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



ne of the most difficult tasks of „history preservation“ is conveying the actual mood and atmosphere of a bygone era. Official history usually just records important dates and events. It may take note of an overall public mood prevailing in such and such a time, but usually only if such a mood eventually leads to some sort of political change or even upheaval. Moods however that center around more or less local events are easily forgotten by national or global history.

Even World’s Fairs are condemned to such a fate. As soon as they are closed they very, very quickly are reduced from a world event to a local happening. Some cities that hosted such a fair keep it as a proud memory, particularly when landmark buildings or structures remain as permanent reminders of such moments of global attention.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, Atomium in Brussels …

What about Space Needle and Alweg Monorail in Seattle !?

They are reminders of Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair, - hardy survivors of a 1960s look into the future and periodically threatened not by forgetful citizens, but by civic leaders.

It could be well worth the effort for some University of Washington (Seattle) student to write a thesis about the strange and stagnant urge of Seattle civic leaders to persistently turn back the clock of certain aspects of city progress since Seattle ended its look forward to Century 21 (the motto of the World’s Fair) in 1962!

Seattle’s downtown skyline grew into the sky. Airplanes, computer industry and music and movies made the city world famous. But why in over 39 years did City Hall never start to install an adequate modern rapid transit system for such a metropolis ?

A detailed study of this persistent failure might become a milestone thesis explaining how not to plan a city transportation system (with a detailed look at all public and private influences upon such planning). The most amazing aspect of this strange story is that in 1962 important civic leaders already planned Seattle’s rapid transit future, but somehow somewhere those plans were simply pushed aside.

A look at newspaper articles (and for example also the “Letters to the Editor” columns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times concerning the Fair and the Monorail) from those days reflects the optimistic and forward looking mood of that time, even of pride! And the Alweg Monorail was hailed as the rapid transit solution of the future that had such a great head-start in Seattle 1962 …


From an article in The Seattle Times, April 8, 1962

Rapid Transit On Trial:

Monorail Is Magic Carpet to Fair

"The Seattle World's Fair has a magic carpet. The name is Monorail. Zooming along at a mile-a-minute speed, two Monorail trains will whisk passengers from downtown Seattle to the fairgrounds and return.

Fair officials are predicting the Monorail will be the exposition's 'main gate,' carrying perhaps 40 per cent of the paying customers.
This is the world's first full-scale rapid-transit system  both an attraction for the fair and perhaps a preview of the transportation of the future."

A caption underneath a photo of the Blue Train with the Space Needle in the background in The Seattle Times:

"THAR SHE GLEAMS!: With the Space Needle for a backdrop, the glistening Monorail train was a colourful and novel sight to spectators as it was taken out on a test run. The virtually noiseless train will whisk visitors to the World's Fair at top speeds of 60 miles an hour."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 25, 1962

" Hail To Space Needle And Monorail!
Tall Queen And Dashing King Provide Fair's Royal Touch"
By Orman Vertrees

"The Space Needle, her steel midriff pinched by the dictates of space-age fashion, rules as undisputed queen of Century-21's miniature cosmos. The role of king unquestionably falls to the bubble-nosed monorail trains that waft the tourist-cosmonauts back and forth from downtown to the fairgrounds.

Silent as torpedoes, the blue and red trains scurry from terminal to terminal in something like 96 seconds at speeds up to 60 miles an hour.

The Seattle installation is the first Alweg monorail train system in the United States, outside of a smaller version in use at Disneyland.

Officials of Alweg Rapid Transit System of Washington State predict that roughly 25 to 30 per cent of the 10 million visitors expected for the Fair will ride this futuristic conception of travel at its best.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Stan Reed was one of the first newsmen aboard when the first monorail train made her trial runs back on March 5.

THE TAKEOFF, in Reed's words, was as smooth and quiet as pouring maple syrup into a barrel of feathers. It was as silent as the rustle of silk.

Passengers starting from the Westlake Mall terminal downtown will see the Benjamin Franklin Hotel to their right as they come on to Fifth Avenue.

Then quickly to the left is the Hofbrau, a Bavarian-style restaurant where patrons quaff brown beer and mentally munch platters of musical bar bits served up by a German band.

Then a few blocks more to Battery Street and The Post-Intelligencer Building on the right. The P-I's giant globe capped with an eagle is a Seattle landmark.

RIGHT ACROSS Wall Street from The P-I and still to the passengers' right stands the 18-story Grosvenor House, one of Seattle's plushest apartment buildings.

From there the monorail beamways curve on to Fifth Avenue N. for a short leg before sweeping to the left into the World's Fair terminal.

Now monorail passengers have finished one of two 'must' journeys in Century-21's compact universe.

The other is the 500-foot vertical cruise up the Space Needle to the roof of the World's Fair."

Caption underneath a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photo of the monorail in the days before the Fair opened:

"Swishing Noiselessly Around A Bend, Monorail Pulls In At Downtown Terminal."



From Downtown Seattle to Seatac


he above drawing by Seattle Times artist McAllister (the illustration is just a partial reproduction of the colored original), imagining what a monorail line would look like in front of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seatac airport), graced the cover of the Seattle Times Sunday supplement of February 24, 1963! This was to be a planned extension of the original Alweg line connecting downtown Seattle with the Boeing plant and the International Airport.

This was in 1963 !

The good (and patient) people of Seattle had to wait till 2009 for their civic leaders to offer a transit solution.

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.

Cover of a Hitachi Company brochure promoting the Haneda Line, 1964. Copyright The Hitachi Company of Japan.


In 1964 the Hitachi Company of Japan completed the construction of the 13.1 kilometer long Haneda Hitachi-Alweg monorail line connecting downtown Tokyo with Haneda International Airport. This line is still going strong today with modern state-of-the-art Hitachi monorail trains. (Reproduction of the cover of this 1964 brochure with kind permission of the Hitachi Company of Japan.)


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