UMI in the mid-1970s

In 1973, Universal Mobility, Inc. (UMI) debuted their UNIMOBIL Tourister Type II monorail system. Six systems would be built over the following eleven years, three which were opened in successive years – 1973, 1974 and 1975. These are the systems that operated at Carowinds, Kings Island, and Kings Dominion.

Carowinds Monorail

Carolina Center Hotel-Monorail [Carowinds The Early Years]

The proposed Carolina Center Hotel, with the monorail as well. This image is courtesy of Carowinds The Early Years.

Carowinds opened on March 31, 1973, and just a couple of months later, on June 2, they opened their monorail system. The inaugural ride included the governors of North and South Carolina. The monorail was intended to connect the park with a hotel that was to be constructed adjacent to the theme park. The hotel was never built, however.

This monorail system was built at a cost of $3.0 million ($16.2 million in 2016 US dollars) and was two miles long. This was the longest system UMI constructed at the time, though this would be equaled by the other two systems featured in this article. Carowinds Monorail featured four 8-car trains for a capacity of 2,200 passengers per hour.

The ride peaked in popularity in the early 1980s, with ridership declining throughout the remainder of the decade and into the 1990s. This led Carowinds to remove the ride following the 1994 season. Carowinds did not scrap the ride – it was sold to Preferred Vacations, a resort company based in Acapulco, Mexico. The system was never put back into operation. It is unclear whether the monorail was scrapped or remains in storage there.


You can see the difference in the Tourister trains versus the older UNIMOBIL Type II trains. The Tourister train had an elongated front resulting in the train having more of a nose. Photo courtesy of Carowinds The Early Years.

Wild Animal Habitat Monorail

In late 1973, Kings Island announced they were adding a safari-type zoo to the park. This zoo was managed by a third party, Lion Country Safari Inc., who named the zoo Lion Country Safari. This safari included a UMI Tourister monorail system that sat lower to the ground as so to give a unique view of the safari, instead of being above it. The concept was to make people feel like they were really in the safari. The monorail was called Lion Country Safari Monorail.

The monorail system was constructed at a cost of $3.5 million ($17.0 million in 2016 US dollars), and was UMI’s second 2-mile long system. Lion Country Safari Monorail featured seven 9-car trains for a capacity of 2,100 passengers per hour. Since the ride went through a safari, it went at a slower speed than other systems UMI manufactured. There was also an additional fee to ride the monorail through the safari.

In 1977, Kings Island ended their relationship with Lion Country Safari Inc., and rethemed the area as Wild Animal Safari. As such, the monorail’s name was changed to Safari Monorail. Then, a few years later, the area was renamed Wild Animal Habitat, at which point the monorail was called Wild Animal Habitat Monorail. Following the 1993 season, Kings Island completely removed the animal habitats and the Safari Monorail from the park, with the area being rethemed Adventure Village.

The Safari Monorail remained in storage until 1999 when Jungle Jim’s International Market bought the system. Jungle Jim’s operates the monorail for a short time during the year to this day.

Wild Animal Safari Monorail

Given that Kings Island and Kings Dominion were sister parks, it was only natural that Kings Dominion would have a similar themed region. In 1974, when Kings Dominion first began operations, they also opened a Lion Country Safari section. The monorail was not constructed until the fall of 1974, with the system opening in 1975. Just like the system at Kings Island, this was an approximate ground-level system.

This system was built by UMI at cost not publicized; the cost was likely similar to Kings Island’s. The system was two miles long and the trains featured nine cars per train. The ride time was about 20 minutes.

Monorail [Kings Dominion]

Here is a photo of the monorail which operated in Kings Dominion. You can see it sat either on the ground or a couple of feet above it. Photo is from an article about Lion Country Safari, Kings Dominion.

As with Kings Island, Kings Dominion eventually re-themed the safari Wild Animal Safari. This happened roughly a decade after Kings Island had changed theirs. As such, the monorail was then called Wild Animal Safari Monorail. In November 1993, Kings Dominion announced it was removing Wild Animal Safari, which included the safari monorail. This monorail system was apparently scrapped.

