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Off the Rails

An abandoned monorail station at the Toronto Zoo
For people of a certain age, memories of the Toronto Zoo begin with riding the old monorail. Only it wasn’t the old monorail back then—it was the super-futuristic monorail. After a 1994 accident that injured about 30 people, the train’s track was pulled up and some of the guideway removed. But if you know where to look, most of the route remains visible as it snakes through the grounds of the zoo.
The monorail disappears into the woodsThe abandoned station above is in the Canadian Domain, midway between the grizzlies and the enormous bison enclosure. The guideway remains intact under all that foliage at the edge of the platform, even though the vegetation gains ground every year. Other sections are still in pristine condition, almost as if the next train is only minutes away. Watching the monorail be consumed by nature is a small preview of what the world would be like without us.
Take a Google Maps tour of the monorail starting here. The train ran on the track in the center of the map curving down to the right. You can trace the remnants of the route three-quarters of the way around the zoo before it finally peters out, passing by two abandoned but still-standing stations along the way. A third remains in service near the main entrance, used for the monorail’s rather pedestrian replacement, the Zoomobile.
In addition to visiting the Canadian Domain station in person, you can catch a glimpse of the other lost station if you take the Zoomobile ride: look down and to the right as you cross over a bridge after the Americas Zoomobile stop. Pay attention transit fans—this is what the Sheppard subway could look like after sitting unused for a few years.
Oh, and of course, an abandoned monorail isn’t the only thing to see at the zoo; the animals are worth a trip too.

Comments

  • guest

    I recall that the monorail actually wasn’t a rail at all, but rather ran on rubber wheels on a concrete path. I have no evidence to support this except a lingering memory of childhood disappointment. But I also have to wonder why they’d go to the trouble of tearing up all that track.

  • guest

    Now this is a trip down memory lane.

  • guest

    Looks like they bought it from that Lyle Lanley character (in the Simpson’s monorail episode)
    “I’ve sold monorails to Ogdenville, Brockway, North Havenbrook, and the Toronto Zoo”

  • David J. Widmann

    This is a great story. Thanks!

  • Meaghan Edwards

    Thank you for writing this terrific article. I have been going to the zoo since I was in a stroller and still have some memories of the monorail; I believe they had some more animals in the Canadian Domain than they do now and seem to remember Bighorn Sheep.
    I’ve been doing a little research and it seems the zoo is planning on adding another ride around the zoo. A reincarnation of the monorail, perhaps?
    http://tinyurl.com/27x2j8

  • Val Dodge

    That looks like a tender for an additional (or replacement) Zoomobile, not a whole new ride.
    In a perfect world, the monorail would have been maintained properly and would still be running. It seems like a very Toronto thing to allow something to decay to the point that it becomes a hazard or too expensive to fix, and then close it because it’s a hazard or too expensive to fix. An ounce of prevention would save us from the constant refrain that we’re too poor for a pound of cure.