-loo's" and "seat squatters", the trains became a little less popular and the serious passengers, those in need of transport and not just a place to sit with an ever changing view, were able to get to their destinations with a more reasonable wait time for spaces on board. Intended originally to be operated by a concessionaire, the fair corporation decided to maintain ownership and operations and justified this decision by drawing seven million passengers on the system in just the first three months of the operation. (Think of how quickly it must have paid for itself!)
The Blue Line consisted
of six passenger stops near major pavilions. Besides passing over
and under its own tracks, passing beneath the scenic water falls
near the pavilions of Quebec and Ontario, and rolling through
the U.S. pavilion, it also ducked under the standard gauge elevated
rapid transit Expo Express. The stations were named for the nearest
"major pavilion or well known landmark for which a bi-lingual
designation" could be employed: Metro, Agriculture, Theme,
and Canada. Interestingly, two of the lines' stations were "double
stops", that is, Agriculture and Theme stations were stops
for trains going either direction as the track eventually came
back through on the other side of the platform. This line was
4.2 miles long with thirty two trains, each made up of nine cars.
One hundred and two passengers could fit in the 125 foot long
train. Designed by the Swiss firm of Maschinenfabrik Habegger,
their running gear and automatic control systems were completed
by carbodies and superstructures built by Hawker Siddely in Montreal.
Trackage was built by Dominion Bridge Company to Habegger specs
and consisted of double "I" beams supported on "A"
frames up to forty feet high. Incredibly, the trains climbed ten
percent grades and regularly turned radii of fifty feet! Try that
with light rail! Rubber tires were driven by 7-1/2 horsepower
D.C. motors capable of moving the trains at a blistering 7-1/2
miles per hour.
The Yellow Minirail trains ran on two loops of 1.1 and 1.3 miles long. Twelve trains on each line with a consist of sixteen cars each could carry sixty passengers per vehicle. These smaller trains were only one hundred and five feet long and ran on a slightly different track structure making the two types of trains non-interchangeable. Again, rubber tires were employed powered by 2 horsepower D.C. motors.
To this day, the La Ronde amusement park exists and STILL has its yellow line minirail, the last remnant of a major exhibition that is usually not the first to come to mind when thinking of World's Fairs and their monorails.
The following references were used for this article: