Jump to content
HAIF - Houston's original social media

Back When Houston Had a Monorail


Recommended Posts

Instead of dredging up old topics, i thought i'd share these photos here...I found these while browsing through some older volumes of the Houston review:

IAH sky taxi:
mr001.jpg

the trailblazer (tested at arrowhead park):

mr002.jpg

mr003.jpg

a downtown rendering:

mr004.jpg


The Houston review of history and culture
University of Houston. Center for Public History
Published by the Houston Public Library Board, 1979-97

Edited by sevfiv
Link to post
Share on other sites
This one was not at IAH - it was what is now Hobby. In 1966 (the date in the photo) IAH was still several years away from opening, and Hobby was called Houston International Airport.

of course...i meant HIA dern it :blush:

Edited by sevfiv
Link to post
Share on other sites

I rode the Trailblazer in 1957, but didn't realize it until this was discussed in another topic last year.

I recall seeing this monorail as a kid heading out South Main. I thought it was at where Main made a turn where Holmes intersects. But it appears Arrowhead was located near Holcomb.

What I didn

Link to post
Share on other sites
I recall seeing this monorail as a kid heading out South Main. I thought it was at where Main made a turn where Holmes intersects. But it appears Arrowhead was located near Holcomb.

There has been some previous discussion elsewhere in this forum about the location of Arrowhead Park. I had previously mentioned that I had gone there, in the early 50's, to some stock car and and midget auto races. I knew it was on OST, but I thought it was closer to Fannin than it actually was, as shown in this photo. I recently found this picture in the Bob Bailey photo collection. The picture was titled Main and Holcombe, but you can clearly see what remained of the Arrowheard Park race track in the upper, left portion of the photo. It was originally built for horse-racing (not sure exactly when), but became a venue for car-racing in the early 50's. I worked briefly for Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Co. in the 50's, and I remember seeing this monorail while it was on display near the HOWCO field camp, which is shown here just east of Arrowhead on OST. For reference, that's the Shamrock Hotel at the right, middle of the picture.

e_bb_2946_pub.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tbird thanks for posting that photo. :) I had looked for Arrowhead Park on old maps before but couldn't find it.

Valians across from the Shamrock looks like it had a giant parking lot. Is the Pier 21 restaurant visible in that picture?

Link to post
Share on other sites

At the top of the photo is where OST runs into S Main. The road that goes off to the left from Holcombe is Fannin. About halfway between Holcombe and the left edge of the photo is Pier 21.

I was thinking about the restaurant just the other day. The

Link to post
Share on other sites

On Cinema Treasures it says that the Delman was built by a D. Adelman, so it doesn't seem to be common ownership. Another question: the large building on the left, immediately south of Braes Bayou, was that a sanitarium? I read somewhere there was one around there.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Valians across from the Shamrock looks like it had a giant parking lot.

That large parking lot was actually for Shamrock visitors. There was a light with a marked walkway across Main to the Shamrock. They had a parking garage, but must have had that outside lot for use when the garage was full, or for people who just didn't want to use the garage. It was probably also used by Valian's customers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You are right, T-Bird, it was Dentler.

Wasn't there a sanatorium on Shepherd just south of Allen Parkway? There may have been another on the east side of I-45 just north of I-10, and the building may still be there.

Link to post
Share on other sites
At the top of the photo is where OST runs into S Main. The road that goes off to the left from Holcombe is Fannin. About halfway between Holcombe and the left edge of the photo is Pier 21.

You're right! I remember it being there. That is the same building that Subdude asked if it might be a sanitarium. I have a 1954 ad for Pier 21 that lists its address as 7001 Old Main Street Rd., which is what it was before it became Fannin. See a section below that I cropped of a 1935 map showing Old Main Street Road. That's what it was before they extended the Fannin name.

HoustonMap1935c.jpg

Another question: the large building on the left, immediately south of Braes Bayou, was that a sanitarium? I read somewhere there was one around there.

Subdude, The only thing of that nature, I can remember in that area, was what I would call a nursing home/assisted living facility by the name of Holly Hall. It was further south on Knight Rd, between OST and Holmes Rd.

Wasn't there a sanatorium on Shepherd just south of Allen Parkway? There may have been another on the east side of I-45 just north of I-10, and the building may still be there.

I remember a Tuberculosis Sanatorium/Clinic/Hospital on the Southeast corner of Shepherd and Buffalo Drive (now Allen Pkwy).

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...
I remember the monorail well, it was very close to where OST intersects with S. Main....

