Houston businessman Murel Goodell is the inventor of the modern monorail. This is his story.
Did you know?
The first commercial operating monorail in the United States, Goodell’s Trailblazer, ran at the Texas State Fair from 1956-1964. The Disneyland monorail was his second-generation design and launched in 1959.
What is a modern monorail?
The first passenger monorail in Germany opened in 1901 using steel wheels and steel track, like a traditional railroad. Goodell designed a suspended monorail using rubber tires and a concrete track with lower construction costs and greater comfort, quietness, and efficiency. Next, he invented the straddle-beam monorail which rides on top of the beam instead of underneath it. This is the basis for all modern monorails operating around the world today.
1st Commercial Monorail in America
After testing in Houston, TX, Goodell moved his monorail to the Texas State Fair in Dallas where it ran during the fairs and year-round on weekends. The monorail was the most popular attraction at the fair and charged 25¢ a ride.
Inventor of the Modern Monorail
Houston entrepreneur Murel Goodell and his company, Monorail, Inc., proposed monorail designs for several cities in the United States, including Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, and Washington, D.C. Goodell is seen here admiring a mock-up of the monorail for downtown Houston.
Monorail Becomes a Reality
Proving the Design
Goodell installed a 970 ft. test track for Trailblazer in Houston, near Arrowhead Park. The event received national and international media attention, including a live broadcast on NBC hosted by the popular announcer, Fred Nahas. The famous Western star Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans were among the first guests invited to ride the monorail.
The Disney Connection
The Most Famous Monorail
Disneyland’s monorail, Goodell’s second-generation straddle-beam design, opened in 1959 to great fanfare, thanks to Walt Disney’s incomparable showmanship. Richard Nixon, then Senator from California, was among the luminaries invited for the first ride with his wife and children. TV and radio personality Art Linkletter is seen popping his head through the bubble atop the first coach. Disney’s monorail was co-branded “ALWEG,” an acronym for Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren, the Swedish billionaire investor in Goodell’s Monorail, Inc.
Monorails for the World
Murel Goodell proposed his monorail design for cities around the world. Like Walt Disney, he was deeply concerned about the impact of automobile traffic and the loss of lives that automobile accidents caused every day.
Goodell first proposed the monorail for his home city of Houston, TX. The Trailblazer, the first modern monorail, was proven there on a test track near Arrowhead Park.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Goodell attained approval to build a monorail from Fort Lauderdale to Florida City, FL and even signed contracts, which were never fulfilled.
Los Angeles, CA
Goodell proposed a monorail route that paralleled the Century Freeway, offering a 19 minute trip from LAX airport to downtown.
Niagara Falls, Canada
Goodell’s proposal for monorail in Niagara Falls was based on his working design for Houston Hobby Airport. Despite announcing signed contracts, the Niagara Falls project was never completed.
New Orleans, LA
Goodell’s monorail design for New Orleans met with significant controversy. It was eventually approved but never built.
Goodell proposed a monorail design for our nation’s capital which, despite support from local authorities, was never built.