Magic Kingdom Monorails at Reduced Capacity Due to Beam Damage

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Overnight the monorail beams between the Grand Floridian Resort and the Magic Kingdom suffered some sort of damage that is causing monorail delays. Cast members are saying a beam joint was damaged by the extremely low temperatures. This is forcing the monorails to slow to a crawl as they cross that section of the route, reducing capacity and slowing service times. During peak periods of guest travel, this means increased waits at all stops on the Magic Kingdom Resort and Express lines. The Epcot line is running as normal.

Currently no timeline has been given for the repairs to be made and for service to return to normal.

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Posted on February 13, 2012

36 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Monorails at Reduced Capacity Due to Beam Damage”

  • How many people paying $5000 per trip does it take to fix the monorails for good?

    • Going for a week to WDW with a family and staying at a moderate is easy to become a $5,000 trip, especially when you’re paying for food too.

  • I’m going to WDW in 3 weeks and this makes me very scared to ride the monorail. If there is joint damage, it’s going to break at some point. I feel they are risking people’s lives. We’ll choose a different form of transportation while we’re there.

    • Yes because Disney is going to risk people’s lives knowingly… if you believe that I guess you wont be riding any of the rides either.

  • We are in the parks today and have used the monorail. We noticed nothing other than a bit of a slow down between MK and GF, Disney has done a wonderful job keeping things up and running. We didn’t even know about this until we read it on here.

  • Disney is on top of the situation trust me. Numerous of other theme park resorts would not take precautions until the problem got a lot worse. With their around the clock maintenance crews I’m sure the beam will be repaired properly in no time.

  • Can’t be the beam: if there were any damage to a beam, you couldn’t even think of running any weight…and a few tourists less won’t make that big of a difference to a beam structure.

    Now, the metal that would either hold the beams up or in the expansion joints…that’s a different story. In cold, the beams will shrink and the expansion joints will get wider. When it’s hot, beams expand and the joints allow expansion without crushing the next beam. OMG! I must have actually paid attention in college! Well, a little at least!

  • Leaving sun for Disney. Doing the princess half marathon and staying at the GF because of the ease of the monorail. Hoping its fixed soon!

  • I am currently at WDW. I was here through the very very cold temps over the weekend. I rode the monorail from the Contemporary to the MK yesterday morning. The monorail slows to a crawl right past the Grand Floridian but it only slows the service by about 2 1/2 minutes at the most. If it was unsafe for them to be running Disney wouldn’t run them. They won’t take the chance of injuring guests (especially that many at a time)
    Next time I ride it I will ask a cast member what the deal is but keep in mind they may or may not tell me the truth. They can only tell what the are approved to tell guests.

    • You assumption that Disney would not operate the monorails in unsafe conditions is false. A quote from the National Transportation safety Board’s finding on the 2009 Walt Disney World Resort Monorail accident that resulted in the death of the pilot:

      “The NTSB also determined that contributing to the accident was Walt Disney World Resort’s lack of standard operating procedures which led to an unsafe practice when reversing trains on the monorail system.”

      http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2011/111031_3.html

      • There’s a difference between not having enough safeguards in place for the operators in the event one of them overlooks something (trying to prevent human error) vs neglecting basic track maintenance (trying to prevent mechanical failures).

        I think it’s pretty true that Disney would not knowingly operate the monorails if unsafe, harmful, or dangerous mechanical issues existed.

    • @geubux they didn’t say they were lightening the load in the trains. They said the trains are running slower resulting in longer station stops. That means lower capacity not fewer guests per train. The article leads me to believe there is a rough connection that, to reduce wear and further damage, has the trains running slow to create minimum impact on the issue until it can be addressed. I doubt it’s dangerous at all. Just needs some adjustment before normal operation can continue.

  • So taking the express from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, and the Resort from the MK back to the TTC should avoid the slowdown section, right?

  • geubux is correct: the nasty cold snap has widened the expansion joints a little bit more than usually happens, and the trains were slowing down in that section to save wear and tear on the tires (essentially, a “pothole” is created at the joint space.)

    No major cause for alarm, except that everyone in the Disneyana twitter-verse has to be “first” to report a “problem.”

