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Riding the Rail -- The Monorail, That Is
by Rose Folan, ALL EARS® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the December 10, 2002, Issue #168 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
So... you want to do something fun on your first day at Walt Disney World, but you don't want to use a day of park admission for only a few hours. Consider taking a ride on Disney's "highway in the sky" -- the Monorail is a great way to start your visit.
The monorail runs every day from 7 a.m. to two hours after park closing. The Magic Kingdom monorail makes stops at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, the Magic Kingdom (of course!) and the Contemporary Resort. A second monorail line runs between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Epcot.
Let's begin our tour on the Magic Kingdom monorail. We wait on the elevated TTC platform until we see the gleaming, bullet-like nose of the car coming toward us. Everyone leans a little forward, straining to see the monorail as it pulls into the station. As we anxiously wait, the doors on the opposite side of the car open to allow passengers to depart. Then our turn comes. The doors slide open and we enter.
Our smooth, quiet ride begins. We can see everything below as we move along the elevated track and, before we know it, we arrive at the first stop -- the Polynesian Resort. Keep in mind that the platform at each station is decorated to compliment the resort's theme. Here at the Polynesian, all the wood is the same rich brown as the resort's buildings and lush greenery surrounds us. We pass along the walkway and enter the upper level of the Great Ceremonial House. After exploring the resort, head back up to the platform and it's onto our next stop - the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
On the way, we see Seven Seas Lagoon and Disney's beautiful Wedding Pavilion below us. As we pull into the Grand Floridian station, the sparkling white paint and multi-pane windows tell us we've entered a bygone era. Passing through the doors we enter the upper level of the luxurious towering lobby, we see grand chandeliers, beautiful carpet and elegant shops. We absolutely must take a walk down the exquisite grand staircase to view the lobby's main level.
Now it's back upstairs to the monorail and onto the Magic Kingdom. Just for this trip, we're not going to leave the monorail at the park. We can look out and see the entrance and the elevated station for the Walt Disney World Railroad, but remember -- we're not going to use park admission right now. So on we go.
As we near the Contemporary Resort, the track gently climbs until we find ourselves not on just another platform, but pulling into the towering A-frame hotel itself. Above us we can see the levels of the tower rooms, beneath us are the shops and restaurants of the main concourse. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of the characters at Chef Mickey's or perhaps you planned ahead and already have a Priority Seating at one of the Contemporary's restaurants. No? Then let's head over to the shops and pin station. For a real sensory treat, walk by BVG and smell the chocolate (yum!). Oh, look! There's a working toy monorail complete with Epcot, Polynesian and Contemporary platforms. Wouldn't that look great in your family room?
Let's get back onto the monorail for the return to the TTC. Once we get there, we'll switch lines, because I don't want to neglect one of the greatest monorail experiences.
When we make the trip from the TTC to Epcot, we have the wonderful opportunity to get a bird's-eye view of Epcot as the monorail circles the park before stopping at the platform. On my first trip to Walt Disney World, I was amazed and excited at this view. There below me was the entrance to Epcot, the crowds lined up to enter Spaceship Earth, the Innoventions buildings, The Land. I couldn't wait to get off and visit them all. For those who travel to Epcot by others means, I urge you to make this trip at least once. I think this is really the most exciting way to enter the park.
Although a monorail trip can be as interesting as an attraction, don't misunderstand -- it is also a very reliable and efficient way to transport people from one destination to another. In fact, monorails are proven transportation systems. Most of the world's transit monorails exist in Japan, where seven are full-scale urban transit systems. But according to The Monorail Society, the WDW monorail system "has one of the highest riderships of all monorails." With more than 100,000 passenger trips recorded each day it has a "far higher ridership than most USA light rails systems."
The WDW monorail system, which has been in operation since 1971, currently has 12 Mark VI monorail trains that can operate at speeds of up to 45 mph. Each six-car train is 203.5 feet long and can carry more than 300 passengers. The WDW monorail beamway (track) covers nearly 14 miles.
Well, I've saved the best idea for last. If you have the chance, be sure to ask a monorail Cast Member if you can ride in the front car of the monorail. It can only accommodate four or five passengers, and it is subject to availability. But if it isn't busy and you're willing to wait, you will have the best seat in the house. And, just so you don't forget your experience, you'll get your very own monorail co-pilot's license as a souvenir.
Enjoy Rose's other ALL EARS® articles in the Writer's Corner at: http://allears.net/btp/rose.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.