The other end of the monorail, which never connected to the arrowhead park end, was on main, just west of fondred. I used to walk up the rail and play in the ruins of the car in about 1965. It was an interesting experience-smashed plexiglass windows and weeds growing in the ruins of something too futuristic for houston at the time

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...
The other end of the monorail, which never connected to the arrowhead park end, was on main, just west of fondred. I used to walk up the rail and play in the ruins of the car in about 1965. It was an interesting experience-smashed plexiglass windows and weeds growing in the ruins of something too futuristic for houston at the time

Now that's what I remember.....Thank you Croberts. I thought I was crazy. No one else remembers this for some reason.

Link to post
Share on other sites

At least two others have mentioned this somewhere, but there have been no photos so far. I remember that it stridled the rail, which appeard to be a single girder on a concrete wall, it had rubber tires like a car on either side of the rail, the operator had a lever with a grip that presumably was the brake, it had thick plexiglass windows-would have been amazing to ride in, especially in a storm. The Fondren road section started on the ground and rose up 15-25 feet (im guessing) and there was a couple of hundred yards of elevated track, i would guess. I last visited it when in the 5th grade, around 1965.

Link to post
Share on other sites
the trailblazer (tested at arrowhead park):

mr002.jpg

mr003.jpg

Here's another view and description of the monorail at Arrowhead Park

HoustonMonorail-1956.jpg

1956- Skyway Monorail

Monorail, Incorporated, built a short test track of their suspended system at Arrowhead Park in Houston, Texas. Each bogie was powered by a 310-horsepower Packard automobile engine. The driver was seated high above the passenger carriage on one of the two bogies. After eight months of testing, the track was dismantled and rebuilt at the Texas State fairgrounds where it ran for many years. Its promoters claimed it could reach speeds of 160 km/hr, but no Skyway transit installations were ever built.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The arrpwhead park monorail was totally different from the Fondren road monorail (see my description in the previous posting). To get to the car I had to walk on the rail itself, wrapping my arms around the girder that the car road on-so the car was above and sitting on the rail, rather than under the rail, as in the pictures of the arrowhead park monorail. So there were two different prototype monorails and three altogether, county the hobby airport monorail.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 years later...

The arrpwhead park monorail was totally different from the Fondren road monorail (see my description in the previous posting). To get to the car I had to walk on the rail itself, wrapping my arms around the girder that the car road on-so the car was above and sitting on the rail, rather than under the rail, as in the pictures of the arrowhead park monorail. So there were two different prototype monorails and three altogether, county the hobby airport monorail.

I remember this monorail off Fondren very well, croberts. The first time I went there was probably 1963 and it was exactly as you described it. The car straddled the track and the rubber tires were exposed inside the passenger compartment. It was located just north of S. Main in a field that may have been just off the end of where Fondren ended. It was an unimproved road and this was the middle of nowhere. I was 7 or 8 and going to Anderson Elementary. We lived off W. Airport and Landsdowne until we moved away in '65. We would go out there to shoot off firecrackers inside the monorail car during fireworks season. It was in a very isolated area and thinking back I can't imagine why it was there!

Do you remember the old overrun adobe house that was out there with the stairs on the outside? Same general area. Anyway, if anyone has any other info on this I would really like to hear about it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know how I missed the discussion of the Fondren location for what appears to be the other end of the monorail. Even though I accepted the Arrowhead location, there was still a persistent memory of seeing it from South Main around the Holmes Road curve.

If I now understand this correctly, there were two ends of the rail that were not connected. And I gather there was a coach at both locations? If so, that would explain how the Fondren coach could still be there in the 60s when I rode it at Fair Park in '57. The Arrowhead coach and track must be the one that was dismantled and moved to Dallas.

Does this seem right?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Key Map shows that location to be Fondren Park. Perhaps it has been a park since the '50s, and possibly longer.

Fondren Park was the name of the subdivision being built just north of the monorail.The land where the monorail was, is as vacant today as it was back then

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 9 months later...

Yep, there it is. Thanks. I actually saw that earlier at a much smaller zoom and just thought it was a crease in the original image! Interesting, it's NOT in the 1957 image.

Just getting back to this forum, after many months absence. Yes, that is it,notice the car sits astride the rail, rather than hangs under. So this could not have been meant to connect to the arrowhead park one, as I supposed earlier. This is the only photo I have seen of it! When I was there, it was in the middle of what appeared to be an abandoned un-mowed prairie. I though it very strange, seeing the future in ruins. The guy that I went there with (5th grade, 1964) became a graphic artist, and some of his best works are images of Houston freeways in ruins, rusting, decayed and covered with vines. I have always wondered if this memory stuck with him as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

I was seven-years-old living in Houston's new Westbury Subdivsion on Hillcroft Avenue in 1962. On the way to church each Sunday(a Presbyterian Church as I recall), our car would pass the two monorail cars in dis-repair overgrown by weeds with cracked windows sitting in front of what I remember to be some kind of tin-roofed warehouse. There were a lot of other pieces of rusty metal lying in that yard as well (un-identifiable to my memory). I recall there was a reason we would stop sometimes and sometimes we would just pass by; perhaps a stoplight or railroad crossing was there?