  • That accident was operator error. You don’t blame the state for accidents on the highway, you blame the drivers. Disney operated those monorails for decades before that incident so to say they would purposefully run things in dangerous conditions is pretty absurd. Accidents happen. It is unfortunate but that’s the nature of the business. Millions upon millions upon millions of guests come and go there. As soon as one thing goes wrong everyone says its unsafe. I’ll take my 1 in 50,000,000 odds and enjoy myself and not slam or question the company for every hiccup along the way.

    • Monorail operations preceding that incident and for much of the life of the monorail system was with Disney following the manufacturer’s recommendations of not running the monorails in reverse without a spotter.

      Disney chose to eliminate the spotter position to save on labor costs.

      In this instance, the question really is: if it’s unsafe to go fast over a misaligned joint, why is it safe to go slow?

      People cite possible tire damage for fast – is that really alleviated entirely by going slow? The monorails resume normal speed after they have cleared the problem area.

      Monorail Silver’s tire blew out in 1985 – the problem was not that the tire itself blew out, but rather that the monorail was continuing at full speed (much like how they do after crossing the misaligned bit) and the blown out tire dragged and caught fire.

      “On June 26, 1985, a fire engulfed the rear car of the six-car Mark IV Silver monorail train in transit from the Epcot station to the Transportation and Ticket Center.[6] This fire predated onboard fire detection systems, emergency exits, and evacuation planning. Passengers in the car kicked out side windows and climbed around the side of the train to reach the roof, where they were subsequently rescued by the Reedy Creek Fire Department.[7] Seven passengers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation or other minor injuries.[7] The fire department later determined that the fire started when a flat tire was dragged across the concrete beam, heated due to friction, and ignited.[8]”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_IV_monorail

      So, again, how is going slow over something they consider dangerous better than going fast?

      • Going fast over a pothole in your car can cause serious damage to the axle, suspension and wheel assembly. Going slow over a pothole will cause no damage. This isn’t that hard to understand – unless of course your agenda is to spread the word that Disney isn’t safe – which is blatantly wrong. Have they had a couple accidents over the last 30+ years? Yes – show me one company that transports large amounts of people year-round and hasn’t had an accident.

      • Let’s say that on your way to work, you must drive down a particular road. There are no other options. On this road, there is a small trench perpendicular to your direction of travel. You have no choice but to cross this small trench if you wish to arrive at work. When you approach the trench, do you:
        A) maintain normal speed.
        B) reduce speed to 3 to 5mph thereby reducing force of impact on the far side of the trench.
        C) increase speed to 50mph. Faster means the wheel is in the trench for less time. That’s better, right?
        D) elect not to return to work until the road has been repaired.

        Seems like Disney has chosen B, which is in all probability the 2nd safest option. Not operating the monorail would be safest, but that’s not really the question. The question is: How much more likely is an accident with the track in the current condition than in the usual condition? A good follow up question is: How can the usual operation be modified to bring the chance of accident back down to usual levels? The answer is probably: reduce speed in affected areas.

        • Why isn’t not operating the monorail the best answer?

          They have watercraft and buses to travel between the TTC, resort, and Magic Kingdom. All of which they do regularly when the monorail breaks down. Further, only one section of a loop is the problem – they have the option of running reduced capacity shuttle service as well as making the Express line stop at the resorts to help the overall lowered capacity.

          That, however, would cost money for staffing. And yes, using the monorails in shuttle mode and using the Express line at the resorts are both in the standard operating procedures for the monorails (approved by the safety department and the manufacturer).

          Driving slowly over a misaligned joint is not.

          • This would be easier to answer if I knew what you expected to happen when the monorail drives past this point on the track. Also, are we clear on how speed can change the force of an impact? Reduced speed results in reduced impact.
            (As a note, I don’t know anything personally about this track issue, only what has been described here as akin to a pothole, but I do know things about what happens when masses in motion collide with masses at rest.)

          • Um the Express can not be used to go to hotel stop because there are no safe loading areas. Example: @ The GF or Polly people would have to travel across the tracks to get to the ramp to exit the stations.

      • >So, again, how is going slow over something they consider
        >dangerous better than going fast?

        Who said they consider it dangerous? It’s about avoiding damage, not that there are dangerous structural issues.

        Why is going slow better? Ask yourself that anytime you drive over a pothole or roll something over a threshold or elevator gap.