The area was removed because of apparent lack of interest. It was also said that Paramount, which bought Kings Dominion (and Kings Island) in 1992, believed the safari area did not fit in with the new theme to the park.

This was a look at the first three Tourister systems UMI built at parks which are now all owned by Cedar Fair. Up next is a Tourister system which was built at the Minnesota Zoo. This system has quite the story, so be sure to check back soon! Special thanks to Carowinds The Early Years for allowing me to use a few pictures for this article. 

Universal Mobility, Incorporated

In 1960, a man by the name of Hendrik “Hank” Pater founded a new corporation in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah: Advanced Welding Engineers (AWE). Pater is company president and general manager. In about 1963, AWE merged with another Salt Lake City firm, Steel Contractors, Inc. (SCI), of which Pater was president.

The business these two companies in varied within steel manufacturing, but it would turn to building tramways for ski resorts. One project SCI was part of was a tramway at Treasure Mountains! Park City, the longest gondola high ride in the country at the time. SCI fabricated towers and crossbars for the gondola lift.

In 1965, SCI was involved with another tramway project in New Mexico. Pater served as the principle consulter for SCI.  Sometime between then and 1967, Pater left Steel Contractors to form a new company, Constam Corporation. This company was founded to enter the monorail systems market, since monorail systems were growing in popularity.

Constam was awarded the opportunity to build a monorail system that was a mini-monorail system, known as a minirail. This system was designed by Habegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland. Habegger previously installed three minirail systems, two in Europe, and one in Canada for Expo 67.

1964-06-04 The [Franklin] News-Herald (p7)

The Habegger minirail system called Telecanape, at the Swiss National Exposition, in 1964.

The opportunity Constam gained was an agreement with Habegger to build a minirail system at the California Exposition in Sacramento, California. The project was announced in December 1967, with the ride scheduled to open in 1968. With no major issues, the minirail system at the Cal Expo opened in 1968 for the California State Fair.

With this first success in 1968, Constam had the chance to move forward with a second minirail system. This project would be on the other side of the country in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Announced in December 1968, the ride that would be called Monorail was scheduled to open in June 1969.

Underneath Monorail

This picture is from underneath the Monorail at Hersheypark, from 2016.

Around the time of the opening of Monorail at Hersheypark, Constam reorganized into Universal Mobility. The company was branded as Unimobil / Habegger and the systems installed at the Cal Expo and Hershey were called Unimobil Type II.

Miami Downtown People-Mover Environmental Impact Statement (p2-56)

Unimobil/Habegger Type II – as shown in an environmental impact statement for a possible downtown Miami people-mover system.

The first monorail UMI would sell after Hershey was a minirail system to Magic Mountain, in Valencia, California. The ride was named Metro and had several stations in the park. Metro opened in 1971.

Metro remained in operation for the next 30 years, closing in 2001. It wasn’t until 2011 that some of Metro was dismantled. The trains for Metro were sold to Hersheypark, along with a small amount of track. Parts of Metro still stand in Six Flags Magic Mountain today, including one of the old stations.

The remainder of the monorails UMI constructed at theme parks were a new system called UM Tourister Type II. Three were constructed: Carowinds (1973), Kings Island (1974), and Kings Dominion (1975). The Carowinds Monorail would be closed in 1994, while the Kings Dominion system would be closed in 1993. The Kings Island system was also closed in 1993. In 1999, Jungle Jim’s International Market purchased the minirail system and it continues to operate to this day.

1983 Metropolitan Transportation Planning (p411)

A UNIMOBIL / Habegger monorail system shown in a 1983 Metropolitan Transportation Planning document, page 411.

In the mid-70s, UMI began subcontracting the manufacture of fiberglass components of the trains to a company called Intermountain Design Inc. (IDI), of Salt Lake City. This relationship would continue for as long as UMI would exist.

