The Monorail Society - 20 Year Anniversary
Part I - Journal Entries from the beginning
by Kim Pedersen

Anniversary dates are a good time to reflect. I thought I’d mark the occasion of The Monorail Society’s twentieth anniversary with a quick look back at how The Monorail Society got started. In Part I, we have a bit of a look into my brain years ago (frightening as that may be), with journal entries I made as TMS came into being. In Part II, we’ll relect over some of the major monorail news events that have taken place in the first twenty years of The Monorail Society.

Looking back at my personal daily journals from 1987 and 1988, it’s clear I was very much interested in all things with rails. I was writing to transit agencies for information on different systems, and compiling the info in my transit files. I belonged to various organizations. One that was a main focus of my life at the time was the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). I like rails that provided thrills as well as rails for transit! One of my friends was and is Richard Munch, one of the founders of ACE. I saw this ‘regular fellow’ start what would turn out to be a very successful organization, and that made a strong impression on me.

And now, a peek at my journal entries from long, long ago. Journal entries are in quotation marks, reflective comments are not…

August 20, 1987: “Emerald Hotel, my 1st Mouse Club sale.” I attend a Mouse Club memorabilia sale at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. While talking about the then-new Los Angeles Metro subway system, fellow amusement park enthusiast, Steve Stuart, tells me with frustration “with all the money spent on the few miles of LA Metro, they could have build a monorail system all over the LA basin.” That statement got me to thinking, “whatever happened to the promise of monorail?”

May 22, 1988: “head on monorails now, puke on LRV. Monorails are the way to go!” For those of you that support light rail as well as monorail, my apologies for my crude interpretation of street rail. Remember, you’re reading my ‘private’ journal. My personal opinion of light rail today remains rather low, although I know there are members of TMS that feel differently. Diversity of opinion is good!

June 21, 1988: “after looking at new Seattle Monorail postcards and going to bed, thought up idea for ‘MONORAIL SOCIETY’ dedicated to promoting establishment of more systems and appreciation and preservation of current systems. Hey, will it fly?” Wife Carol says “sounds like a lot of work.

June 22, 1988: “at lunch break went to library to look at association book 1st time. No monorail clubs but general transit groups. Also checked out book, ‘How to Start a Club.”

June 28, 1988: “started making sketches of a Diego Drive Monorail for the boys.” Yeah sure, for the boys.

June 29, 1988: “came up with nifty logo idea for the MONORAIL society.” Original logo was simply the MONORAIL society sitting on monorail track.

August 3, 1988: “used Badge-A-Minit” to make 1st button. Monorail Society. Neato!”

September 10, 1988: “wrote monorail letter to editor at San Jose Mercury in regards to light rail’s 20th accident with a car.”

September 12, 1988: “in eve typed letter to San Jose Mercury, letter #1 from The Monorail Society.” This was the first to use TMS letterhead, I guess I considered TMS to be somewhat real by then.

September 14, 1988: “wrote Monorail Society letter #2, to Encyclopedia of Associations.”

September 18, 1988, while on first trip to Seattle Center: “dazzled with 1st close up look at Space Needle and fair area. Got a great look at monorails under refurbishment (closed for pinching two tracks together for new Westlake Mall Station). Snuck under station for a super close-up look. Followed tracks for a little bit, with Carol (wife) and Karen (friend) making smart remarks.” And so began the ridicule for being a monorailist!

October 14, 1988: “Got big envelope from Paul Young (ACE friend) full of photo copies of 1950s and 60s Texas monorails. Great stuff!” At this point I was totally consumed by my research into monorails, both present and past. Every new little bit of information was a treat.

October 16, 1988: “Monorail Society on my brain, wish I had a computer for the newsletter.” This is the first entry I find having to do with a publication. No computer? Sounds funny now.

October 17, 1988: “Wrote ad for Monorail Society for Railfan Magazine. Looks like I’m gonna commit myself.” Indeed, if you only knew then what you know now!

October 19, 1988: “feeling strong about Monorail Society. Wrote check for Railfan ad, I’m gonna do it!! How big will it get? That’s the question.”

October 27, 1988: “Got a letter from Japan Tourist Bureau. Address for Tokyo Monorail included.” Planning for my first trip to Japan to explore and document monorails was well under way.

November 21, 1988: “finished rough draft on “welcome” statement for Monorail Newsletter #1.”

December 11, 1988: “Read 1963 Popular Mechanics article on monorails. Arguments for are much better than against, but the critics have won anyway!” This was one of the reasons I felt there was a need for a monorail group, to find out if there were others besides myself that still saw the promise for the technology.

December 19, 1988: “At break went to library. Japan book says Kitakyushu has wonderful monorail system. Took down tourist addresses.” I had no computer, and the Internet as we know it now did not exist. Research was very different. Finding out that a new full-scale urban monorail had opened only three years earlier was a major boost for my belief that monorail technology was still valid.

December 20, 1988: “Told Carol I want to go to Japan in 1990.” First of many trip requests that involved monorail, many of which were approved. Thanks Carol!

December 30, 1988: “Railfan Magazine comes in mail, Monorail Society ad is in! Time to get in gear!!” Ad is tiny classified ad under Announcements “THE MONORAIL SOCIETY! Help bring back the future. Looking for monorail enthusiasts, collectibles and information. 36450 Diego Dr., Fremont, CA 94536-5559.”

January 1, 1989: Business #15000 is registered with City of Fremont, California. It's the first official day of The Monorail Society!

January 17, 1989: “Carol calls me at work, package arrived from Hitachi in mail. FANTASTIC!! Hitachi package answers a million questions about Japanese systems, plus tells of Osaka and other new monorails planned!! Also, letter from Seattle Monorail driver is 1st Monorail Society inquiry!” Josh Shields was that monorail driver, who would later write a two-part history of monorails in Seattle for the newsletter. Many exciting events like this followed, fueling me to continue growing TMS.

Much of the rest of 1989 was spent doing more research, answering first inquiries and learning how to operate my new 286 computer (with 20 megabytes of storage, the salesman said "that’s more than you’ll ever need”). By the Fall I had a small group of enthusiasts signed. Somehow I had figured out a bit of desktop publishing and the first Monorail Newsletter came out in Fall of 1989. From this point forward, monorail enthusiasts or anyone curious about monorails had their first gathering place!

Kim Pedersen
The Monorail Society