One of the many glimpses of the future brought to New Yorkers at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was a monorail train, advertised as “Exciting. Thrilling. Unforgettable.” and a “new dimension in transportation.” The suspended system certainly offered World’s Fair visitors that futuristic vision, plus it offered air conditioning. The monorail ran forty feet above ground around the lake area on two tracks that ran parallel to each other in 4000 feet closed loops. Seven two-car monorails ran the route, stopping at stations along the way. The 3/4 of a mile experience was designed, to “incorporate the best features of a scenic ride.” The guidebook touted the “spectacular views” visitors would get for the 80 cent ride (60 cents for children), which also offered air conditioning. The monorail ran from 9 AM to 2 AM (seems like the festivities ran late at this World’s Fair!)
The World’s Fair monorail was created and operated by AMF, American Machine and Foundry, better known for creating bowling alley equipment. According Bill Cotter from World’s Fair Photos, AMF hoped this $5 million investment would lead to nationwide contracts but somehow, despite how awesome it looked, not a single business deal did it lead to. The World’s Fair monorail would be AMF’s first and last system. The postcard and photograph shown here are courtesy of the New York City Parks Archive, and in fact, the postcard was once in the personal collection of archivist Rebekah Burgess.
Photo by Fred A. Hamel from New York City Parks Photo Archive.
Each two-car train could fit 80 people and hung from rubber-tired power units that ran along the rail track overhead. Although the system was automatically controlled, hostesses were present at each station and in the trains to help passengers board and “provide commentary on the sights,” writes Cotter. This was the Jet Age of flight after all, with Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport having just opened two years before.
As for remnants of the monorail itself? It was dismantled after the fair, but in the popular Facebook group about the 1964-65 World’s Fair, member Helmut Eppich commented five years ago that there are “humps swelling up from the ground at the lake area near the highways. Apparently, those large humps are the monorail support pylon foundations. Or what’s left.”
Join us for our tour this Sunday of the Remnants of the World’s Fairs where you will get to view original guidebooks from both the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs: