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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.

15 thoughts on “The Monorail Troubles”

  1. We are season pass holders and love Disney. We go nearly every weekend. I have never liked the monorails mostly because I fear heights, but the fatality scared me to death. We have been stuck on one at the station with the doors closed for 20 minutes once, with an autistic child. Also in this situation NO ONE told us anything. When we got off there were no apologies, no reasons, nothing.

    I agree, budget cut backs are hurting the parks. Rides are in disrepair, service is lacking, and the parks are not as clean as before. I still love the parks. I hope they get things straight soon.

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  3. We were there earlier in the week and the monorail was very glitchy. I chalked it up to the weather (rain, damp) but evidently budget cuts are taking their toll. Usually when looking at transportation options I’d favor the monorail. Not this trip- went with the buses despite the crowding and walking (GF-POLY-TTC; Contemporary-buses-MK)which was uncrowded and under my control. Boats were really looking good even tho it was chilly on the open ones. Only took EPCOT monorail once no problem there.

    Agree with above, Disney needs to figure out other ways to deal with budget – do they really need a park in Shanghai when they can’t manage what they have?

  4. On the surface, it would appear that maintenance and budget cuts are having a negative effect on the monorails, but that’s just speculation. But then again, we could just be seeing the results of a system whose age is starting to show. Regardless, it’s bad timing and publicity for Disney on the heels of the tragic incident that occurred earlier this year.

    I’m really surprised there isn’t a quicker/safer method of getting guests off stranded trains. What would it take to put an on-board generator or battery that would provide enough power to move the train slowly or just enough to get it to a station? If this had occurred in the morning or evening rush, they could potentially have had many more guests waiting for a lot longer.

  5. I predict that the days of the monorail are numbered. Management and more important THE SHAREHOLDERS will not accept that the monorails are essential. Perceived to have too much liability risk for management that is already limited due to financial cut backs. Besides, the competition does just fine without them. When these fleet of trains need to be replaced, the system will be dismantled.

  6. Wow! What a post and follow-up comments.

    I can bet that Bob Iger and team are busy looking at this situation behind closed doors.

    We may never know what is being said in those offices, but we can hopefully-one day-see the results.

    They need to fix these problems now!

  7. We were there two weeks ago and never had issues with the monorail per se- BUT that being said- I agree with the fact that Disney doesnt tell their guests anything- while we were there I got food posioning from Pecos Bill (as did several in our hotel)- and NOTHING was said by Disney….poor customer service too- cast members taking stuff out of our kids hands….I bet Walt is rolling over in his grave!

  8. When we were there last over Thanksgiving weekend there were repeated times when we were stalled in the holding stations between the Transportation center and MK longer than usually can be expected on busy days. We were told they were having problems with the gates and doors at the MK station that they were having to manually open and close everything which was causing trains to queue up coming to the park. No a big deal at the moment, but they do seem a bit run down lately. We’ll be taking the boats for awhile here…

  9. Interesting to learn.

    I’m actually on my way to the World right now. I’m staying Pop so I won’t NEED the monorails for anything but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and report back any issues.

    They better get this stuff running properly by next week with the Christmas rush on the way. Combine these glitches with a very tired staff and something tragic is going to happen…just like over the 4th of July.

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