11 Abandoned Monorails, Suspension Railways, Railplanes & Hovertrains

sydney-monorail-abandoned-2 (Image: Hpeterswald; demolition of abandoned monorail in Sydney, Australia)

No matter how commonplace they might be, there’s something futuristic about monorails. These elevated rapid transit systems have been seen as the solution to transportation problems in cities all over the world, but sometimes they create more problems than they solve. Whether it’s because of a design flaw, financing or – in the case of the Bennie Railplane – because they’re arguably ahead of their time, systems can fall short of completion or be abandoned in their heyday, leaving mere traces behind. This article examines 11 abandoned monorails, suspension railways, hovertrains and the wonderful retro-futuristic railplane that never quite came to be.

Abandoned Sydney Monorail, Australia

sydney-monorail-abandoned

sydney-monorail-abandoned-3

sydney-monorail-abandoned-4 (Images: Hpeterswald; Ambanmba; DearEdward; Sydney’s abandoned monorail stations & cars)

Originally opening in 1988, the Sydney Monorail underwent a few name changes in its two-decade run. Also known as the TNT Harborlink and the Metro Monorail, the eight-station loop connected the shopping districts of the New South Wales city with Chinatown and Darling Harbour.

The monorail was never as popular as it was expected to be, and the first sale came 10 years after its trains had first pulled out of their stations. Closure came in June of 2013, with some of the track being dismantled and a handful of trains having been re-purposed into meeting rooms for Google. By the end of 2013, the track was gone with much of it being recycled into the construction of a temporary bridge.

In its last few years, the Sydney Monorail wasn’t without problems. In 2010, two trains collided at the Darling Park station, and in 2012, a system shutdown stranded around 100 passengers on the network. Today, what’s left of the abandoned monorail stands eerily silent.

Abandoned Jakarta Monorail, Indonesia

jakarta-monorail-abandoned (Image: Davidelit; Jakarta’s abandoned monorail)

Never completed, the project that would have been a two-line, 18 mile-long monorail in the Indonesian city of Jakarta was abandoned twice, first in 2008 and again in 2015. From financial difficulties to legal disputes, the whole project was plagued with problems that led to a September 2015 conformation by government officials, stating that the monorail had officially been abandoned.

Even the earliest stages of the monorail were problematic, with the original construction phase halted after only a couple of weeks due to financial concerns. It was handed off several times, but the final blow to the project came when the proposed grand monorail station was revealed to have been designed with supporting structures that were planted squarely in what had always been designated as public open spaces. There were also rumours that the developers planned to use permissions for the now-abandoned monorail station in order to build commercial properties in the various locations, all culminating in the ultimate end of the Jakarta Monorail.

Abandoned Monorail Pods, UK

abandoned-monorail-pods-beeston-nottinghamshire (Image: David Lally; abandoned monorail pods in Beeston, Nottinghamshire)

Lying all but forgotten in Nottinghamshire’s Beeston Marina yard are a pair of abandoned monorail pods. Photographs taken by David Lally show pods that have clearly seen better days, with their chipped paint, missing windscreens and overgrown insides slowly being reclaimed by nature. Unfortunately, it’s not clear just where the pods came from or how long they’ve been there rotting away.

We did find, though, that the idea of a futuristic rapid transit system in the region wasn’t an unusual one. In 2006, Derby looked at installing pods of their own, exploring the possibility of wind turbines to run the driverless cabs around the city.

Abandoned Aerotrain Test Tracks, France

abandoned-aeroplane-test-tracks

abandoned-aeroplane-test-tracks-2 (Images: Ryanblu; Croquant; the abandoned Aerotrain prototype test tracks)

Between 1965 and 1977, France was in the midst of testing a new sort of hovertrain. The prototypes for the cars were wonderfully futuristic, and while the program was terminated with the death of lead engineer Jean Bertin, the abandoned Aerotrain test tracks still remain – in part.

The first test track, built in 1966, has been partially saved and a section made into a memorial installed at a Gometz-le-Chatel roundabout. Much of what’s left, however, lies in ruins (see below). The second, built in 1969, is a pedestrian walkway now, converted in 2008 and running alongside the remains of the first.

The third is in Loiret, and much of it still stands today. The elevated track was built to handle trains moving at speeds of up to 400 km/h, unlike the fourth rail. This shorter structure, built at the High Speed Ground Test Center in the United States, was only suitable for testing trains at half that speed.

Abandoned Monorail Station, Seville, Spain

seville-exposition-abandoned-monorail

seville-exposition-abandoned-monorail-3

seville-exposition-abandoned-monorail-2 (Images: Lars Plougmann; Seville abandoned monorail stations and Exposition buildings)

In 1992, Seville staged one of the largest ever expositions. The 531-acre fair hosted almost 42 million people from April to October, and visitors were told to plan on spending several days to visit all the pavilions. A monorail was installed to shuttle guests around the complex, and the station – like many of the pavilions – still stands outside the city.

The years haven’t been kind to the abandoned monorail station, and it’s tough to imagine millions of tourists queuing to hop on the train to go between pavilions representing the different countries of the world. Along with the station, the abandoned monorail cars still sit, too, against the backdrop of so many exotic-looking pavilions that once featured everything from iMax theatres to animatronic penguins and models of an ancient Aztec city.

Once the exposition was over, the site was abandoned en masse, with only some of the buildings currently repurposed for other uses. Some are art galleries now, while others stand as canvases for graffiti artists. Among them, the abandoned monorail stations stand silent.

