More Hersheypark Monorail History

This article is to go into further detail about the history of Hersheypark’s Monorail, as well as the Monorail Amusement Company. If you haven’t read the first article about the history of the Monorail, I suggest you read that article first and then read this.

The Monorail Amusement Company was formally established by an agreement between Hershey Estates (today, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company) and Hershey Foods Corporation (today, The Hershey Company) on February 12, 1968. It was submitted to Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds and put into public record on March 31, 1969 – this is known as the “1969 Agreement.” This agreement featured description of the land which the Monorail would occupy, as well as the foundation of a new company, the Monorail Amusement Company.

1968-02-12 Monorail Agreement

A map of the monorail system to be constructed for Hershey, Pennsylvania, from 1968. Published on the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds website. 

As said in the previous article on the history of the Monorail, the Monorail Amusement Company was 50% owned by Hershey Estates and 50% owned by Hershey Foods. The Monorail opened in 1969, with Hershey Estates maintaining and operating the system. In early 1973, Hersheypark decided to make the system a park ride. On November 8, 1973, Hershey Estates and Hershey Foods Company reached a new agreement called the “1973 Assignment.”

This agreement is known as an “Assignment of Interest.” Hershey Estates paid Hershey Foods $1 for Hershey Food’s share of Monorail Amusement Company. This effectively ended the Monorail Amusement Company.

This agreement had several conditions. First was that Hershey Foods retained the right to revoke any (or all) rights of way by September 10 of any year. In this case, the “right of way” is referring to the Monorail track and station on Hershey Foods property. This means that if Hershey Foods didn’t want the Monorail on their property any longer, they had to give Hershey Estates written notice at least six months prior to September 10, which is April 10.

Hershey Estates would then be required to dismantle and remove the Monorail from Hershey Foods property as soon as reasonably possible. At the time this meant no later than September 10, as the park season normally ended on Labor Day.

1973-11-08 Monorail Termination Agreement

The start of the “1973 Assignment” in which Hershey Estates took full control of the Monorail Amusement Company. Published on the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds website. 

The second condition was that if Hershey Foods did enact the first condition prior to September 10, 1978, it would reimburse Hershey Estates for the reasonable cost of the equipment and relocation of the track. However, Hershey Foods would not be responsible for paying for any extension of the system, even if an extension was necessary due to the request of removing the track from their property.

Of course, the second condition never came into play, as Hershey Foods didn’t revoke Hershey Estate’s right of way by 1978. In fact, Hershey Foods never revoked Hershey Estate’s right of way –

– that was, until 2014.

2017 Monorail Track Relocation

2016-12-14 Monorail Track Relocation

A map detailing part of the track relocation – from December 14, 2016. Published on the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds website.

…In 2014, [The Hershey Company] began discussions with [Hershey Entertainment & Resorts] pursuant to its rights under the 1973 Agreement and requested [Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company] to relocation a portion of the Monorail that passes over the main entrance of [The Hershey Company’s] office building at 19 East Chocolate Avenue, Hershey, Pennsylvania….

The Monorail Agreement, Right of Way And Easement, reached on November 29, 2016, between Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company and The Hershey Company.

As Hershey Entertainment was subject to the terms and conditions of the 1973 agreement, they “agreed to relocated that portion of the Monorail.” Both The Hershey Company and Hershey Entertainment agreed to a new location – which we saw in the Monorail Track Relocation Update from January 2017.

The companies agreed to 11 terms in this agreement. These terms included Monorail Relocation Work, Monorail Easement, and that this agreement superseded the existing 1969 and 1973 agreements.

2016-11-29 Monorail Termination Agreement [large'

The 2016 agreement supersedes the previously existing 1969 Agreement and 1973 Assignment. Published on the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds website. 

About a month before an agreement was formally reached, The Hummelstown Sun published an article stating that the Monorail was to be slightly relocated. The agreement was then reached on November 29, 2016, with relocation work beginning promptly on January 6, 2017. Track relocation work was completed by March 2017.

This has been a deeper look into the history of Hersheypark’s monorail. I hope you enjoyed this article. Keep checking back for more on the history of Hersheypark!

Skytrail | Minnesota Zoo

In 1969, a new state-funded zoo was being developed for the metropolitan Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota area. The Minnesota Legislature created the Minnesota State Zoo Board (MSZB) to study the possibility of building such a facility. The study took several years, and planning and land acquisition took several more years after that.

Minnesota Zoological Gardens, was built in Apple Valley, to the south of Minneapolis / St. Paul, would open in 1978. Back in 1971, MSZB proposed to the legislature the inclusion of a monorail system into their funding plan. The idea was that it would give people a place to view from an aerial perspective and make it easier for those wouldn’t be so easily able to walk through a large area.


Minnesota Zoo map from 2012 with Skytrail’s route shown in the center.

This was rejected by the legislature in 1971. Two years later, MSZB put forth their final proposal for the zoo, which did not include a monorail system. The legislature approved this plan, and the state authorized funding of the Minnesota Zoological Gardens project. A year later, in 1974, the legislature allowed the MSZB to grand concessions in the zoo.

