Seattle Monorail 50 Years

Alweg Seattle Chronology

Alweg Seattle Brochure

Alweg Seattle Future 1962

Alweg Seattle EMP

40 Years and Technology

Seattle Monorail Debacle

Monorail Memories

Alweg and the Baker Boys



Historic Dates from the History of the Seattle Alweg Monorail

This chronology is based mainly on original Alweg material as well as on newspaper and magazine articles about the Alweg Seattle Monorail.

Text and illustrative material - unless otherwise noted - of this chronology COPYRIGHT Reinhard Krischer. Use and/or reproduction by permission only.


This page will be continously expanded and updated.
Additions and corrections are always welcome. Please contact email 

The above photo - kindly provided by its photographer LUDWIG CREMER - shows the characteristic and by now classic front of the Blue Train of the Alweg Seattle Monorail in September 1994.


In 1955 Seattle Councilman Al Rochester had the idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (held on the grounds of todays University of Washington campus in Seattle). From this idea evolved the concept for the 1962 Century 21 Seattle Worlds Fair as a space age science fair. With local, state and federal funds guaranteed an application was successfully filed at the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris to have the planned fair approved as the only official international exposition in the United States during the decade from 1960 to 1970 and thus the official status of Worlds Fair was gained.

(The last big international expositions in the United States had taken place in 1939 in New York and in 1940 in San Francisco. The last official Worlds Fair had been the 1958 fair in Brussels.)

The proposed emphasis of the fair on space age science quickly caught the attention of industries developing technological concepts for the future. This emphasis was further underlined by the fact that President Eisenhower had signed into law a bill authorizing $12,500,000 for the most extensive science exhibit ever assembled, and $9,970,000 were appropriated to create this exhibit and build a science pavilion larger in size and scope than the United States pavilion at the Brussels Worlds Fair.

This then set the tone for the Fair, - also showcasing Americas technological lead in the competition with the Soviet Union. Scientific and technological exhibits were to show the way to the next century.

The transportation industry also saw its chance to demonstrate its concepts for the future.

FEBRUARY 1955 The State World's Fair Commission is created by the Legislature.

OCTOBER 1957 Formation of The Century 21 Corporation, the nonprofit corporation that is to stage and operate the fair.

SEPTEMBER 1959 Joseph E. Gandy, prominent Seattle automobile dealer, is named President of the Fair

MARCH 1960 Mr. Gandy visits the Cologne test site of the Alweg Monorail in Germany.

APRIL 1960 Plans are announced for the construction of the Alweg-Century 21 Monorail system that is to run between downtown Seattle and the fairgrounds.

FEBRUARY 1961 A photographic underground survey of the 5th Ave. sewer line is carried out to determine wether the existing pipe can stand the weight of footings for the monorail.

MARCH 1961 The Board of Public Works approves permit for installation of the monorail.

MARCH 13, 1961 The monorail plans are officially unveiled.

APRIL 1961 Construction of the monorail line begins.

JUNE 28, 1961 The pouring of concrete for the structure of the downtown Westlake Mall monorail station begins.

SEPTEMBER 21, 1961 The first beams are installed on the pylons on 5th Ave. between Virginia and Stewart Streets.

JANUARY 9, 1962 The last of a total of 138 beams is installed on 5th Ave. just south of Denny Way.

FEBRUARY 19, 1962 The Blue Train arrives in Seattle and is installed on its beamway.

MARCH 3, 1962 First trial run of the Blue Train.

MARCH 12, 1962 Official inaugural run of the Blue Train with about 175 business and civic leaders on board.

MARCH 24, 1962 The Monorail (and the Space Needle) is opened to the public. (Till the opening of the World's Fair on April 21, 176,932 people ride the Monorail. During the first five days of the Fair over 136,000 visitors use the trains.)

MARCH 27, 1962 The Red Train has arrived in Seattle and is installed on its beamway.

APRIL 21, 1962 The Seattle World's Fair "Century 21" is officially opened.

Monorail Fares: for adults 75 cents round trip, 50 cents one way; for children 50 cents round trip, 35 cents one way.

MAY 4, 1962 The Alweg Seattle Monorail appears on the cover of LIFE magazine.

MAY 10, 1962 America's first man in space, Astronaut Col. John Glenn, rides the Monorail. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller also visits the Fair on this day and rides the Monorail. Vice President Johnson visits the Fair on this day as well.

SEPTEMBER 5, 1962 Elvis Presley rides the Red Train.

OCTOBER 20, 1962 The Red Train hits the safety bumper in the Westlake Mall Terminal. The train front is slightly damaged. No injuries reported. After two hours the train is back in service.

OCTOBER 21, 1962 Last of the 184 days of the Seattle World's Fair.

During these 184 days 7,378,815 people rode the ALWEG MONORAIL !!!

JUNE 1963 The Alweg Company presents the Monorail as a gift to Century 21 Center, Inc. (At this time the value of the two trains, two terminals and offices at the Seattle Center is estimated to be $4.5 million.)

