The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Wednesday, August 14, 2002


From the Cabalmaster:

This installment includes details of three short monorails, opened during the formative years of Japanese monorail development.

NARA - Nara Dreamland

An 840-meter supported line, equipped by Toshiba, opened at the Nara Dreamland amusement park in 1961. This is considered an amusement-park "ride," not a public-transport facility. It still exists and continues in operation.

INUYAMA - Meitetsu Monkey Park Monorail Line

We'll start this section by noting that that "Meitetsu," pronounced something like "May-tets," is an abbreviation for the Nagoya Railroad Co, Ltd, the second-largest non-JR private-sector railway in Japan. "Meitetsu Monkey Park" is a zoo, noted for its collection of monkeys, owned by the company. The single--beam monorail extends 0.7 miles between Inuyama-yuen station and the zoo. A single intermediate station serves a Shingon Buddhist temple, Inuyama Narita-san, which attracts large numbers of visitors on special occasions such as New Year's Day.

[It sounds to us like the zoo provides a traffic base to support "infrastructure" that is very useful on peak-traffic days.]

Meitetsu began developing recreational facilities near Inuyama in 1925. One of these, opened in 1955, was "Picnic Land," a nature park later renamed "Rhein Park" (A section of the Kiso River near Inuyama was christened Nihon Rhein, "Japan Rhine," by a geologist inspired by the sight of Inuyama Castle perched on a hill overlooking the river.) Transportation to Inuyama-yuen station was provided by a bus service, creatively named "Momotaro Line" (Momotaro, "Peach Boy," is the legendary hero of a well-known Japanese folk tale). Then, in 1958, the company opened a 0.7-mile miniature railway (Otogi-teisha; "Fairy Tale Train," a direct translation would omit the word "tale") from the eastern edge of Inuyama to the park. Development continued, and the zoo was opened in 1962. The company considered a full-scale railway branch but decided on the monorail.

The Hitachi group licensed Alweg technology in 1960, and this line became the first "Hitachi-Alweg" monorail. The line has grades to 9.7 percent, and one section is built in a cut. It has two 3-car trains which can be coupled and operated as one. Schedule speed is 11 mph. Ridership averages about 2,000 per day.

KAWASAKI - Yomiuriland

Here is another "fallen flag."

Japan's next monorail was a 1.8-mile, 9-car circular Hitachi-Alweg line opened in 1964. It was built by the Kanto Race Club in an area later developed as the Yomiuriland amusement park. The nine cars operated as three-car formations. The monorail closed near the end of 1978, a victim of "motorization." Much of the guideway now supports a one-lane roadway, with lateral safety barriers, for a self-drive go-cart ride. The remainder has been demolished and removed.

NAGOYA - Higashiyama Park

Yet another "fallen flag."

Nagoya planned subway construction from the mid-1930s but was not able to start construction until 1954. The initial 1.5-mile segment opened at the end of 1957. By 1963, when the city decided to replace streetcars owing to growing traffic congestion, only 3.8 miles of subway extensions had been completed. Fulfillment of the six-route, 30-mile subway plan announced in 1950 seemed years away.

Meanwhile, the municipal Engineering Bureau became interested in monorail development. Perhaps inspired by the Ueno Park monorail, the city joined forces with the private sector in 1962 to build a demonstration line in Higashiyama Park. Nippon Airway Development Co., Ltd., organized by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and ten other firms in 1962, acquired license rights for Safege suspended-monorail technology in Japan. This enterprise was absorbed into parent Mitsubishi, apparently at an early stage. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries became the prime contractor and built the rolling stock. Construction started in 1963.

The 0.3-mile single guideway connected Higashiyama Zoo with Higashiyama Botanical Garden. The guideway cost roughly $300,000. Rolling stock and other equipment brought the total cost to about $600,000. The single car was built by Mitsubishi. Traction current was supplied at 600V dc.

The line opened early in 1964, and averaged of 1,000 passengers daily. It attracted considerable media attention, but operation was hindered by mechanical problems. These led to two four-day suspensions of operation during the first year.

It is not clear what potential applications were envisioned for monorail technology. Nagoya continued to build subways and replaced streetcars with motor buses. Surface rail operation ended in 1974. No proposals for additional monorails were advanced.

Instead of a showcase, the Higashiyama monorail became a deficit-ridden orphan. It earned a profit during its first two years, but losses began in 1966. Efforts to restore profitability failed, and the municipal transport bureau eventually lost interest. Plans for expansion of the zoo and botanical gardens apparently hastened the end, which came on the first day of 1975. The car and a short section of guideway are preserved in Higashiyama Park, but the remainder was dismantled and removed. So ended the inauspicious introduction of Safege technology to Japan.

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