This option gave MSZB the chance to revive their monorail concept, as the legislation allowed for transportation concessions. MSZB investigated four potential monorail systems, ultimately choosing to negotiate with Universal Mobility, Inc. (UMI), of Salt Lake City, Utah, in March 1975.

MSZB then went to the state legislature and made a strong proposal to include a monorail system.  However, the Minnesota Legislature showed no interest in financing such a system. The legislature did authorize the zoo to build a system controlled by a third party, instead.

This third party became a nonprofit corporation specifically founded for this purpose – Minnesota Zoo Ride, Inc. (MZR),  controlled by MSZB. Minnesota Zoo Ride was established in August 1976. A year later, MZR reached an agreement with UMI to construct a monorail system at Minnesota Zoological Gardens. MZR agreed to purchase the system from UMI for $5.6 million. MZSB then agreed to an installment purchase agreement at a cost of over $13.9 million, which included $8.4 million principal. $8.4 million was the true cost of the monorail system.

MZR assigned the rights from the installment purchase agreement to Smith, Barney, Harris, Upham and Company (Smith Barney). Smith Barney then sold certificates of participation to investors (banks or insurance companies) to finance the monorail system.


Skytrail train 2. Photo courtesy of Gabe Emerson

The ride was scheduled to open in 1978. UMI was given incentives by the zoo to get the ride opened quickly. They were to earn a $100,000 bonus if a two-car train was in operation by December 1, 1978, with an additional $45,000 bonus if that two-car train was in operation by September 1. However, UMI found that their design for their track would make winter operation of the Tourister system much more expensive, so UMI redesigned the track to protect the power rail.

UMI also had difficulty working with the metal used for the track. The metal being used was a maintenance-free metal called Corten. The problem was that the metal could only be welded in temperatures above 50 degrees. This meant no work could be done constructing the track in the winter. Delays ended up being quite substantial, with only a small part of the monorail system opening in 1978.

It appears that the system was partially opened in 1978, to participate in a study that UMI volunteered to join. This was a US Department of Transportation winterization test – to understand how well certain monorail systems could operate in winter conditions. UMI was one of three companies to participate.

Minnesota Zoological Gardens faced immediate financial difficulties when the zoo opened in 1978. Attendance was much lower than expected and the delays with the monorail system certainly wasn’t generating any money. In March 1979, the zoo went to the legislature seeking an additional $1 million to avoid defaulting on the monorail. The governor of Minnesota, Al Quie included the request in his budget for 1979-81. The issue was not resolved at the time. However, zoo officials were promising that the monorail would be open by the summer of 1979.

The monorail, originally called Northern Trek Monorail but also called Skytrail, fully opened on Thursday, September 20, 1979, just a few days before the end of summer. It was a quiet grand opening, without a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 696 people rode Skytrail that day. From then until January 31, 1980, 91,976 passengers rode the monorail. Fares collected amounted to about $68,000.

1979-09-21 [Minneapolis, MN] Star Tribune (p1B) [large]

This picture by Pete Hohn for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) from the grand opening of the Northern Trail Monorail. The trains were white with a blue stripe.

Debate centered around whether the state had any obligation to help the zoo. The legislature rejected assisting the zoo, including language in the budget saying that the monorail was never intended to be a public obligation and wasn’t then either. The zoo defaulted on a $200,000 payment on April 1, 1980.

The following month, the zoo was asked to make immediate repayment on monorail loan certificates from First National Bank of Minneapolis, totaling nearly $3.8 million and several Marquette banks, worth nearly $1.5 million.

At the same time, the zoo was having difficulty making money off the monorail. With zoo attendance already being lower than expected, the monorail itself was not particularly popular. It was considered boring by many who rode it. On May 24, 1980, a reporter for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis discovered that UMI did not have complete accident insurance on the ride. This reporting was triggered after one train did not act properly.

There was a backup on the monorail system, and one train pulled closely behind the train ahead of it, coming to a stop. For whatever reason, when the train stopped, the doors opened automatically, the autopilot thinking the train was in the station.

UMI believed that the state would pay most claims in the event of an accident. Company president Hank Pater said it wasn’t “in the cards” for the UMI Tourister system to have an accident. Pater said the incident that occurred was likely the result of incorrect maintenance of the monorail by the zoo.

However, on May 31, 1980, an electrical malfunction caused the monorail to stall and the engine spark and produce a lot of smoke.  The incident stranded guests for a half-hour, and it looked bad for the zoo and UMI. The monorail would be closed for about two weeks, and UMI acquired complete accident insurance a few days after this incident.

1980-06-01 [Minnesota, MN] Star Tribune (p1A) [large]

This photo of the Monorail shows the smoke billowing out of the engine compartment of the train. The photo was taken by Dan Marshaw of the Star Tribune, printed June 1, 1980, page 1A.

On the one hand, the monorail’s financial situation was very precarious, and on the other hand, the monorail was not only unpopular, but the safety of the ride was in question. The situation remained in limbo for the next several years, as lawsuits from the owners of the monorail certificates against the zoo were put in court.

