Monorails of Europe

Wuppertal, Germany

Opened 1901 

13.3 km 

20 stations 

82,000 / day 

The world's oldest operating transportation monorail operates in the Ruhr district of Germany. A special preview run was held for the Kaiser on October 24, 1900. The "Schwebebahn" opened to the public on March 1st, 1901. During the 19th century, the towns of Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel were growing rapidly and some sort of transit system was needed. Since a good portion of the line would be above the Wupper River, conventional elevated rail was not the ideal choice. Eugen Langen, an engineer of nearby Cologne, had successfully tested a double-track monorail system. The leaders of the towns were impressed with the technology and selected it. Construction began in 1898, 100 years before our website debuted. The original monorail cars were revolutionary in rail design in that they were the first all-steel transit vehicles. The trains actually swing freely beneath the track. Still, the trains never bank more than a comfortable 15 degrees. The name "Schwebebahn" translates to Suspended Railway. Top speed for the vehicles is 56 kph. Cars operate at an approximate two and a half minute headway and have a carrying capacity of 3,500 passengers per hour. In April of 1999, a derailment of a morning commuter train caused four deaths, the only fatal mass transit monorail accident in the 20th century.

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