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The Monorail Troubles

I’m getting a lot of reports about the troubles Disney had with the Magic Kingdom monorail system this weekend. Turns out the worst was some inconvenience for guests that Disney could have handled better. However, they’re really playing with fire.

I have a report from someone who is very familiar with the situation. They tell me another accident was narrowly avoided Sunday night during that three hour power outage.

More on that in a bit — first, here’s a report from a family that was staying at the Polynesian over the weekend. The whole monorail system was buggy all weekend and folks were getting fed up.

We were at Disney this weekend staying at the Polynesian. The monorail service was a major reason for our staying there and it turned out to be a total disaster as you know.

We were not aware of the outage that supposedly occurred around 5pm. But around 7pm we tried to leave the Magic Kingdom and return to the Poly. Every form of transportation was totally backed up with huge lines. We tried to get on the resort monorail and when we got to the front of the line, we were loaded onto the platform. We then waited…and waited…and waited. It was over 15 minutes before a train finally arrived in the station. We were told repeatedly via overhead announcements that Monorail Teal was being moved from the express track to the resort rail and so no traffic could move. There was an express monorail in the station that also was not moving. About halfway through our wait, the express left. Finally we were told that the switch was done and the trains could begin moving again. Several minutes later a train finally arrived for us.

Since we were in our room we were unaware of the outage that happened overnight. Actually, having learned about it afterward, we are somewhat upset that we as guests were never notified via a message on our phone that we would need to seek alternate transportation Sunday morning. The restaurants at the Poly were mobbed Saturday night. We’re wondering now how much of that was from guests who felt stranded at the resort because the monorail was down.

At 11am this morning we were allowed to board a train at the Poly. It had obviously been sitting there for some time – it was packed. After we boarded, it continued to sit for a lengthy period of time. We started to hear a woman behind us talking about the shutdown Saturday night. It was the first we heard of it. As the train continued to sit, full, with no announcement about the reason for the delay and no sign it would be leaving, we decided to bail and exited. We weren’t the only one….we saw a lot of other people doing the same thing.

Ironically, my husband was at the Magic Kingdom the night back in the 1980’s that there was a fire on the monorail. His complaint then was the same as ours this weekend: the guests weren’t told anything about what was happening. If we had been told there had been two shutdowns of the monorail in the past 24 hours, we would never have gotten on that monorail Sunday morning with an autistic 6 year old. It would have been a DISASTER if we had gotten stranded with her on a train.

I have to say, there was just a bad vibe, a feeling of bad karma, hanging over the whole place this weekend. It was very weird.

The general feeling is that Walt Disney World is really starting to suffer from budget cuts that they have tried to make in areas that they think aren’t apparent to guests, but do affect guest safety. If this was an isolated incident, I’d say that Disney is allowed a bad day or two… but these incidents are no longer that isolated and that makes me worried.

How could a single hard drive failing take down that whole system? Isn’t there a backup computer to run the system? Or at least design a system that’s designed to fail gracefully?

Is Disney aware they’re playing with fire here? The public won’t forgive a second fatal monorail accident. So far, everything indicates that what ocurred on Sunday night was within safety parameters for the monorail system. However, I just got word that Sunday night’s power outage left Monorail Black just seconds away from a serious accident.

This report comes from someone very familiar with the Walt Disney World monorail system who has been consistent in their accuracy in the past, particularly during the fatal accident earlier this year. But it is only one source that I have not been able to confirm.

“Saturday’s power outage would have been disastrous 10 seconds later. Monorail black would have been stopped on the hill into the Contemporary on the Express line without power. In that situation the air brakes would slowly bleed out and the monorail would roll back potentially striking the monorail behind it.”

I asked if there were emergency hand brakes that could be applied and was told the answer was no. Even worse,

“Monorail air brakes do not have the same fail-safe that the buses do. When stuck, air brakes often get leaks. Bus brakes default to on, the monorails don’t. If Disney would just update the trains to add a hand brake or even just an automatic brake when power drops out, this would be a non-issue.”

I’m asking for some help looking into this issue. But if true, seems like a another potentially fatal flaw in the monorail system at Walt Disney World.