Novelty Monorails - Cal Expo
by David B. Simons Jr.
photographs by Paul M. Newitt
Originally appeared in the Fall 1995 issue of MONORAIL Newsletter...
Since 1969, the six Universal Mobility Inc. monorail trains at the California State Fair and Exposition have worn more paint jobs than the extinct Luxor-Excalibur monorail in Las Vegas had passengers. The current incarnation of this Sacramento system's paint scheme is so original that I hope it stays. The four remaining trains are named "California Dog-Faced Butterfly," "California Valley Quail," "California Poppy" and "California Golden Trout." The white trains are emblazoned with each train's namesake along its entire length with the Cal Expo logo on each side.
During our aerial tour of this celebration of all things Californian, the monorail snaked its way over, through, and between exhibit buildings, the amusement area, a redwood forest, food vendors, and near the rodeo arena. A midway station at grade is unused--too bad since stopped trains are on a curve and passengers can be loaded from the middle of the inside of the curve. I've always theorized that this arrangement would eliminate labor costs on a transit system since only one loader is needed and passengers can see ALL available seats from the gate through which they are allowed to enter the platform. This arrangement also makes all seats equidistant from the gate. (Big Deal you say? If you've ever tried to load 360 people onto a train that is less than three feet away from them while they bicker and argue about wanting window seats, not wanting to stand, not wanting to fold strollers, and just being miserable bastards, you too would look for any way of lessening the station dwell time short of and sometimes including the use of cattle prods. I used to take my fourteen foot bullwhip to work at Walt Disney World in my book bag for teasingly threatening potential trouble makers. It makes a great noise inside the Contemporary Monorail Station. But I digress...)
Editor note 2012: The mid-way station was closed due to the gaps between the train and platform in the curve. Gaps are too large for safe boarding and unboarding.
After the first ever sit-down meeting of all four TMS officers aboard the Dog-Faced Butterfly, we were graciously treated to an exhibition of the Poppy train's roll out of shop by Gary Magonigal, the engineer in charge of the Cal Expo monorail's operation and maintenance. While the train was moved by transverser to the spur, Gary told me that two of his trains had been sold to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California (Editor Note 2012: Magic Mountain monorail later dismantled). While TMS President Kim Pedersen videoed the operation of the rotary switch and Editor Dale Samuelson took panoramic pictures of the trains, Promotions/Graphics Advisor Paul M. Newitt and I wondered what could have happened at Six Flags to require replacement of two monorail trains...
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