  • I rode Monorails on the resort beam several times on Feb 9,10,11 and 12. I noticed only one slow down between GF and MK. Granted this post was placed Feb 13, however Feb 11 and 12 were very cold days, especially the morning of Feb 11.

    I have noticed beam surface damage at all stations, where water, dripping from the undercarriage on rainy days, has over the years eroded spots on the beams. Also spots where tires come to rest and then rub upon startup are clearly noticeable..these areas are obvious and probably no cause for concern. Take a close look next time you are there.

    • and Yes, I agree with R.A., is going slow over a damaged area of beam any safer? I suppose it depends on exactly what the “damage” is. Have any beam sections been replaced since 1971?

  • Fix it later. Cut costs. Aging monorail – can wait. In comparison, what about last years’ 4 billion dollar profit – & Iger with the board hand him a pay of over thirty million dollars.. and they cut back in staff, spotters and other basic things in order to ……save money? Eisner is still in control of the company – As Iger (hand picked by Eisner) and his board of directors are still there, and Eisner remains the top individual shareholder. And recall the issue with Big Thunder Mountain & the Ferry Boat in Disneyland – both resulting in the death of guests. Nothing will change in the company until there is righteous change in the company.

  • Based on the comments and the problem being the weather from cast members, we should wait before we overact. I would wait to hear something offical from Disney or from a well respected website. Not certain on what the exact problem is and how severe it is. Nothing against a blog on touringplans.com, but I never heard of it until 15 minutes ago.

  • I have to agree with the sentiment that Disney (which has many qualified engineers on staff) would not allow the monorail to operate if this issue represented a serious safety threat. A few years ago we stayed at the Contemporary, and walked along the path (under the monorail tracks) to the MK a few times. Being both a Disney fan and a structural engineer, I took some time to examine the monorail structure and noticed the expansion joints at certain intervals along the track. They consist of a series of interlocking steel “knife” plates that allow different sections of track beams to expand and contract, as others have noted. (I actually have a photo of one somewhere…yes, I am also a nerd).

    Anyway, as others have said, I would guess that the gap is simply too large during colder weather, resulting in more wear on the drive system – not really a safety issue.

  • “If you note the section of beams….like car bridges don’t actually connect by rather have interlocking teeth between the two beams….like with car bridges this is necessary due to the movement of the ground underneath to not cause unnecessary stress on the entire beam-way and allow for some small movement. However an issue arises on a piece of the beamway that connects in between the grand floridian and magic kingdom….at the very top of the high incline right after the grand flo. Note that this beam connection is actually grounded in the seven seas lagoon.” Every so often when the conditions are right, “the interlocking teeth actually find a way to separate and only about 75% of the beam is connected strait through…with one piece bowing right and the other bowing left. Its actually pretty scary to see from the drivers cab”. This is not a safely issue… and there is no chance that the beam will break away.
    Eventually, when things warm up a bit, mother nature will see that the beam will slide back into normal alignment. However, during the period of time when it is off-kilter, the Pilots are ordered to drive at a slow 3mph speed over this particular section in order to prevent any damage to the Monorail tires as they navigate over this weather induced speed-bump.
    via. screamscape

  • Image of expansion joints. http://www.monorails.org/webpix%202/LVO39.jpg

    IT IS NORMAL..NO PROBLEM..movement joint is an assembly designed to safely absorb the heat-induced expansion and contraction of various construction materials, to absorb vibration, to hold certain parts together, or to allow movement due to ground settlement

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansion_joint

  • by Michelle Schaefer on February 20, 2012, at 9:13 am EDT

    OMG people! I really hope I don’t run across any of the ‘negative Nellies’ that are posting here on my next trip to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’!! But then again that would mean that these ‘naysayers’ are actually going against what they post and are risking their lives to have a terrible vacation. Maybe a holiday on a deserted island would prove less risky…sheesh. Sorry had to say that…don’t normally use that inside voice out loud. To all of the real Disney fans, have a most magical Disney day:)

  • To command would be to serve, nothing at all and zilch less.
    There isn’t any techniques for success. Oahu is the response to preparation, effort, and gaining knowledge from failure.

  • IT IS NORMAL..NO PROBLEM..by head of guidway section KLmonorail Malaysia