Monorail Mishaps

Construction on Seattle's twin monorail trains began in May 1961, to transport World's Fair visitors between downtown and the fairgrounds at the Seattle Center. The initial construction cost was $3.5 million, and the trains made their inaugural 25 foot high, 1.2 mile runs on April 19, 1962, just two days before the fair opened. 
Construction of  monorail and Space Needle in 1961
The trains were heavily featured in the Elvis movie, It Happened at The World’s Fair
Elvis shooting scene on monorail.
After the fair, the Monorail was taken over by the City of Seattle and its operation was contracted to Metro Transit and then to a private firm managed by Seattle Center. The line appeared doomed in the late 1980’s by plans for development of Westlake Center Mall, but City Council won inclusion of a train terminal as part of the new mall, which opened in October 1988. 
Monorail at Westlake Mall.
The trains have motors and gears and like any other machine, they’re going to break down or malfunction from time to time. Passengers have been stuck on the trains numerous times over the years but, the first major mishap was on July 25, 1971, when a brake failure on the red train lead to a crash at the Seattle Center. Around 50 people were on the train as it made its last run of the day from downtown. At 9:54 pm, the train approached the station without slowing down. Some of the passengers realized or sensed something was wrong. “What the Hell’s going on?” yelled the driver. Then he shouted, “HANG ON!” The train slammed into a steel girder at the end of the track, built for the purpose of keeping an out-of-control train from running off the tracks and ramming into the terminal. 
Steel girder at Seattle Center station.
It was estimated that the train was traveling between 15 and 20 mph upon impact. The girder cut into the front of the car like an ax, caving in the roof. The glass and metal front of the car caved in to the first row of seats. The sides of the front car buckled from the force of the impact. One woman in a passenger seat directly opposite the driver was thrown through the front window. Another witness reported people “sticking out of the front” of the train after the crash. Twenty-six people were injured, two seriously, but there were no fatalities. The blue train was unaffected by the accident and was in operation the next day. 
Aftermath of crash.
But, on May 31, 2004, the blue train had a mishap of its own. The south-bound monorail was carrying passengers away from the last day of the Northwest Folklife Festival during Memorial Day weekend at the Seattle Center. As the fire started, passengers reported hearing a loud pop, the lights went out, and smoke began filling the train. The driver told the passengers to move towards the front of the car, and shortly thereafter, the train’s doors opened. As the fire department arrived at 5:27 pm, black smoke billowed out of the train down 5th Avenue. 

A woman stands on the rail to get a baby fresh air.

Passengers gathered by the open doors, trying to get some fresh air before being rescued. Fire fighters hoisted a ladder to an open door at the front of the train, and began evacuating passengers. A driver from Seattle Monorail Services parked the red train alongside the blue train and began evacuating passengers onto it via metal planks. The monorail was designed to be able to evacuate passengers from one train to another in emergencies. Forty people were treated at the scene and released, and eight passengers plus one firefighter were taken to Harborview Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation. The fire was caused by friction from a broken low-speed drive shaft igniting grease and oil on the train’s undercarriage. The train was shut down for six months.

Fire damage.

On November 26, 2005, the red and blue trains collided. It happened at about 7:10 pm and sent glass falling to the street. The two trains scraped against each another, ripping a door off in the process. This happened near Fifth Avenue and Olive Way. In that area, the tracks start to converge as they approach the station at Westlake Center, not leaving enough space for the trains to pass. 
One train was apparently just pulling into the Westlake station and the other was departing toward Seattle Center when they hit. At least one of the drivers waved at the other and a horn was honked just as the accident occurred, witnesses said. It took nearly an hour to evacuate the 84 passengers on board the two trains. There were no serious injuries, but two people were taken to the hospital to be checked out. The monorail was halted for nine months.
Climbing down.
Over two million people ride the monorail every year. With the numerous breakdowns and these three major mishaps, it seems like a big chance to take for only a 1.2 mile walk. The 2012 movie Grassroots, tells the story of Grant Cogswell's 2001 run for city council and his idea to expand the monorail city-wide.