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Wuppertal Suspension Railway (wikipedia.org)
62 points by yitchelle on March 5, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

The Tokyo area has two suspended monorails. Chiba's [1] is well known. It's a big, heavy-duty system in an urban area. Less known is the Shonan line in Kanagawa Prefecture.[2] It's a single-track system with passing sidings at stations. This line was crammed into a suburban area, and there are lots of turns to get around obstacles. The support columns are in odd places. That's the monorail dream, to be able to put in a system without severe impact on the area. It's worth watching the video to see how that worked out.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOsJrU5XUIw [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvgTr37v0EE

I recommend everyone who's visiting Tokyo to take a trip to Enoshima and use the Shonan Line to get there. Enoshima is a scenic tiny island and there's a long beach. Great in summer, when there are firework festivals.

Japan also has some great non-suspended monorails. For example the one in Kitakyushu (I love the station architecture) or the one in Naha, Okinawa.

In the german wikipedia article are some interesting details and stories. Once there was an accident where an elephant travelled with the Schwebebahn and fell in the river Wupper; not kidding.

Also, there is a Simulator for Windows, OS X and the Wii U: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwebebahn-Simulator_2013

Even the english wikipedia has information about the elephant Tuffi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuffi

It's despicable that animals can still be abused anywhere for show and that Wuppertal's tourist department makes money off Tuffi but probably doesn't donate it all to animal causes is the icing on top. Steve-O at least got paid for the abuse and had a choice.

I made a side trip to Wuppertal when I visited Köln because I'm a monorail enthusiast.

The system was amazing for its time and its safety per passenger-distance is quite good for rail.

It was full of schoolchildren heading home at a leisurely pace, suspended over the river.

I had forgotten that you have to disembark at the end station so that the cars can be manually pushed onto outbound rail. I got some puzzled looks when I didn't de-train right away.

Are you a monorail enthusiast because you think monorails are fun or because you think they genuinely have their place in a transit network? And if so, why?

Wuppertal is a basically in a narrow valley surrounded by steep hills (think SF steep). Building a train atop of the river was very space efficient and probably much cheaper than digging a subway on groundwater level. Also it doesn't interfere with other vehicles. Last but not least, the Schwebebahn is just a very enjoyable ride.

The railway is wonderfully featured in Wim Wenders' movie "Pina" (an homage to choreographer Pina Bausch).

This film made me fall in love with the aesthetic of Wuppertal, and made it move very high on my list of potential places to visit and/or live for a while.

Related: anyone know how how welcoming Wuppertal is to remote workers?!

The railway is also featured in an early Wim Wenders' movie "Alice in the Cities". It's actually one of my favourite movies, highly recommended. The movie also features a prototype Polaroid camera!

Recommend this film? Was unaware of it love Wings of Desire

It is visually stunning. Though it's basically talking head reminiscing about Pina intercut with clips dancing so not a narrative film.

Also it's on Netflix in the US.

It was one of the first 3D movies I saw and I was a bit distracted by the novelty. I think you need an appreciation for dance to really enjoy it.

Yes, totally!

Heh, I was just riding on a train from Hamburg to Frankfurt and passed Wuppertal, looked out the window and saw a suspended upside-down monorail cruising over a river. Googled for 5 minutes before finding this.

I wonder why more of these weren't built.

I've ridden this - I now know why. The infrastructure required to elevate a hanging rail is immense. In Wuppertal they get away with it with large portions of the track hanging over the local river. Wuppertal doesn't seem to want to give their Schwebebahn up: they are replacing the existing cars soon.

The basic idea was commercialized by SAFEGE of France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAFEGE#SAFEGE_type_monorail

However, there just aren't a whole lot of advantages of having a suspended monorail instead of a "regular" straddle monorail. The infrastructure needed is much heavier and bulkier, plus the trains sway rather unpleasantly when turning and if it's windy.

It's more of a Shelbyville idea.

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