This 1960 painting of a never-built monorail station is so beautiful, such an amazing example of sleek, midcentury design, that I really wish I could just step inside it and live there. Or, at the very least, blow it up as a giant photomural for my apartment like in Stardust Memories.
Back during the planning of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, organisers considered a number of different monorail companies and designs. Although the ALWEG company of Germany would win the contract and ultimately build the monorail that still operates there today, SAFEGE, a French-based consortium of 25 companies put in its own proposal, including this rendering for a project it was already working on in Paris.
The painting comes from the University of Washington’s digital collection, which also has photos of the planned monorail in France.
The University of Washington explains that what made the French SAFEGE design different from the monorail that Seattle eventually got was its suspended-car system. Rather than sitting on top of the beam, the monorail cars would hang from the track — a much cooler look in my humble opinion.
From the University of Washington:
Unlike the German-designed ALWEG system, in which the passenger cars run on top of, and straddle, a solid beam, the SAFEGE design consists of passenger cars suspended beneath rubber-tired wheel carriages enclosed and supported by a box-like track or beam; the rubber wheels of the train run inside the track, supported by flanges on the bottom of the beam. With the SAFEGE design, the tracks are not exposed to inclement weather and do not require any cleaning or ice-removal systems, enabling them to run in cities where ice and other conditions would impair the reliability of the system.
The university also has a few actual photos of the monorail in France, including the exterior shot above and the interior shot below.
The photos show the monorail that was planned for Paris and actually built in April of 1959. It ran less than a mile long as a proof of concept, but the line was eventually shut down just a year later.
The monorail was far from a new idea when the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair rolled around. But illustrations like these show that even within a given idea, there are so many design possibilities.
Monorail, quite obviously, just literally means one rail. Whether you want to have the cars on top of the track, suspended from the air, or transparent, sweaty and gross is totally up to you. And frankly, you can put them wherever you like — as long as you save a little room for me.