IDI did have other jobs. This included – a full  decade later – designing the lavatory for Air Force One during the George H.W. Bush presidency. IDI would manufacture the fiberglass components of at least the monorail systems built after 1975.

Three other Tourister monorails were built, one at Minnesota Zoological Garden in Apple Valley, Minnesota, which opened in 1979. An agreement was made between UMI and the zoo in August 1977. Only part of the ride officially opened in 1979, with the remainder of the route opening in 1980. It was also subject of a US Department of Transportation winterization test to understand how well certain monorail systems could operate in winter conditions.

1982-01 Downtown people mover (DPM) winterization test demonstration: UMI

This is the front cover of the DPM Winterization Test Demonstration in which UMI participated. The final report was issued in January 1982.


The monorail at the Minnesota Zoo was closed in 2013. Officials from the zoo commented that to renovate and update the ride would cost around 40 million dollars, which simply wasn’t feasible.

In 1981, UMI was contracted to build a monorail for the soon opening ZooMetro in Miami, Florida. UMI then contracted Budd Company, of Detroit, Michigan, to assist in the construction of the system.This Tourister system opened in December 1982.

This would lead to UMI’s final monorail – which was built at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. UMI decided to create a subsidiary company that was a joint venture between Budd Co. and UMI. This company was named Unimobile 84, Inc. after the minirail system.

While the monorail at the expo was the most popular ride at the event, the exposition itself was not generating the kind of revenues they were expecting. Unimobile 84 pushed to get revenue, and a deal was struck between the company and the fair. However, it was apparent the fair was unable to meet the terms of the agreement. Unimobile 84 eventually sued the fair organizers themselves to get payment; this did not fare well in the courts (pun not intended). Unimobile 84 took the case to Federal Appeals Court, in which they lost.

It was apparent that this venture hurt Universal Mobility, Inc., as they would not sell another monorail after this point. The Transportation Group, Inc. (TGI), a branch of Bombardier Inc., purchased UMI in 1989. The most valuable asset was a new design UMI had been working on, which was the UMI Type III monorail. TGI would go on to use some of the Type III designs in other projects.

UMI did offer a few other systems, though none of these ever seemed to be sold. One system was a UNIMOBIL Transporter System. Another was a tram service called Unimobil Unitram. The tram was available for sale in at least 1985-1986.

1986-Spring A Shuttle Bus for the University of Central Florida

A picture of a Unimobil Unitram, sold by UMI, in at least 1985-1986. This image was in a Master’s thesis for the University of Central Florida discussing the need for a shuttle bus service.

This is the complete history of Universal Mobility, Incorporated, from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s. Out of their nine minirail systems, four still operate today, including their oldest two. For a company that has been defunct for nearly 30 years, with a system long since outdated, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section. To see references for this article, click here. Thanks for reading!

Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG

Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG is a company in Thun, Switzerland. It was founded by Willy Habegger in 1943. They began manufacturing a type of monorail they were calling a “minirail” sometime in the early 1960s. At the time, the company was called Maschinenfabrik Habegger.

The first monorail Habegger designed was for Expo64 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Habegger worked in conjunction with Von Roll Corporation. The ride featured a turntable transfer system named Telecanape. It was one of the more popular attractions at the Swiss expo. When the expo concluded, the ride was removed from the site. Part of the system used there was then bought and moved to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the United Kingdom for the 1966 season. The system remained in operation through 2012, when it was closed.

1964-06-04 The [Franklin] News-Herald (p7).jpg

A picture of the Telecanape monorail system at Expo64, printed in The News-Herald of Franklin, PA, June 4, 1964, page 7.

The following year, Habegger changed its name to Habegger Engineering Company. They coordinated with Von Roll to build a second minirail system. This time, however, Von Roll used their own monorail trains, the first in Von Roll’s Mk II series of monorail trains. This was seen at the Zurich Transportation Expo. From this point for about the next two decades, Habegger and Von Roll would not work together on monorail projects.

