Elevated railway

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"Elevated" redirects here. For the short film by Vincenzo Natali, see Elevated (film).
Liverpool Overhead Railway, 1951.
New York City Subway J train crosses the East River separating Brooklyn and Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge.

An elevated railway (also known in Europe as overhead railway) is a rapid transit railway with the tracks above street level on a viaduct or other steel, concrete or brick structure. The railway may be standard gauge, narrow gauge, light rail, monorail or a suspension railway. Elevated railways are usually used in urban areas where there would otherwise be a large number of level crossings. Most of the time, the tracks of elevated railways that run on steel viaducts can be seen from street level.


The earliest elevated railway was the London and Greenwich Railway on a brick viaduct of 878 arches, built between 1836 and 1838. The first 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of the London and Blackwall Railway (1840) was also on a viaduct. During the 1840s there were other schemes for elevated railways in London which did not come to fruition.[1]

From the late 1860s elevated railways became popular in US cities. The New York West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway operated with cable cars from 1868 to 1870, thereafter locomotive-hauled. This was followed by the Manhattan Railway in 1875, the Boston Elevated Railway (1887–), and the South Side Elevated Railroad, Chicago (1892–). The Chicago transit system itself is known as "L", short for "elevated". The Berlin Stadtbahn (1882) is also mainly elevated.

The first electric elevated railway was the Liverpool Overhead Railway, which operated through Liverpool docks from 1893 until 1956.

In London the Docklands Light Railway is a modern elevated railway, opened in 1987 and since expanded.[2] The trains are driverless and automatic.[3] Another modern elevated railway is Tokyo's driverless Yurikamome line, opened in 1995.[4]

Suspension railways[edit]

During the 1890s there was some interest in suspension railways, particularly in Germany, with the Schwebebahn Dresden, (1891–) and the Wuppertal Schwebebahn (1901). H-Bahn suspension railways were built in Dortmund and Düsseldorf airport, 1975. The Memphis Suspension Railway opened in 1982.

Shonan Monorail and Chiba Urban Monorail in Japan, despite their names, are suspension railways too.

Monorail systems[edit]

Most monorails are elevated railways, such as the Disneyland Monorail System (1959), the Tokyo Monorail (1964), the Sydney Monorail (1988–2013), the Las Vegas Monorail and the São Paulo Monorail. Maglev railways are also elevated.

People mover systems[edit]

People mover or automated people mover (APM) is a type of grade-separated mass transit system. The term is generally used only to describe systems that serve as loops or feeder systems, but is sometimes applied to considerably more complex automated systems. Similar to monorails, Bombardier Innovia APM technology uses only one rail to guide the vehicle along the guideway. APMs are common at airports and effective at helping passengers quickly reach their gates. Several elevated APM systems at airports including the PHX Sky Train at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; AeroTrain at Kuala Lumpur International Airport; and the Tracked Shuttle System at London Gatwick Airport, United Kingdom.


See also[edit]

Proposed Designs[edit]


  1. ^ Jack Simmons and Gordon Biddle, The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, Oxford University Press, (1997), p.360.
  2. ^ "DLR History Timeline". Transport for London.
  3. ^ "Where are the drivers?" Transport for London.
  4. ^ New Transit Yurikamome website History Retrieved 3 March 2015