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railway system that uses cars that run on a single rail. Typically the rail is run overhead and the cars are either suspended from it or run above it. Driving power is transmitted from the cars to the track by means of wheels that rotate horizontally, making contact with the rail between its upper and lower flanges. In the maglevmagnetic levitation
or maglev
, support and often propulsion of objects or vehicles by the use of magnets. The magnets used in magnetic levitation suspend an object free of contact with any surface, making it particularly appropriate for high-speed (275–300
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 monorails currently under development, powerful magnets hold the car just off its track and propel it at high speed. One of the principal advantages of a monorail is the relative simplicity of its trackage in comparison with that of a standard railway. Monorails originated and still function as materials-handling systems, similar to traveling cranes, for use in large factories. Short urban transportation monorails have been built in Houston, Seattle, and Germany. A maglev line linking Shanghai's financial district with its new airport began commercial operation in 2004.



a transportation system in which passenger or freight cars move along a monorail mounted on a trestle or individual supports. In Russia the first freight monorail, which was horse-drawn, was built in a suburb of Moscow in the early 19th century by the mechanical engineer I. K. El’manov. In the late 19th century an experimental section of electrified monorail was built in Gatchina by the electrical engineer I. V. Romanov. However, monorails were not widely used in Russia.

One of the oldest monorails abroad was built in 1902 in the city of Wuppertal (Germany); it is still in operation. From 1957 through 1970, about 30 monorails were built in the USA, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Switzerland, Canada, and Italy (primarily for experimental purposes or for operation during exhibitions). In the USSR, monorails of the Alweg and S.A.F.E.G.E. systems are being designed for passenger transportation in large industrial centers. The design of a monorail for the Gidropark–Paton Bridge route in Kiev (1.8 km) has been completed; the plans for a monorail in the city of Rustavi (length, 19.4 km) are being developed.

A distinction is made between overhung monorail systems, in which the cars are supported by a running trolley located above the track beam, and underslung systems, in which the cars are suspended from a running trolley and move below the monorail. The most common type is the overhung Alweg system developed in the Federal Republic of Germany. One such monorail is operating in Tokyo (Japan) on the route to Haneda Airport (15 km long).

Some types of underslung monorails are the Skyway system, designed in the USA, with an open track construction and asymmetric suspension of cars, and the S.A.F.E.G.E. system, developed in France, with tracks enclosed in a hollow bearing beam and symmetrical car suspension. Monorails are an advanced means of industrial, urban, and suburban transportation. Among their advantages are the ability to develop relatively high speeds, the safety of operation, the feasibility of travel by the shortest route, the lack of dependence of the track route on landscape and planning conditions, the relatively small quantity of metal required for construction, the highly economical power consumption, and the feasibility of complete automation.

The running trolleys of monorail passenger cars are electrically driven; their running wheels have pneumatic tires, and the idler wheels have either pneumatic or solid rubber tires. Consequently, their operation is noiseless. The capacity of the cars is 60–120 persons. Intercity monorail systems are in the development stage; plans call for air-cushion vehicles moving at speeds of 150–500 km/hr (for example, in Japan in 1973 such a monorail system was being designed for the Tokyo-Osaka route).

Freight monorails are used in industry as a means of transportation within a shop, from shop to shop, or among factories. The freight cars can be equipped with special platforms, self-loading bodies, grippers, and hoisting mechanisms. The capacity of such cars is 0.5–2.0 tons (less frequently 5 tons), and their speed is usually 2–4 km/hr. The use of freight monorails is most efficient for cyclic schedules of operation and for distances up to 1.5 km.


Orlova, N. N. Monorel’sovye dorogi: Otechestvennaia i inostrannaia literatura za 1960–1966 gg. Moscow, 1967.
Mikhailov, A. S. Monorel’sovye dorogi i vozmozhnosti ikh primeneniia v gorodskom i prigorodnom soobschenii. Moscow, 1971.



(civil engineering)
A single rail used as a track; usually elevated, with cars straddling or hanging from it.


A distinctive type of materials-handling machine that provides an overhead, normally horizontal, fixed path of travel in the form of a trackage system and individually propelled hand or powered trolleys which carry their loads suspended freely with an intermittent motion. Because monorails operate over fixed paths rather than over limited areas, they differ from overhead-traveling cranes, and they should not be confused with such overhead conveyors as cableways. See Bulk-handling machines, Materials-handling equipment


a single-rail railway, often elevated and with suspended cars
References in periodicals archive ?
Affluent cities like Makati, Quezon City, and Mandaluyong can establish their own monorail systems in their respective jeepney thoroughfares.
Rail technology leader Bombardier Transportation has announced two contracts for its BOMBARDIER INNOVIA Monorail 300 system for two mass rapid transit lines in Bangkok.
Proponents argued that monorails could achieve higher speeds than conventional trains, even though the velocity of the various models conceived and built during the 1950s and 1960s raised doubts on this point.
The monorail service that will link the city to major stations will begin its first phase of 8.
The Makkah monorails will be 8 to 10 meters above ground to ensure the smooth flow of pedestrians and vehicles.
The monorail project will help withdraw about 53,000 buses and other vehicles being used by pilgrims coming by land from within the Kingdom and neighboring GCC countries," the report said.
In the Far East there are now some monorails which deliver serious mass transit, like the Tokyo-Hameda system which carries 140,000 people a day, or the Kuala Lumpar system which carries 45,000.
A study conducted by international engineering consultants Arup and train construction company Metrail AG says a monorail would be far more environmentally friendly than trams or trains and could become an "iconic tourist attraction" for Birmingham.
And that is exactly what has kept monorails in the background when many are considering their overhead materials handling alternatives.
Monorail Reduced Local Emissions by 58 Tons of Carbon Monoxide and Replaced 3.