In 1967, Habegger hired the Canadian division of the British firm Hawker Siddeley to manufacture several trains for the monorail system to be operated at Montreal’s Expo ’67. This system was called Minirail, and part of the system operates in La Ronde amusement park. Habegger contributed their own monorail trains from the 1964 Swiss event.

The significance of Habegger’s design of a minirail was the concept of the rail the train ran on. The other significant part of the design was the autopilot system that was on board Habegger minirail systems. The autopilot system was designed by Habegger and manufactured by a German electronics company, Honegger Elektronik AG of Zurich.

With the popularity of Expo ’67, and the interest in monorail systems growing in the United States, Habegger partnered with Salt Lake City, Utah, firm Constam Corporation to sell and manufacture monorails in the United States. Habegger licensed their autopilot system to Constam, while Constam was responsible for fabricating the steel and trains for the system.

Under this agreement, Constam would construct two monorails, one in Sacramento, California, in 1968, the other in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 1969. Later in 1969, Constam was reorganized into Universal Mobility, Inc. (UMI). UMI and Habegger’s ties grew closer as they branded their monorail system as Unimobil / Habegger. Under the new arrangement, they sold their first monorail to Magic Mountain in 1970. This was the last old monorail system they sold, which they named UNIMOBIL Type II.

Miami Downtown People-Mover Environmental Impact Statement (p2-56)

Unimobil/Habegger Type II – as shown in an environmental impact statement for a possible downtown Miami people-mover system.

At the same time, Habegger built two minirail systems at Fuji-Q Highlands in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan, which opened in 1970. These two systems were the last Habegger systems built outside of the United States.

They developed a second-generation monorail system called the UNIMOBIL Tourister Type II, which was sold to five properties between 1973 and 1984. Universal Mobility ended up going out of business, with their assets being sold off in 1989.

In 1980, Willy Habegger lost control of his company when it entered a liquidity crisis. Berner Kantonalbank took control and sold the company to Von Roll in 1982. (Von Roll possibly sold a segment of the Habegger branch to Waagner-Biro in 1984.) Von Roll folded Habegger into their monorail division, with that division being called Von Roll Habegger.

1986 Von Roll Habegger brochure (p1)

The cover of a Von Roll Habegger Monorail brochure, circa 1986.

In 1993, Von Roll Habegger was sold to Westinghouse AEG, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This would mark the beginning of a period of company reorganizations for the monorail division. Westinghouse AEG itself was a subsidiary of AEG Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH of Germany. AEG Schienenfahrzeuge was a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz, the well-known German automobile manufacturer.

In 1995, Daimler-Benz proposed merging of their rail transportation division with the rail transportation division of another company, ABB of Zurich, Switzerland.  ABB and Daimler-Benz reached an agreement in which both companies would own 50 percent of the company. The new company was founded on January 1, 1996, operating under the brand name Adtranz. Formally, Adtranz was called ABB Daimler-Benz Transportation. In 1999, Daimler (then called DaimlerChrysler, after acquiring Chrysler Corporation in 1998) bought out ABB’s share of the company; the formal name was changed to DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems. The company kept the Adtranz brand name.

Beginning in August 2000, Bombardier, Inc., a conglomerate and manufacturer of mass transit equipment, airplanes, etc., announced it was going to purchase Adtranz. After a regulatory review process with the European Union, Bombardier purchased Adtranz for $725 million. A representative for DaimlerChrysler said at the time that the company was focusing on their automotive divisions.

The former Von Roll Habegger monorail division continues lives on in Bombardier today, part of the Bombardier Transportation division of the company.

Willy Habegger was able to purchase part of his company back, establishing the modern Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG. Habegger purchased the lifting technologies division, and the company continues to focus on that to this day. He passed away on April 16, 2002, having retired from the business in 1993.

Thank you for reading. The next article will be about Universal Mobility, Incorporated, which will be available later this week.