The Minirail was an automated monorail system on Saint Helen's and Notre Dame Islands in Montreal, Canada. The network was built for the 1967 World's Fair (Expo 67), and continued to operate for Man and his World. The system consisted of three independent circuits operated by two different types of trains: the larger "Blue" (which ceased operating in 1973) that ran mostly on Notre Dame Island, and the smaller "Yellow" (ended in 1981) which ran on the north and south ends Saint Helen's Island. Only the La Ronde route loop (also “Yellow”), segregated from the rest of the system on the north end, still remains and continues to operate at the amusement park to this day—the only remaining part of the Minirail.
The main part of the system was the “Blue” Minirail on Notre Dame Island and a small section of Saint Helen's Island. There were also two smaller loops: the “Yellow” Minirails on opposite ends of Saint Helen's Island. The minimum system radius was 50 feet (15 m), and maximum grade 10%.
Notre Dame Island (Blue)
The larger Minirail was laid out to pass as many major points as possible. Stations were named for nearby major attractions. The 4.2-mile (6.8 km) circuit had six stops at four stations, Agriculture and Theme being served twice. Although on an elevated structure up to 40 feet (12 m) above the ground for most of its length, the line also swung out over the water near the Quebec pavilion, dropping to within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the St. Lawrence. It also ran through the Ontario pavilion and the geodesic dome of the U.S. Pavilion. A small section of the Blue line ran on Saint Helen's Island, primarily to connect to the Metro and (west) Yellow Minirail line. The track structure was designed by the Swiss firm of Maschinenfabrik Habegger and fabricated on-site by Dominion Bridge Company. The running rails were twin 21-inch (533 mm) × 8 1⁄4-inch (210 mm) “I” beams 21 3⁄4 inches (552 mm) apart, supported on A-frame pylons on 50-foot (15 m) centres, reduced to 34 feet (10 m) on curves. The Blue Minirail continued to operate on Notre Dame Island until late 1973, despite the closure and abandonment of the park below the previous year. During these final two years there were no stops as all stations on Notre Dame Island were closed, therefore passengers boarded and exited at the "Metro" Minirail station on Saint Helen's Island. The circuit was dismantled by the mid 1970s, primarily due to construction of the Olympic rowing basin.
Saint Helen's Island (Yellow)
The Saint Helen's Island Yellow Minirail ran around a 1.1-mile (1.8 km) loop on the west end of the island that connected Metro station on the Blue Minirail to the Expo Express’ Sainte Helen's station. After leaving the latter station the route swung over a corner of Swan Lake. Both this and the La Ronde loop were built by Mojan Ltée. It ceased operation when the Saint Helen's Island section of Man and His World closed in late 1981, and then later demolished in the mid 1980's.
La Ronde (Yellow)
The La Ronde Yellow Minirail is also on Saint Helen's Island, but was completely separate from the rest of the system. It circles the amusement park, and its 1.3-mile (2.1 km) route also passes the Marina and runs in between Dolphin Lake and the Saint Lawrence River. It continues to operate to present day, albeit on a slightly modified route.
Passengers rode in open cars that carried a maximum of 12 people in each. Nine cars made up a single train; one head car, seating only three passengers, seven mid-section cars and one tail car.
The Yellow Minirails received their nicknames from the colour of the cars’ canopies. Twelve 16-car trains operated on each line. Each train seated 60 in its 105-foot (32 m) length. Also designed by Habegger, these cars were built in 1964 for the Swiss National Exhibition held that year in Lausanne. Originally controlled by an on-board operator, they were converted to automatic operation for Expo 67. Additional cars were purchased from the manufacturer, Von Roll Seilbahnen AG. to replace the rolling stock and rail from Lausanne that were sold to Blackpool's Pleasure Beach. The Yellow Minirails ran on a pair of outward-facing 3 1⁄2-inch (89 mm) × 12-inch (305 mm) “C” channels, 4 9⁄16 inches (116 mm) apart and supported on A-frames.
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Pleasure Beach Blackpool bought the monorail in 1964 from the Lausanne expo in Switzerland and it was opened in Pleasure Beach in 1966.
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