The situation remained in limbo through mid-1985 when the Minnesota Legislature gave $750,000 to the Minnesota Zoo to purchase the monorail system outright from the investors. However, this was seen by the investors as an unfair offer. This pushed the zoo to search for more money to buy the system.

In August 1985, the investors informed the zoo they would be closing down the monorail on October 1. The reason for closing then was because of decline in ridership in the fall and winter months. It was also intended to remain closed indefinitely, until a purchaser could be found.

The Minnesota Zoo gained several new and influential board members of the local community who were able to provide better funding for the zoo and the monorail. They acquired a loan, doubling the money the Legislature gave to the zoo, from the Charles K. Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The loan was due to be paid back in full in 1986 (which it was).

The Minnesota Zoo was able to purchase the monorail system from the investors for $1.5 million dollars, closing the deal at the end of December 1985. The last investors eventually settled their lawsuit in June 1986. The zoo reopened Skytrail with a grand reopening ceremony on Mother’s Day, May 11, 1986.

1986-05-11 [Minneapolis, MN] Star Tribune (p7A) [large]

Advert for The Minnesota Zoo in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 11, 1986, page 7A.

From that time onward, the Minnesota Zoo was able to push beyond its past financial problems and grow with new and exciting exhibits. Attendance increased though Skytrail never saw the kind of ridership the zoo founders envisioned.

The monorail was closed in 2013 after 34 years of service. Officials from the zoo commented that to renovate and update the ride would cost around 40 million dollars, which simply wasn’t feasible.

After the monorail was removed from the zoo, one train was sold to Gabe Emerson who has a blog called Saveitforparts. He has a lot of information about the monorail there as well, and he’s been writing about what he has been doing to remodel the train since purchasing it in 2015. He also has a few videos of the train. He also provided some background information on this article – so many thanks for the help!

That’s it for this monorail system. The next article will be about the last two systems UMI manufactured – in Florida and Louisiana. Thanks for reading! 

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. 

UMI’s California minirail systems

Universal Mobility, Inc. (UMI), manufactured two minirail systems in California, in 1968 and 1971. These were the first and third systems UMI manufactured for Habegger in the United States. The latter of the two is Metro, which the history of the ride is tied in with Hersheypark’s Monorail. The earlier is UMI’s first system, which operates at the Cal Expo in Sacramento. These were the other two UNIMOBIL / Habegger Type II minirail systems produced, with Hersheypark’s being the third.


1971-06-13 The Los Angeles Times (pSMM 5)Metro opened in 1971. The ride was installed at a cost of $1.8 million ($10.6 million in 2016 US dollars). There were three stations at various points around the .75 mile (1.2 km) course – in the High Sierra Territory, Colossus County Fair, and Samurai Summit regions of the park. A picture of Metro under construction can be seen here.

This system had six 6-car trains, which meant the ride could transport 4,682 people per hour, according to UMI. This was nearly double what Hershey’s monorail could transport, and nearly double most other systems built after Metro.

The trains were initially painted solid colors, such as blue, green, and yellow. This pattern was identical to the look of Hershey’s trains. The trains were eventually repainted to look different at various times over the years Metro was in operation.

Metro was closed in 2001. The ride remained standing, but not operating, for a decade before the Metro trains (and some transfer track) were sold to Hersheypark. The trains have remained in storage at Hershey since arriving in late May 2011, while some parts of Metro remain standing in Magic Mountain.

2011-06-06 Metro Monorail Trains in Storage 002

Here are the metro trains, in storage at Hershey, in June 2011.

Cal Expo Monorail

The Monorail at Cal Expo was installed in 1968 by UMI when it was called Constam Corporation, UMI’s original name. This project came about in the wake of the popular Expo ’67, in Montreal, Quebec. Habegger Machinenfabrik constructed the Minirail systems for Expo ’67.

They were turning their attention to the American market, as monorails had become popular in the United States. Habegger licensed the rights to their monorail system to a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Constam Corporation – later Universal Mobility, Incorporated.

In 1966, the California State Fair was being converted into a modern fair called the California Exposition. Work on the renovations began in August 1966. In December 1967, the Expo approved constructing a minirail system, similar to the one that was seen at Expo ’67. The Monorail built at a cost of $2.3 million ($15.8 million in 2016 US dollars). The system is 1.3 miles long and featured six 8-car trains. It could transport 4000 passengers per hour.

This system was built to provide scenic views of the California Exposition grounds. There is one Monorail station, located right at the main entrance. The ride was completed in 1968, but did not operate for the general public until 1969. This was because the ride went over parts of the grounds which were not completed for the 1968 season. A private investor helped bankroll the minirail system’s operating costs when the ride opened for the 1969 season.

While the Exposition has events which operate year round, there is a two week period in the summer which is the traditional California State Fair. In recent years, this has been the only time of year the Monorail has operated.

A video of the Monorail from 2011 is below a picture of the Monorail.


Here is a Cal Expo train. This photo is courtesy the Library of Congress, titled “Monorail at the 2012 California State Fair heldin in Sacramento, California.”

This was a look at the minirail systems UMI built in California. Next, we’ll look at the three Tourister systems that were operated at Carowinds, Kings Island, and Kings Dominion.