Skybus Metro, Goa, India

skybus-metro-abandoned-suspension-railway-4

skybus-metro-abandoned-suspension-railway-5

skybus-metro-abandoned-suspension-railway-6 (Images: courtesy JoeGoaUkwebsite; the Skybus Metro abandoned suspension railway)

When it was conceptualized, the original plan for the Skybus Metro was a 10.5 km-long route that would connect Panaji and Mapusa in the Indian state of Goa. The only thing that was built, though, was a 1.6 km elevated test track in Margao which resembled Germany’s various H-Bahn systems. While the project was in full swing, it was a testament to Indian engineering.

Skybus Metro boasted an innovative design, combining more than a dozen different technological advancements to build a suspension railway. The design of putting the wheels on the top of the carriage was thought to completely eliminate any threat of derailing or capsizing.

The system would never be completely tested or installed, though. The test track was largely abandoned after an accident in 2004, but there were still hopes that someone would continue the work that had been done. In August of 2013, Business Standard reported that the project had officially been scrapped by the Konkan Railway.

Bennie Railplane, Milngavie, Scotland

bennie-railplane-abandoned-suspension-railway

bennie-railplane-abandoned-suspension-railway-2

bennie-railplane-abandoned-suspension-railway-3 (Images: Wikipedia; Mike’s Railway History; Google Maps; abandoned Bennie Railplane)

We love innovative ideas, even those that don’t entirely get off the ground. Named for its inventor, the Glasgow-born George Bennie, the Bennie Railplane made the jump from paper to reality in 1923. The idea was as simple as it was epic: it was going to be a high-level monorail system with the “plane” suspended beneath the track. A prototype was launched in 1930 in Milngavie, Scotland, and even though those that saw the futuristic-looking craft were impressed, securing financial backing proved difficult.

Bennie tried to salvage the project, proposing all sorts of high-level railways in various different places. They were fast, they were safe, and they were economical, he said, but sadly, no one listened. The entire project came to a screeching halt in the 1950s, and Bennie himself died the year after Milngavie’s original railplane prototype was sold for scrap. Today, the site of the test track is commemorated by a blue plaque alongside the surviving shed where the Bennie Railplane was once stored, which is now occupied by Kelvin Timber (West) Ltd (above).

Toronto Zoo Domain Ride, Canada

toronto-zoo-domain-ride-abandoned-monorail

toronto-zoo-domain-ride-abandoned-monorail-2

toronto-zoo-domain-ride-abandoned-monorail-3 (Image: Yu210148; JasonParis; Loozrboy; abandoned monorail of Toronto Zoo Domain Ride)

Toronto’s abandoned monorail is in something of an unexpected place – the zoo. The 3.5 mile train line had three stations, and from the time it opened in 1976 to its closure in 1994, it shuttled people to the farthest reaches of the city’s zoo. It also allowed riders to glimpse some of the animals not restricted to the standard exhibits, as the monorail coasted past groups of moose and deer.

In 1994, an accident that injured 30 people led officials to take another look at the monorail, which was known as the Toronto Zoo Domain Ride. They made the decision to close it (with the duties taken over largely by a new Zoomobile), and the electrical rails were removed. Much of the abandoned monorail’s structure still remains, though, with its elevated beam winding through the miles of forests that visitors once looked down on as they passed. The abandoned stations are still there, too; one of them closed to the public and the other repurposed as bathrooms or wheelchair and stroller rentals. The Main Station is now the Peacock Cafe and the main stop for the Zoomobile.

Abandoned Aerotrain Track Near Gometz-le-Châtel, France

Gometz-le-Châtel-aerotrain

Gometz-le-Châtel-aerotrain-2 (Images: jeanmarie40 via YouTube; ruined test track of Jean Bertin’s abandoned Aerotrain)

It’s close enough to Paris to be convenient and far enough away to be a beautiful and quiet corner of the French countryside. Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse is the endpoint of the RER B rapid transit system of Paris, culminating in a three-platform station that was originally opened in 1867. And at one time, the nearby community of Gometz-le-Châtel also had its own monorail; well, sort of.

The ruins of the overgrown track that can still be seen today, partially running through woodland, is understood to be the remains of Jean Bertin’s first Aerotrain test track. These images show the unmistakable remnants of the concrete rail that, at certain times of year, is all but hidden in the depths of the Chevreuse’s national park.

The failure of the Aerotrain project culminated in the death of its creator and now, all that remains of this test track is a stretch of nondescript and easily missed monorail running through the forests of the French countryside near the Limours-en-Hurpois Road, D988.

Abandoned Suspension Railway, Nagoya, Japan

abandoned-suspension-railway-nagoya-japan (Image: River Seal; remains of experimental suspension railway)

Seen through the trees, this old monorail car is all that remains of an abandoned suspension railway built within the grounds of Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya, Japan. According to A one-tracked mind, the line was an experimental system and was virtually identical to another seen in the film Fahrenheit 451. It reportedly operated for several years before being replaced by a more traditional straddle-beam system. The carriage and stretch of track are now on display, as a sort of memorial to the abandoned suspension railway built in 1963.

Bonus: Abandoned Monorail at Nara Dreamland, Japan

abandoned-monorail-nara-dreamland (Image: Jordy Meow – website: Haikyo.org)

Japan, it seems, has its fair share of abandoned monorails. This one at Nara Dreamland has stood silently in its station since the abandoned amusement park closed its gates 10 years ago.

Related – Retro Fails: 10 Eccentric Transportation Inventions That Didn’t Take Off

 

About the author: Debra Kelly

 

 

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