Wuppertal Suspension Monorail





The commencement of the era of train travel proved to be a challenging time for the hilly Wupper Valley where a traditional railway could not be built due to tight corners, rivers and sharp drops.  Although plans for a hanging monorail were drawn up in 1826, it was resisted by local landowners, and construction did not begin until 1898.  The monorail opened in 1901, and to showcase the impressive feat, a test run was conducted with German Emperor Wilhelm II on board in a specially designed Kaiserwagen, a car that is still used for special events today.


The suspension monorail runs 18 trains per direction per hour and transports 85,000 people every day.  Each train consists of two cars, each with a capacity of under 200 people per car.  It is narrower than conventional trains, with room for only two seats, an aisle and a solo seat across its width.  The monorail has an exceptionally rare train design, as the wheels sit on top of the single rail.  The 13-kilometer ride from terminus to terminus takes 35 minutes, stopping at 20 stations along the way, and has become an indispensable method of transport for the people of Wuppertal, enabling them to move through the city without problems of traffic, ice or snow.  Travelling above the Wupper River, the train passes over diverse scenery:  19th century buildings, stone landscapes, wooded riverbanks and factories.  It is the world’s oldest monorail still in operation and Europe’s only suspended railway.


The monorail’s most famous rider was a young elephant named Tuffi, who was taken aboard in 1950 as an advertisement for the circus.  Clearly not enjoying the ride, she burst through the side of the carriage and jumped to freedom, landing in the river below.  Other than a bruised bottom, Tuffi sauntered off unharmed.


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