ALWEG Test Track – Cologne, Germany – July 1957
Monorail Tales – Part 2
The ALWEG-Bahn
By Todd James Pierce
The origins of the original Disneyland monorail lay far from California: they extend all the way over to Germany, where the wealthy industrialist, Dr. Wenner-Gren was building a monorail prototype. 
Scale Model – 1952 – ALWEG
      During WWII, Dr. Wenner-Gren had acquired a substantial fortune through his partial ownership of many German companies, but once the war was over, he was unable to remove his funds from the country.  His solution was to fund the development of a German-designed elevated rail system—a monorail.  Unlike the Wuppertal monorail with its hanging cars (the subject of a previous DHI blog entry – Monorail Tales Part 1), this new monorail would sit on top of the track, utilizing a system of suspension springs and horizontal side wheels, paired against a notched beam, to create stability.  From the start Wenner-Gren imagined that the elevated monorail would solve transportation problems in large Western cities. 
ALWEG Test Track – 1957 or 1958
     In the early 1950s ALWEG built a scale model to entice prospective civic officials into purchasing the technology.  In 1956 Brazil expressed interest in developing a rapid-transit monorail in the city of Sao Paulo.  But once the project was announced, Brazilian support for the monorail quickly fell away.  Likewise, British officials briefly considered building a monorail between downtown London and the London Airport, but funding for this ALWEG project never solidified.
     To better showcase its technology, ALWEG engineers built a full-size prototype, which was finished in 1957.  Initially ALWEG officials claimed that “this test section will help win over
ALWEG Test Track with Working Prototype – Cologne, Germany – 1958
[local] city fathers to approve funds for a projected monorail between Cologne and the town of Oplanden—about 11 miles away.”  But even with a working prototype in place, city officials in Cologne decided not to use the ALWEG monorail as a mass transit system.
     For the remainder of 1957 and the start of 1958, the monorail development company existed mostly as a hobby project for Wenner-Gren, an opportunity for him to spend the last of his German funds while refining an elaborate machine.  His engineers improved the train by modifying the suspension and drive systems.  They built a full-size station at the end of the test track.  They wrote technical articles about their invention.  But their efforts did not bring any new customers to Cologne. 
ALWEG Test Track – Cologne, Germany – 1958
     But in 1958, the Wenner-Gren monorail caught the eye of Walt Disney.
 =========================================    Lastly, a quick note: You can contact me through my personal webpage.   My most recent book, THREE YEARS IN WONDERLAND is a detailed narrative history of the development of Disneyland (from 1953-1956), a moment by moment account of its creation and opening: the struggles, the challenges, the in-fighting and the success.  You can find it on Amazon.  And remember, even when things are a bit slow on the blog, the DHI Facebook Group is always jumping with new posts relating to the history of Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Company. –TJP

ALWEG Test Track – Cologne, Germany – 1958

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