In the late 1960s, monorails were a futuristic mode of people mover transportation being installed in many places in the United States and Canada. Monorails were featured at various expos, with some being installed in amusement parks. One monorail was installed at Dutch Wonderland, in Lancaster, PA; the Disney World monorail is perhaps the best-known theme park monorail today.
During this time frame, there was similar consideration being given to having a monorail in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1968, plans were being pulled together to have such a project come to fruition. The monorail they chose to buy was manufactured by Constam Corporation, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and designed by Habegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland. (By the time the Hershey monorail would open, Constam would be reorganized into Universal Mobility, Incorporated.)
The system Constam was selling would later be called the UNIMOBIL Type II minirail system. It was called a minirail because it was a light weight miniature monorail system. Most other monorail systems made at the time had larger trains and thus were heavier. The lightweight nature of the system is ultimately a fault, as the rest of the monorail industry would not adopt similar light trains. This Type II minirail system proved difficult to upgrade as it was quickly outdated.
On December 18, 1968, a new company, Monorail Amusement Company, announced it would be opening a monorail in Hershey in 1969. The Monorail Amusement Company ownership was split between Hershey Estates and Hershey Foods Corporation for a 50/50 share. The board of the company was comprised of six people: Lloyd Blinco, John O. Hershey, Wallace Mayer, Earl Spangler, Sam Tancredi, and Richard Zimmerman.
The Monorail was to have two stations, one in downtown Hershey near the chocolate factory, and the other next to Hersheypark Arena. The route would go in a counter-clockwise direction. If you started at Station #2, the downtown station behind the Hershey Estates offices which housed the Hershey Drug Store, the route would proceed as follows: The ride would pass the chocolate factory and go through Hershey Park Zoo (later ZooAmerica). The Monorail would then cross Park Avenue the first time, entering Hersheypark. From there it would cross the park to get to Station #1 at Hersheypark Arena. From there, the route would continue through the park, by the original main entrance of Hersheypark, across Park Avenue again, and then back to the downtown station.
Steel for the track was fabricated by Constam at their facility in Salt Lake City. The steel beams were then transported to Hershey by train. The beams were then placed at various spots around the Monorail route. The monorail system was quickly constructed, and the trains and autopilot system were delivered to the park.
Monorail opened on June 20, 1969. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the ride officially open. It was led by the Master of Ceremonies, Robert M. Mumma, then Secretary of Commerce of Pennsylvania. Trudy Petersen of York, PA, Miss Pennsylvania of 1969, cut the ribbon.
To ride Monorail, you had to pay a fare of 25 cents. This fare was paid using tokens which has the Monorail Amusement Company logo stamped on them. In some cases, guest received free ride tickets.
Above are several types of ride tickets a person could receive. All feature the Monorail Amusement Company name and logo, and one kind was specifically issued by Hershey Foods Corporation (today, The Hershey Company).
In September of 1969, the American Vecturist Association published their monthly newsletter, The Fare Box. In this issue, there was a report that a Mr. Ed Dence took a ride on Hershey’s Monorail and was surprised that the monorail used tokens. Ed Dence is known in the vecturist community for being the author of a book titled A Visual Guide to Store Charge Coins, amongst other things. It was quite significant that tokens were used for the Monorail.
The ride had three trains, one of which was initially enclosed and air conditioned. After the 1969 season, the enclosed car was renovated to match the other two trains. The trains were also extended, with an extra car added to each train.
In 1973, this was changed when Monorail was converted into a Hersheypark ride. With Hershey Food Corporation moving the chocolate factory tours into a new facility, Chocolate World, there was far less a reason for tourists to be in downtown Hershey. Hersheypark weighed the option in consultation with R. Duell & Associates, the company that created the design for the renovations for Hersheypark in 1970.
Hersheypark decided to make the Monorail a scenic tour ride instead being of a people mover. From that point forward, the downtown station was not commonly used. There were occasions where the Monorail would operate before the park would, in the spring or the fall. Those would be the only occasions the downtown station would be open to the public. This did not happen consistently from one year to the next. Eventually, the downtown station was only used for private events, and even that stopped around 2001. From that point onward, the downtown station was only used for emergency unloading in the event of a ride breakdown.
Monorail ran three trains until June 2000. The fiberglass of several cars on the back of the Train 2 and the front few cars of Train 3 were cracking. These cars from the two trains were retired and the remaining cars were merged into one train. For a brief time, this gave the joking appearance of the Monorail having 1 and 2/3rds trains because when Train 2 and Train 3 were merged, the front of the train had the number 2 while the back of the train still had he number 3. That was quickly corrected.
In 2011, Hersheypark purchased a small amount of steel rail and the three trains from Six Flags Magic Mountain Metro monorail. The park has not operated any of these trains since purchasing them, leaving the park with still having two trains.
In January 2017, the downtown station was removed from the Monorail, and the Monorail track was slightly adjusted. The Monorail now barely crosses through the parking lot behind the old Hershey Drug Store and old factory. Click here to read more.
There is a second article that goes into even more detail about Hersheypark’s Monorail. Click here to read more.
Thank you for reading this article about Hersheypark’s Monorail. An article about Six Flags Magic Mountain’s monorail system, Metro, and the system at the California Exposition, is next.
I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks. Right now I am focused on Hersheypark.