Walt Disney originally envisioned the monorail as a practical form of public transport for the future. Unfortunately, the monorail came about during a time when America's - and particularly Los Angeles' - love affair with the automobile was increasing, and monorails in the United States came to be associated only with Disney's theme parks.
By the early 1980s, the Mark III trains were showing their age and the wear of years. In 1985, Disneyland began phasing out the Mark III trains one by one. The older trains were stripped to the chassis and rebuilt as Mark V trains. The Mark III Green went first, to become the Mark V Purple followed by the Mark III Yellow becoming the Mark V Orange. The Mark III Blue remained blue (albeit a lighter shade) and the last was Red, remaining Red. The notable difference was the loss of the bubble-top drivers area in favor of a streamlined "Learjet" look similar to the Mark IV trains at the Walt Disney World Resort. The new trains also sported closed passenger compartments (with open-able windows) and pneumatic doors. Following the 1985 Disney World monorail fire, a safety handrail was added along the spine of the train, as well as emergency fire exit hatches leading to the roof. The attraction's name remained the "Disneyland Monorail System", as it had been painted on the Mark III trains' skirts. The Mark V trains were built by Ride & Show Engineering, Inc. incorporating bodies that were produced by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm of Germany. Purple first made her appearance for testing in Autumn of 1986 and began regular operations a few months later. Orange was delivered in late Summer of 1987, followed by Blue in early 1988. The oldest train, Red, was also the last to be removed from the line for refurbishment in the Spring of 1988.
In 1999, the monorail began lengthy closures due to construction of Disney's California Adventure theme park, which existing monorail tracks passed through. In 2001, the monorail resumed full capacity operations, passing through the new park, as well as the hotel within the park, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. In 2004, Monorail Orange was removed from the line and taken to Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale to be re-engineered. Monorail Blue was removed in September 2006 for rebuilding. The monorail was closed from August 21 through late December 2006 to prepare for the opening of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in 2007. For the opening on June 11, 2007, the livery of Monorail Red was changed to almost completely yellow, with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage logo on the middle car. The Finding Nemo wrap was replaced with wrap advertising the "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign.
The refurbishment was done one train at a time. The first Mark VII train, Monorail Red, arrived at Disneyland on December 20, 2007. It was originally expected to be in service by the end of February 2008, but due to design change issues, it did not begin servicing park guests until July 3, 2008. Mark VII Blue arrived on-site on April 10, 2008, began daytime riderless testing on August 1, 2008, and began guest service on September 16, 2008. Monorail Mark VII Orange arrived on-site on August 14, 2008 and is anticipated to be in service by the end of 2008.
The Mark VII monorails are currenlty experiencing difficultues with airflow, due to a window design change from slide-down windows to pop-out windows. Imagineers are in the process of developing remedies. Meanwhile, cpacity per car is being limited to 15 (maximum capacity is 22). Also Mark VII's cease operation when outside temperatures exceed 85 degrees. The current fleet consist of Mark V Purple, Mark VII Monorail Red and Mark VII Monorail Blue. Mark V Purple is the sole monorail in service when temeratures preclude the use of Mark VII Red and Blue. Once appropriate retrofitting is done to the Mark VII's to resolve the airflow issues, Mark V Purple will be permanently retired from service.
The Disneyland Monorail has two stations: one in Tomorrowland, and another in the Downtown Disney district. The original Monorail was a round trip ride with no stops. In 1961, the track was expanded to connect to a station at the Disneyland Hotel, making it an actual transportation system. The original Hotel station underwent extensive remodeling during construction of the Downtown Disney district, while still retaining much of its original footprint. It is now referred to as Downtown Disney Station, located next to the Rainforest Cafe. All riders must disembark at Tomorrowland Station.
In the fall of 2006, the Tomorrowland Station was remodeled due to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage construction. The original speed ramps were removed, and a new concrete ramp was added on the east end of the station to handle the queue and access to the station, with concrete stairs on the west end to handle the exiting Monorail passengers.
All passengers board at a single platform. Leaving Tomorrowland station, the monorail crosses the Disneyland Railroad and continues along Harbor Blvd. on the eastern edge of the park. Turning to enter Disney's California Adventure, it passes Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The track then crosses the "Golden Gate Bridge", the gateway to the California Adventure park. Passengers can see Disneyland on the right and the Disney's California Adventure on the left. The monorail then passes through Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa then makes a sharp curve to the right and enters the Downtown Disney station, which has a forest theme. The track is also covered with several jungle-themed canopies.
Downtown Disney station has one platform. After a five minute loading, the train leaves Downtown Disney and makes a short loop around the district before crossing above the esplanade between the two parks and heads back to Disneyland. Once inside the park, the monorail crosses the railroad again and goes into a series of sharp bends and curves around Tomorrowland. The tracks travel above the Submarine Lagoon and Autopia. The track actually crosses the lagoon four times. The track then curves around the Matterhorn Bobsleds, giving a view of Fantasyland, then turns left to reenter the Tomorrowland Station for alighting.