Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!
(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)
Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.
And what better way to start your week, than by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?
So let’s get started this week by talking about a cool method of transportation.
In the seventy first episode of The Simpsons, Marge vs. the Monorail (Season 04, Episode 12), episode writer Conan O’Brien has Mr. Burns fined three million dollars for illegal disposal of nuclear waste. At City Hall, the Town of Springfield has a debate on how to spend the money. While Marge urges that they fix the much in need of repair Main Street, a smooth talking salesman Lyle Lanley comes in and recommends they build a monorail. Following the hit song “Monorail”, the town’s people agree to a Monorail.
Lyle Lanley starts a school for Monorail conductors, which Homer participates in. Trying to skip town before the monorail’s maiden voyage, Lyle quickly appoints Homer as the conductor.
It’s all glitz and glamour at the grand opening of the monorail. Lurleen Lumpkin is back from her stint in rehab:
Kent Brockman: “What you been up to, Lurleen?”
Lurleen Lumpkin: “I spent last night in a ditch!”
And Leonard Nimoy is in attendance as the Grand Marshall:
Mayor Quimby: “And now, I’d like to turn things over to our Grand Marshall, Mr. Leonard Nimoy!”
Leonard Nimoy: “I’d say this vessel could do at least Warp 5!”
Mayor Quimby: “And let me say, ‘May the force be with you!’”
Leonard Nimoy: “Do you even know who I am?”
Mayor Quimby: “I believe I do. Weren’t you one of the Little Rascals?”
But things go awry when the monorail loses control. Marge however comes to the rescue when she finds a scientist (not Batman) to help. At Sebastian Cobb’s advise, Homer finds an anchor to bring the speeding monorail to a halt, by latching on the ‘M’ of the monorail to the Lard Lad mascot donut.
Homer (talking to himself): “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”
But have you ever wondered what a monorail is?
A monorail is a railway in which the track consists of a single rail or a beam. As per the Monorail Society, monorails are “A single rail serving as a track for passenger or freight vehicles. In most cases rail is elevated, but monorails can also run at grade, below grade or in subway tunnels. Vehicles are either suspended from or straddle a narrow guideway. Monorail vehicles are WIDER than the guideway that supports them.”
Monorails have some advantages over trains, buses, and automobiles. As with other grade-separated transit systems, monorails avoid red lights, intersection turns, and traffic jams. Accidents are rarer with monorails operating on a dedicated system, as opposed to surface-level trains, buses, automobiles, and pedestrians which can collide each one with the other. As with other elevated transit systems, monorail passengers enjoy sunlight and views. Monorails can be quieter than diesel buses and trains. They obtain electricity from the track structure, eliminating costly and unsightly overhead power lines and poles.
Ivan Kirillovich Elmanov was a Russian inventor. In 1820 in Myachkovo, just outside Moscow, he built a type of monorail described as a ‘road on pillars’. The single rail was made of timber balks resting above the pillars. The wheels were set on this wooden rail, while the horse-drawn carriage had a sled on its top. This construction is considered to be the first known monorail in the world.
The first passenger carrying monorail called the ‘Chestnut Railway’ celebrated a grand opening June 25th, 1825. It had a one-horse power engine. Based on a UK patent No 4618 dated 22 November 1821 by British civil engineer Henry Robinson Palmer, the Cheshunt Railway was built to carry bricks, but made monorail history by carrying passengers at its opening.
Disneyland in Anaheim, California, opened the United States’ first daily operating monorail system in 1959. Per the Monorail Society, no monorail in history captured the attention of the public quite like Walt Disney’s Alweg Monorail did when it opened in 1959. The result would be the unfortunate type-casting of monorails being ‘theme park rides’, except in Japan. Later versions of the Disneyland monorail improved on the Alweg system. A full-sized Alweg monorail was also built for the Tokyo Disneyland Resort area in the 1990s.
From the 1980s, most monorail mass transit systems are in Japan, with a few exceptions. Tokyo Monorail, is one of the world’s busiest, averages 127,000 passengers per day and has served over 1.5 billion passengers since 1964. China recently started development of monorails in the late 2000s, already home to the world’s largest and busiest monorail system and has a number of mass transit monorails under construction in several of cities.
Chongqing Rail Transit, China
Disneyland Monorail August 1963, Anaheim
Las Vegas Monorail, Las Vegas
First suspended electric monorail, Germany
Mumbai Monorail, India
Per Wikipedia, here are some Monorail records:
Busiest line: Line 3, Chongqing Rail Transit, 682,800 passengers per day (2014 Daily Avg.)
Largest system: Chongqing Rail Transit (Lines 2 & 3), 97.8 km (60.8 mi)
Longest maglev line: Shanghai Maglev Train, 30.5 km (19.0 mi)
Longest straddle-beam line: Line 3, Chongqing Rail Transit, 55.5 km (34.5 mi), or 66.5 km (41.3 mi) if the Jurenba branch is included
Largest suspended system: Chiba Urban Monorail, 15.2 km (9.4 mi)
Oldest line still in service: Schwebebahn Wuppertal, 1901
Now that we’ve learned more about monorails, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.
Did you remember the episode? What’s your favourite Homer gets a different job episode of The Simpsons? What about your favourite Simpsons transportation reference? Were you familiar with monorails? Have you ever ridden a monorail? What’s your favourite mode of transportation? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.