monorails were a great idea in 1902, and they’re a great idea now

January 3, 2007

i’ve been reading Theodore Herzl’s altneuland for a paper i’m writing about the literary construction of the Jewish state and its points of contact and departure with the outside world. imagine my surprise when i came across this snappy little bulletin:

“There, some way above the top of the palm trees, a large carriage was hurtling through the air, with passengers looking out of the windows. The carriage had wheels on its roof, by which it was suspended from a strong bridge-like steel structure.

‘That is the electric elevated,’ Litwak explained. ‘Surely you must have seen that in Europe….The elevated suspension railway is nothing new! There was one in Germany, between Elberfeld and Barmen, as early as the nineties of the nineteenth century! — We installed them right from the first in our cities, because mass traffic could more easily be managed that way–and besides, the construction is cheaper than that of trams or normal elevated railways.”

Herzl’s clearly talking about the Wuppertal Schwebbebahn, the only suspended urban rail in Europe. Did Theodore Herzl have monorail fever? Was Lyle Langley a proto-Zionist? all good questions. herzl’s pro-monorail arguments, by the way, are those still used by monorail enthusiasts.

but you know who else loves monorails? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. as mayor of tehran, Ahmadinejad built a monorail system in Tehran, and now plans on expanding the system. considering all of ahmadinejad’s crazy positions vis-a-vis Israel and Zionism, Herzl and Ahmadinejad’s mutual love of monorails is fascinating to say the least. coincidence? probably. still, both men are dreamers: one dreamt of a Jewish state…and the other, well, that’s a post for another time.

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3 Responses to “monorails were a great idea in 1902, and they’re a great idea now”


  1. […] happening across “Monorails were a great idea in 1902…” I followed a link to The Monorail Society’s site, and I have to say that […]


  2. […] for the 800,000 pilgrims who annually make the Haj, the Saudi government has decided to follow Herzl’s dreams and build a monorail. I’m of two minds about this. Obviously, as an advocate for urban rail […]


  3. […] gets as much love around here as the monorail, both Theodore Herzl and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s preferred way of beating traffic. We’re happy to report that after an ignoble start the Moscow Monorail will be expanded. […]


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