Existing Beamways and Beamway Projects

by Olav Næss

The point of departure for this presentation of better railway types is that we are discussing:

None of the design mentioned here has an elevator in the train, but it should be possible to have an elevator in the middle of a suspended train, so that elevated station buildings (with an elevator) will not be needed at all the stops.


Description. Pictures. Line now being built in Weihai, China.

Technical comment: The track is flexible, and it is suspended in cables which deform significantly when loaded by the weight of a train. Such a suspension allows only a moderate train speed – only 65 km/h. (This is explained and depicted in the description.)

The fourth picture in above-mentioned Pictures show a cable-stayed bridge in the background. Such a design, combined with a more rigid track beam, should permit a far higher speed by minimizing the track deformation during a train passage.

Wuppertaler Schwebebahn

The 13,3 km long Wuppertal suspension monorail was built in 1901. A so old monorail system is of course outdated technically, but the pictures of Monometro (next example) show what a modern version of this special design (with the wheels upon one central rail) could look like.

The speed could reach 60 km/h, but with 20 stations on 13.3 km, half the speed is enough.

This railway is clearly visible on Google Earth: Search for Wuppertal. One clearly visible fact is that the distance between the rail-carrying towers is about 30-35 meters, and the Panoramio photos show sights like the rich and varied architecture of the stations. Video on YouTube

This is where the elephant Tuffi jumped off the train in 1950.
She was a little girl, weighing only 700 kg, and didn't like to be in the crowd of humans. So she broke out through a window and fell down in the river, but got only a gash in a foot.
A court concluded that this railway was unsuitable for transporting elephants. (Articles from German newspapers)
(The planned high-speed trains seem to have ambitions for such transport.)


This design has not been built yet, but it is described here.

The track is not shielded from snow/ice, but is unlikely to be much used by birds, as the vertical part of the beam is above the track surface.

(Tech: The beam profile is like an inverted T, where the track surface on the beam's lower part is curved (convex upwards), so that the wheels can get graded turns by displacing their path a little sideways.)


This design (unbuilt) has the same beam design as Monometro, but is pulled by propellers (electrical fans) mounted on the sides of the train. This makes the train quite wide – rather unpractical in congested areas.

Futrex Project 21 Monobeam

A design only tried in reduced scale. Futrex.

The train is carried in an unusual manner: The side of the train runs along one side of the beam, a configuration allowing a dual track line to be built with one beam. But the forces on the wheels will then become significantly higher than the weight of the train, and rather small wheels must be used. Speed: 70 mph, or 112 km/h.

People Cargo Mover

A German design (untested). This has, like Futrex, trains on both sides of a central beam. The speed should reach 200 km/h.

Video presentation. Technical description in German.

This railway can at stations have a sidetrack leading steeply down to the ground level, but these trains should also be equippable with elevator.


No track or train has yet been built from this design. Headquarter in USA. UK office.

The Chiba Line

The 15.2 km long Chiba Urban Monorail is the longest suspended monorail in the world. It can be located (at the eastern shore of the Tokyo bay) by searching for Chiba in Google Earth, and it can there be seen that the pole separation is 25-40 meters. Japanese monorails must be built more robust than in e.g. Europe due to the earthquake danger. The Panoramio photos clearly show that the station architecture is monotoneous and machinelike compared to the Wuppertal stations.

The system is a Safege design – built with technology the japanese bought from the French Safege consortium.

The Shonan Line

Shonan Monorail is a 6.6 km long line of the same type as the one in Chiba, i.e. from the Safege design.

It is located by searching for Ofuna Monorail, Kamakura, Kanagawa in Google Earth, but there are few Panoramio photos here.


SIPEM - Siemens People Mover System – is manifested in two lines in Germany:

The top speed is 65 km/h for both. They run automatically and unmanned.


This unrealized concept by the Swedish Swedetrack is based on privatized cabins, and should really fall outside the scope of this survey.

But because the design describes wagons with up to 32 seats, and with wagon weights reaching 7 tons (depending on the beam dimension selected), the track beam (of the hollow Safege-type) should be well suited for public transport (minibus through train), at least if the train design distributes the weight along some track length. In contrast to competing designs, Flyway doesn't demand tall station buildings (needing elevators), but the Flyway wagons can be lowered to the ground. This is promising, but it would be really annoying for the passengers if the whole bus went down and up at each stop.

The Swedetrack is quite unique for the large amount of information it presents – both technical and transport/environment philosophical. The organization's thinkers are here not pushed aside by businessmen who just want to present their slick sales material – which is too common among other companies.

The Alternative to the suspended Beamway: The Alweg Train

It might be of interest to compare our recommended suspended monorail with the more common straddling type: The Alweg design. It the beam is under the train, it will block vertical passenger movements (by elevator), so elevated station buildings must be used.

A few prominent serious examples:

Osaka Monorail – 21.2 km long. Search for Kadoma-shi monorail station, Osaka in Google Earth. Few Panoramio photos.

Sydney Monorail – 3,6 km long. Search for Pyrmont bridge, Sydney in Google Earth. Many Panoramio photos. Video on YouTube.

General Lightweight Rail Sources

Suspended Urban Transit Technologies

The Monorail Society

Comparison Matrix of Ready and Emerging Innovative Transportation Technologies

Using Google Earth and Panoramio

The satellite images can be seen with an ordinary web browser by going to maps.google.com . But it is better to install the program Google Earth, because it gives access to the Panoramio photos for places. When the program is installed and started: Go to the list Layers (in the lower left corner), and under Geographic web select Panoramio. Available Panoramio photos are shown as a blue spot (or a camera icon when more strongly zoomed in). It is then only to click these marks for interesting places. (The users who want to submit their own photos, can do so by using the program Picasa: On the Tools-menu, select Geotag, Geotag with Google Earth.)

Google Earth has a search field for place names in the upper left corner.