AUGUST 14, 1963 During a test run without passengers the Red Train hits the safety bumper in the Westlake Mall Terminal and the front of the train is slightly damaged. No one was injured.

OCTOBER 16, 1964   In order to save costs a "stewardess" now sells tickets on the trains (eliminating the ticket booths at the two terminals).

In the year 1964 896,000 monorail tickets were sold.

In JANUARY 1965 a 10 cent one-way fare is introduced for the period from 11:30am to 2:00pm, Monday through Friday. At all other times this fare is 25 cents.

APRIL 29, 1965 (Thursday)   At 8:28am Western Washington was struck by a severe earthquake (intensity: between 6.5 and 7 on the Richter Scale). The Alweg monorail line, built to withstand damage from earthquakes, remained intact. An immediate inspection of the concrete beamways and their supports showed that no damage had been done.

OCTOBER 19, 1969   From a Seattle newspaper report: "Seattle's two monorail trains travel only the 1.2 miles between the Seattle Center and Westlake Mall. But together they have logged enough miles to circle the world 12 times. - The red train has passed the 200,000-mile mark. The blue train has traveled 198,000. - The trains accumulate about 25,000 miles a year each. The trains run alternately for two-week periods. - During the summer the Monorail averages nearly 10,000 passengers on weekdays and more than 14,000 on weekends."

JULY 25, 1971   The Red Train crashes into the safety bumper at the Seattle Center terminal. For the first time since inauguration of service in 1962 passengers are injured (26, two of them seriously). An inquiry later discovered that a fail-safe braking system had failed.

JUNE 6, 1973   The Red Train goes back into regular service.

1988   The original downtown Westlake station has been torn down and a new relocated station has been incorporated in the Westlake Center, a new shopping mall. Due to building limitations there is not much left to demonstrate the virtues of original airy and spacious Alweg station concepts. But thanks to this new station the Alweg Monorail has survived, even though during the mid-80s there had once again been talk about demolishing the entire monorail line.

AUGUST 26, 1989   One of the monorail trains runs into the safety bumper at the downtown station. No one is injured. Falling glass from the train's windshield damages a car (its driver luckily was not hurt) on the parking lot underneath the station.


The photo above shows the arrival of the Alweg Blue Train in Seattle in February 1962. Copyright collection of Reinhard Krischer.

JUNE 23, 2000 Opening of the Experience Music Project complex designed by architect Frank O. Gehry. The Seattle Monorail passes through this futuristic building and has thus really entered Century 21 for which it was originally designed. (On the same day these ALWEG ARCHIVES are opened in the Internet in memory of Alweg engineer ROLF KRISCHER, 1911 - 2000.)

NOVEMBER 7, 2000 In the course of the elections on this day the citizens of Seattle vote for Proposition 2. This means that now the Elevated Transit Co. (ETC) will have two years and $6 million to work out a feasibility study for an extension of the Seattle Monorail.

FEBRUARY 28, 2001   The ALWEG Seattle Monorail is not damaged by the earthquake that occurred on this day. Once again - as during the 1965 earthquake - the sound construction of the beamway (designed also to survive possible earthquakes) withstood the tremors. (After the catastrophic Kobe, Japan, earthquake in 1995 the Hitachi Monorail - based on Alweg technology - in the nearby city of  Osaka, also hit by the earthquake, survived intact and played a crucial transportation role.)

NOVEMBER 5, 2002  In a very close election the people of Seattle again vote for monorail (94,993 yes  -  94,116 no). After this vote the ETC is renamed Seattle Popular Monorail Authority ( SPMA ) and begins to plan and to seek contractors for Seattle's first public transit monorail line.

APRIL 16, 2003  The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board decides to declare the Seattle Center monorail "historic".

JUNE 2003   The two groups of companies - Team Monorail and Cascadia Monorail - that are going to compete to win the contract for construction of the new Seattle monorail (based on the Alweg concept) present their websites on the Internet (see the SEATTLE page of THE ALWEG ARCHIVES).

FEBRUARY 12, 2004   Seattle's ALWEG Blue Train logs its one-millionth mile! 

MAY 31, 2004   A technical defect on board the Blue Train on its way from Seattle Center to Westlake Center causes a serious fire. Thick smoke develops, quickly filling the train (and pouring down Fifth Avenue). The Seattle Fire Department responds speedily and evacuates passengers (about 150 are on the train) with ladders. The Red Train pulls alongside and some passengers are evacuated to it from the Blue Train. Luckily, thanks to the presence of mind of the passengers and the quick evacuation, there are no serious injuries.

After the official investigation of the fire a report is issued and the two trains have to be re-equipped to conform to newest safety standards. Both trains are to be back in service by the end of the year 2004. ( As long as the trains are out of service a shuttle bus service is offered. )

JUNE 18, 2004   The Science Fiction Museum is officially opened in the EMP complex.

AUGUST 16, 2004   Cascadia Monorail submits its proposal for a city-wide monorail system to the Seattle Monorail Project (formerly the SPMA or SMA). The other consortium that had planned to participate in the bidding - Team Monorail - had retracted its expected participation on August 5th.

