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Here’s why a monorail kind of sucks

Do you remember all of those classic James Bond films where the bad guys get around their secret hiding place in shiny chrome monorail pods? Maybe children will recognize the concept The unbelievable mock it. Either way, this is the future we were once promised and never got, and here’s why.

Screenshot: The Incredibles 2004

Monorails look damn cool. Most of them are pretty cool functionally too. As Tom Scott points out in his latest “Things You May Not Know” video on YouTube, the coolness of the monorail is part of its cultural diffusion, as movies and theme parks feel like the future.

However, in most transportation applications, monorails are typically more expensive and require more engineering and maintenance than simpler alternatives.

But Tom found the one case where a monorail works. Ironically, it’s the same basic rail setup that’s used in those old Bond movies – a very crude interconnecting web of parts with really loose tolerances that can be applied in design settings for moving equipment and pulling material. Never for humans, but obviously Blofeld wasn’t particularly concerned about workplace safety when most of his plans involved blowing up the entire base anyway.

Screenshot: You only live twice in 1963
Screenshot: You only live twice in 1963

But as Tom points out in the video, these relatively affordable monorail systems could be managed by just a few workers who could lay significant amounts of usable track in less than an hour. As you can see, the powertrain setup just consists of a small gas or diesel engine mounted on the rail. Just hook up your transport and send it on its way. You can even design simple automatic brakes at both ends so the system can run without too much control.

What I like about Tom’s latest video is that, while he vigorously criticizes and uses heat for the monorail concept, he was looking for a practical application for the technology that actually works pretty seamlessly. Check out how cute it is.

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