But as we continued along the road, a large single-rail concrete structure that was obviously a demonstration track rose on the other side of the road as we drove by. If the current Google maps serve my memory well, I recall the structure with the two monorail cars were on the north-east corner of Fondren and Main. If we were travelling on Fondren, going north away from Westbury, then the rails would have been on the western side of Fondron, north of Main. Hillcroft didn't go through to Main at the time. It was a two-lane road next to one of the many open drainage ditches that ended in a big field for cattle at one house south of Densmore, my house. I, too, was attending Andy Andreson Elementary, and my older brother and sister went to Westbury High.

I believe the rail was a loop. It could have been an out-and-back single rail, but the distinctive feature I do recall is that the rail closest to the tin-roofed warehouse only rose a few feet from the ground. After about one to two hundred feet it had a gentle slope that took the rail up to about twenty feet off the ground. Then, if I recall, it went in an out-and-back loop and sloped back down to the lower part. I imagined that the lower part was used as a place to get passengers in and out of the vehicles. And, oh yes, the vehicles were designed with a groove on the bottom to sit astride the rails. Very much like the monorail vehicles at Disneyland.

I seem to remember that the rail was not sitting beside the road, but on the grass between two roads, like a divided highway. Maybe Main, I don't know. I also recall it taking a while to drive by. I always thought the demo rail was at least a mile in length.

My father told me that a man had spent "all he had" trying to convince the city to put in a monorail, but the city didn't go for it, and the man "lost everything."

But seeing these at the time, ultra futuristic, air-streamed steel vehicles lying in the weeds discarded made me think of a futuristic society that had died, older than ours.

Probably one of the many reasons I work in Visual Effecs in Los Angeles today.

I'll never forget them - too fascinating for a boy of seven.

Edited by radvfx
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 months later...

So there may have been two futurist graphics designers that were influenced by what I call the future in ruins. And probably more. We climbed up the trackway from the ground, on the 1964 aerial photo discussed above, you can see the car parked at the east end at ground level. Then the trackway rises,you can see its shadow cast by the morning sun. It looks today and felt then like it was more than 20 feet high.

 

We rode our bikes there, and I remember riding through the grass.It was in 64 or 65, and I was 11 or 12.  And this was after years of passing the long dead end elevated trackway on the way to richmond, always asking my parent about it. I heard the story that some investor went broke trying to convince the city that this was a good idea. What I have learned since about monorails is that the can only carry small numbers of people relative to surface trackways, and yet any transit way will stimulate land use intensification, so they are not cost effective.

Edited by Croberts
Link to post
Share on other sites

So there were at least two monorails on S. Main. The Fondren road monorail, just west of Fondren and north of Main. The car road on top of the rail. This is clear on the 1964 aerial photograph.

 

Then there was the Arrowhead Park monorail, which hung down from the rail. The two could never have connected, I was wrong about that. they were totally different systems, one part of "Space City" that never got implemented.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...

 I used to have an album on here with these in it, but it seems gone now. Here is is from the 1964 image, which I posted on Facebook. The B+W image shows the whole thing, the yellow and brown is a zoomin of the monoral car. Note that this never was associated with the arrowhead park one, which hung under the rail ( I once thought the two were connected.) It straddled the rail, like the one at Disney world. 

163907_1805711423432_895027_n.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 years later...
On 3/5/2006 at 3:12 PM, sevfiv said:

Instead of dredging up old topics, i thought i'd share these photos here...I found these while browsing through some older volumes of the Houston review:

IAH sky taxi:
mr001.jpg

the trailblazer (tested at arrowhead park):

mr002.jpg

mr003.jpg

a downtown rendering:

mr004.jpg


The Houston review of history and culture
University of Houston. Center for Public History
Published by the Houston Public Library Board, 1979-97

fgdfg.JPG.3eb146d8b05b5e1d97f2cdbd382117b6.JPGThis snapshot of a film/video clip is of the monorail being installed at Hobby Airport, then called Houston International Airport

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 years later...

There was plenty of talk about this notion when I  First moved to Houston in 1977. Mostly I remember the plan to connect both airports with $$$ set aside. By the time I moved back to Houston in 1979; guess the plans had changed because those earmarked funds were used for something else.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sainted MayorBob (Lanier), suburban developer and previously a highway department commissioner, successfully used the "toy" argument when running for his first term.  The claim was that monorail is Disneyland technology.  Somehow, the counter argument that Disney's business model includes efficiently moving large numbers of people around in order to make a buck was never really raised.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...