NOVEMBER 2, 2004   Seattle voters once again vote for monorail by soundly rejecting the attempt of monorail opponents to stop the project with Iniative 83 (that was to deny the use of city rights of way for the proposed monorail system).

DECEMBER 16, 2004   The Red Train (re-equipped  according to newest safety standards after the fire on the Blue Train on May 31, 2004) resumes Seattle Monorail service in time for the Holiday Season.

JANUARY 2005   Team Monorail - that had not submitted a proposal for the new Seattle Monorail in August 2004 - presents on its website new ideas (now offering walk-through trains instead of the compartmentalized versions, various station designs, etc.) for the Seattle project and in a letter (January 14, 2005) to the Seattle Monorail Project the Team Monorail consortium suggests to again invite Cascadia and Team Monorail to submit proposals.

FEBRUARY 2005   It is reported (e.g. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 17, 2005, "Monorail is facing new set of challenges") that "the estimated cost of the project is $200 million over the original estimate".

MAY 2, 2005   The Blue Train, badly damaged in the fire of May 31, 2004, is put back into regular service, beautifully restored and also re-equipped according to newest safety standards.



Above: May 2005 - The Seattle Alweg Blue Train is back in service offering again classic Alweg views like this. Thanks to the knowledgeable and dedicated work of Glenn Barney, General Manager of the Seattle Center Monorail, and his team both Alweg trains are back in excellently refurbished condition and are reequipped with up-to-date safety installations. Below: View of the refurbished interior of the Blue Train. ( Both photos courtesy of Glenn Barney / Copyright Glenn Barney. ) 


JUNE 3, 2005   The CASCADIA consortium is officially chosen to build the new Seattle Monorail.

JULY 4, 2005   The Seattle Monorail Project announces the resignation of its board chairman and its executive director following the abandonment of its original financing plan.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2005   The Mayor of Seattle announces that he is withdrawing the city's support for the Seattle Monorail Project.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2005   The Seattle City Council unanimously passes a resolution advocating the termination of the Seattle Monorail Project.

NOVEMBER 8, 2005   In the fifth vote on the Seattle Monorail Project voters overwhelmingly reject the planned new city-wide monorail transit system.

NOVEMBER 26, 2005   The Blue Train and the Red Train sideswipe each other in the approach-curve to the station at Westlake Center. (In 1988 the original Alweg Westlake Mall Station had to give way to a new shopping mall - Westlake Center - and due to lack of space the original Alweg distance between beams was simply reduced, inviting just the sort of accident that now occurred on November 26, 2005. Both trains were badly damaged. Service has stopped.)

JUNE 27, 2006   After extensive repairs the Blue Train makes a first trial run. Regular operation of the Seattle Monorail is expected to begin again on August 1rst, 2006.

AUGUST 11, 2006   The Alweg Blue Train and the Alweg Red Train of the Seattle Center Monorail are back in regular service.

AUGUST 19/20, 2006   Due to technical problems regular service has for the time being been suspended again.

Mid-NOVEMBER 2006   The Alweg Blue Train and the Alweg Red Train are back in service.


The Red Train and the EMP in September 2007. Der Rote Zug und das EMP im September 2007. Photo Copyright 2007 Ellen-Maria Nelles. The Alweg Archives wish to thank E.-M. Nelles for providing this image! The Alweg Archives danken E.-M. Nelles für diese Fotografie!

JUNE 3, 2008   Seattle's ALWEG Red Train logs its one-millionth mile!

AUGUST 23, 2008   In the afternoon of this Saturday a leaking air valve of the pneumatic system stalls the Red Train above 5th Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard streets. About 200 passengers are stranded in the train and are evacuated by the Seattle Fire Department via two ladder trucks. No one is injured. Normally the Blue Train would have been used to evacuate the passengers, but it could only offer minmal assistance since it was being refurbished (at the time in the process of load testing) and could only hold 20 passengers at a time. On the next morning the Red Train was back in service.

DECEMBER 15, 2008   At about 12:45pm the Red Train stalls on the line on Fifth Avenue due to a mechanical failure. The Blue Train was used to evacuate the stranded passengers.

JANUARY 2009   After complete refurbishment and also modernization the Blue Train is returned to regular revenue passenger service.

JULY 18, 2009   Sound Transit opens the 14 mile long Central Link light-rail line running between Westlake and Tukwila International Blvd. The line is to reach the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in December 2009.

MAY 17, 2010   The Red Train, after complete refurbishment and also modernization of driver controls, etc., goes back in regular revenue passenger service. 

MARCH 2012   The Seattle Alweg Monorail celebrates its 50th anniversary.

DECEMBER 18, 2012   The official website of the Seattle Monorail Services reports that the Seattle Center Monorail carries two million passengers in this anniversary year of the monorail.


Text und Illustrationen (falls nicht anders vermerkt)
Text and Illustrations (unless otherwise noted)
von / by Reinhard Krischer
Reinhard Krischer
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