Trailblazer (monorail)

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Trailblazer
Overview
Owner Monorail, Inc
Locale Fair Park, Dallas, Texas
Transit type Monorail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 2
Operation
Began operation 1956
Operator(s) Texas Skyways, Inc
Number of vehicles 1
Technical
System length 1,600 feet

Trailblazer was a suspended monorail that operated at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas from 1956 to 1964. It was the first commercially operated monorail system in the United States.[1]

History[edit]

Envisioned as a demonstration project for transit solutions, Monorail, Inc. erected a short test system in Houston's Arrowhead Park as the Skyway Line in 1956. During the year, the company contracted with the State Fair of Texas for an expanded project at Fair Park in Dallas. Originally envisioned to be 4,000 feet long with terminals at the Automobile Building and Pennsylvania Avenue (with a midway station at Cotton Bowl Plaza), the line was later reduced to 1,600 feet terminating at the Cotton Bowl. It was completely funded and constructed by Monorail, Inc and operated as a fairgrounds concession by Texas Skyways, Inc — making it the nation's first commercial operating monorail line [2] Most of the materials (including the vehicle) were repurposed from the Houston test project. It opened with a fare of 25 cents in time for the 1956 State Fair of Texas, and became a top visitor attraction.[3]

It also made an appearance in the 1962 musical film State Fair, which was filmed in Fair Park.[4]

Service and operations[edit]

A 51-passenger vehicle—named Trailblazer—was built of light blue fiberglass and powered by two Packard 352 gasoline engines. A two man crew operated the system with the driver sitting above the passenger compartment atop one of two bogies.[5] Trailblazer was supported by 30 foot high inverted J-shaped steel towers spaced 100 feet apart. The suspended vehicle ran 18 feet above the ground on pneumatic tires with a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h); however, the system at Fair Park was limited by the acceleration possible between stations.[3] The two minute journey connected Fair Park's Automobile Building with the Cotton Bowl; the terminal at the Automobile Building was located at ground-level, while the Cotton Bowl station was suspended by a parabolic arch.

The monorail operated for several years during the State Fair of Texas and year-round on weekends. The system became a showcase of transportation technology for Dallas and Monorail, Inc, attracting the attention of urban planners and city leaders from around the world. 30 months after installation the system had attracted 50,000 riders; by the end of its life it had carried over 1,000,000 people.[6][7]

In April 1958 a small fire caused the evacuation of Trailblazer, but the 6 passengers and 2 crew members escaped unharmed.[8]

The system was closed in 1964 due to diminishing novelty and maintenance, being replaced by the Swiss Sky Ride. The track was dismantled and the vehicle was scheduled to retire to the Goodell Monorail Museum in Houston.[9] Several years later, however, the monorail vehicle was found in a salvage yard. It was later purchased and moved to the town of Wills Point, Texas and converted to a residence, where it remains today.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dallas Content to Wait, Watch Seattle's Results," Dallas Morning News, 07-12-1959
  2. ^ "Board OK's Monorail as Fair Exhibit," The Dallas Morning News, 07-27-1956
  3. ^ a b "Park Board Agrees to Monorail Plans," The Dallas Morning News, 08-14-1956
  4. ^ "Monorails on Film and TV", Kim Pedersen
  5. ^ "The Wave of the Future", Train Talk, 05-11-2010
  6. ^ "Monorail's Future" The Dallas Morning News. 11-19-1957
  7. ^ "Workmen Tear down Fair Monorail Track," The Dallas Morning News, 08-09-1964
  8. ^ "8 Scramble to Safety as Fire Hits Monorail," The Dallas Morning News, 04-28-1958
  9. ^ "Trail-Blazing Days Over," The Dallas Morning News, 11-19-1964
  10. ^ "A Trailblazer’s resting spot", The Houston Chronicle, 01-20-2009

External links[edit]