Mass Transit: AMF Monorail

AMF system

The cars, a joint effort of Walter Dorwin Teague Associates and AMF design development engineers for the New York World's Fair, are a step forward, but hardly a fair test for the actual problems of getting people to and from places of business and pleasure.

Cut-a-way rendering of "bogie"

A perspective cut-a-way rendering of the SAFEGE monorail vehicle with its four-wheeled "bogie" exposed. Four additional horizontally oriented smaller wheels act to guide the truck along the track web. Two of these smaller wheels, diagonally opposed, are fixed in place, while the other two are spring loaded to compensate for variations in the track web. All eight "bogie" tires are rubber cushioned.

The existing train, consisting of coupled cars 90 feet long, rides 40 feet above the ground on two parallel 4000-foot loops and is moved by "bogies" developed by the General Electric Company. The system is not a new one, since both its forerunners and the present system are the product of long term development by SAFEGE (Societe Anonyme Francoise de Gestion et d'Enterprises). This giant French combine has as its various ingredients Renault, Michelin Rubber, French banks, construction companies and metal fabricators. Lucien F. Chadenson, chairman and president of SAFEGE-Transport, developed his boxed-beam principle, and subsequently built a mile long test track at Chateauneuf-sur-Loire. During the past two years, a SAFEGE car has been operating on this track at speeds up to 90 mph while running almost daily. The advantages of a box beam are simply that it keeps out the weather, giving uninterrupted transportation service, leading also to safety conditions which are reinforced by both a fail-safe method of switching and a fail-safe supporting system.

Simplified elevation diagram illustrates a dual track and pier. Each of the two tracks suspend the car by "primary link, pin connected to the car fitting at its lower end and a ball swivel anchors to the track at its upper end. The ball swivel pin is captive in a steel casting, which is guided in the track frame and supported by four air springs."
 Simplified elevation diagram

AMF has been granted a franchise to construct prototypes and working trains in the United States for SAFEGE. The World's Fair train is an example of the cooperation of this alliance. As it exists at the Fair, it is automatically controlled, governing train arrivals, departures, door opening and closing. In keeping with the ground rules for speed, the World's Fair train travels at only 9 miles an hour, and, although this is not a test of the system, the Fair installation does demonstrate the following: that it can exist in airspace over congested areas; that its narrow support beams do not greatly interfere with traffic or structures below (which may mean a good deal when considering the expense of purchase and taxation on right-of-way); that it can manage turns in a short space (it can potentially round 1/4 mile radius curves at 70 mph); that the system is relatively noiseless, and not subject to appreciable sway (anti-sway devices, whether needed or not, have been installed in the prototype system); that the trains are capable of exceptional deceleration, which is a must ingredient of any system operating over short runs; and that a considerable price saving can be achieved in the choice of 1.5 million per mile monorail cost over 7.5 million per mile subway cost.

AMF/SAFEGE fail-safe track switch. Upper picture depicts straight-away position, lower picture, turned-out position. Switch unlocks, rotates, and relocks in the same manner as standard high-speed railway switches.
Monorail switching mechanism

Passenger cars

Each individual car, as constructed for the Fair, measured 45 feet over-all as coupled, 9'6" in height, and 8'3" in width. Capacity of a single car rests at 40, with the orientation back to back along a central axis. In the event of future installations for higher speeds, seating would probably be oriented at right angles to the direction of travel with an attendant for each train, who has over-ride controls to be used in case of emergency or by maintenance personnel.

Inside car view looking forward in the AMF installation at the New York World's Fair. Notice that the seats are back to back, slightly tilted and ribbed for comfort. Car walls also angle in toward the floor. We noticed on a test ride of the vehicle that visibility was excellent from any vantage point, and that passengers were not particularly aware of overhead suspension. Entrance and egress seemed appropriately efficient when dealing with a full load of passengers.

Interior of AMF Monorail car

The general appearance of the car is reminiscent of the old trolley car. The similarity stops at the surface, however. The design and construction of the present cars are to a certain extent the product of very short-run production, requiring much lay-up by hand and a spectacular 362-day design and construction program, since the Teague office did not start the project before April, 1963. According to Milton Immermann, director of the WDTA design team for the World's Fair Monorail project which included partner Robert H. Ensign and associate Danforth Cardozo, the reinforced plastic would be used more extensively in a full-production model. As it is, the front and back windows are tinted acrylic, the front of the car is reinforced plastics, window surrounds are vacuum-formed ABS plastics, the bogies' shroud is again reinforced plastics and, finally, the seats are constructed of reinforced plastics with vinyl upholstery. The side body paneling of the present model is of steel sheet, but in the full production model this could very well be reinforced plastic. Strength in the event of accident does not depend on the thin-skinned outer shell, but on a steel skeleton, one of whose beams can be seen in in the above picture at the end of the interior. Standard procedures and materials were used throughout to assure speed of construction. Any further systems would be redesigned to fit specific problems.

Any city contemplating the installation of an AMF Monorail could design the system around some rather exciting aspects. The cars can climb at 10% grade. The system is attachable to existing bridges without a great deal of new superstructure and the trains could be run either above ground or on ground level or in a tunnel. Serious consideration is being given to the AMF Monorail by several U.S. cities. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company expects one firm order before the close of the year. Among the cities interested are Newark, Los Angeles, Washington, Kansas City, Chicago, Sacramento, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Atlantic City. It will not be decided, until someone takes a crack at it, whether monorail travel does or does not do the job that its several backers claim.

Source: American Machine & Foundry Publicity Brochure


American Machine & Foundry Company has entered the monorail transportation field as the first American company to design and build a family of monorail systems. The first of these monorail systems will be seen and enjoyed by millions at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Built at a cost of over $5,000,000, the ride is designed as a demonstration of one of the AMF concepts in its planned family of monorail systems.


AMF Monorail systems are also planned for rapid transit in urban areas and as an airport-to-city link.


The AMF Monorail at the New York World's Fair will operate seven trains; three on one loop going one way and four on another loop going the opposite direction.


The AMF Monorail encompasses the Fair's Lake Amusement Center in two parallel 4,000 foot loops, affording passengers a panoramic view of the Fair from 40 feet above ground. Each two-car train will be 90 feet long and will be automatically controlled. All cars will be air-conditioned. Capacity of the trains will be 80 passengers. Each car will have an attendant, and a continuous recording will describe points of interest along the way.


With the Fair's symbol, the Unisphere, the AMF Monorail station is an outstanding landmark at the Fair. Of contemporary design, the station is 160 feet long, 52 feet wide with an inverted-arched roof rising 80 feet in the air at its highest point.



AMF Monorial Animated GIF 

Click-on the icon above to view an animated version of two AMF Monorail trains passing each other on the track. Animation by and courtesy of Randy Lambertus. Used with permission.

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