Some time after World War II, monorails that carried children over the toy displays in department stores began to appear. A friend told me about riding in one at Meier Frank's department store in Portland, Oregon, when he was a kid. Web searches uncovered newspaper reports about this monorail (see below), where it was called it the "Louden Supertrack monorail." Other webpages also mentioned Louden. However, when questioned, some ex-employees who had worked at Louden in the 1940s and 1950s said that they did not remember any passenger-carrying monorails being built by Louden, raising the question of the accuracy of the newspaper reports.
Other websites have also mentioned Louden, but their sources are not provided.
According to a corespondent who is researching the "Pink Pig" in Atlanta, Georgia, some (or all) of these monorail systems may have been built by Rocket Express Systems, Inc, which was in Illinois. Probably they purchased the monorail structure and propulsion system from Louden, then built the passenger cars for the department stores. The system at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia, which was named Rocket Express, and survives at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. lends credence to this theory.
Below are excerpts references to some websites that contain stories of these monorail systems. We would appreciate any information you can provide about these monorails.
(From the Portland Tribune archives, dated Dec 24, 2002, updated Oct 30, 2009)
"On the 10th floor of Meier & Frank's downtown Portland, Oregon, store enterprising Santaland travelers under 51 inches tall can ride the Louden Supertrack monorail for a ceiling's eye view of the festivities. It's been whisking children above Santaland for 50 years and is thought to be the only survivor of 26 such conveyances built in Fairfield, Iowa."
(From the Portland Tribune archives, dated Nov 22, 2007, updated Oct 30, 2009)
"By 2007 the store had been sold and the monorail was moved to the Monorail Memory Room which features restored cars from the monorail that for decades ran along the ceiling of the original Santaland."
(Above photo from the Jack Bog's Blog, Dec 14, 2005)
(From Joe Sherlock's blog, including right photo, posted 11-28-05)
"I saw a news item on television recently, announcing that the kiddie monorail which runs along the ceiling of the Santaland toy department at Meier & Frank Department Store in downtown Portland will be closing after this Christmas season. The store is being renovated and the 50-plus year-old monorail doesn't meet current safety regs."
"This brought back memories of riding the monorail for tots at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia in the early 1950s. A Google search informed me that there were a plethora of kiddie monorails running on ceiling-mounted track systems at department stores across the U.S., including Rochester NY, Newark NJ and Atlanta GA."
"All of these rides were produced by the Louden Machinery Company of Fairfield, Iowa."
"Incidentally, the original Wanamaker monorail cars are on display at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia."
Below are more links about these kiddie monorails --
The Babuk Report webpage includes a brief history of the Louden Machinery Company and the Louden monorails in many department stores around the country (you will need to scroll down the page).
More photos and text from the Portland Transit webpage about the Meier & Frank Monorail.
Photo of teenager in a Meier &Frank Monorail
"It would appear from the size of the car and the shape of the windows, Wanamaker's used the same Louden Supertrack model as Meier & Frank." - From The Straightdope message board
Photo of Wanamaker's Rocket Express monorail in the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia - on Flickr.
Please Touch Museum - about the Rocket Express.
Kids playing on the Rocket Express.
Below: A 1955 photo (with text) of the monorail in a Syracuse department store.
Quote from Syracuse Post-Standard website is this information - "According to Dick Smith of Camillus, the final president of Edwards, the monorail was leased from a company in Florida. It went into operation sometime after World War II, meaning it may have even inspired the almost identical version in Rochester. Children rode in an elevated circle around Edwards' "Toyland," shouting to Santa as they passed his throne, swinging through a "tunnel" punched in the store wall.
Midtown Plaza's Christmas Monorail, Rochester, New York, photos and story, from The Monorail Society
Rochester monorail can be seen on YouTube here, along with other videos.
The "Pink Pig" monorail was at the downtown Atlanta Rich's store. NPR had a story about it - see and hear it on NPR website.
These two press releases from Macy's were found on Macy's National Press Room.
THE PINK PIG AT MACY'S LENOX SQUARE
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 - Sunday Jan. 2, 2011
The Pink Pig is back this holiday season at Macy's at Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta. The beloved tradition rides again beginning Oct. 30, 2010 and will run through Jan. 2, 2011. Since its 1953 debut as a children's ride at the downtown department store Rich's, five generations of Atlantans have ridden the Pink Pig and worn the signature 'I Rode the Pink Pig' sticker with pride to kick-off the holiday season. True to tradition, a portion of the proceeds from each ride will benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Each ride costs $3 and repeat rides have a special discounted price (2 rides for $5.50, 3 rides for $7.50).
(The date of this press release was lost): Priscilla, the original Pink Pig, began as a monorail along the ceiling of the downtown Atlanta Rich's store, giving children the experience of flying over the toy department. Later, another pig - Percival - was added and they became known as the Pink Pig monorail twins. Years later, the monorail was relocated to the roof of the department store and the monorail twins took passengers on rooftop rides viewing downtown Atlanta and encircling the Great Tree."(date unknown)
This is from Wikipedia, uncited:
The Pink Pig was an amusement park ride of sorts that was a miniature suspended monorail sized for children. Adults would be hard-pressed to fit inside the enclosed cars that the children sat in as the ride operated. The original ride "flew" from the ceiling of the toy department. The pig was then moved outside the building to a rooftop Christmas village that surrounded the Great Tree. The Pink Pig started outside under the tree, returned indoors to fly over the toy department before returning to its starting point. The original Pink Pig was named Priscilla. A second pig, named Percival was later added to meet the high demand to ride the pig. After completing their journey, riders received a sticker that said "I rode the Pink Pig".
The ride moved to the Festival of Trees event in the 1990s, and resided at the Atlanta History Center. The ride was brought back to Rich's in 2004 when it reappeared at the Rich's at Lenox Square mall, the new location for the Great Tree. The new version of the Pink Pig is a conventional Zamperla Rio Grande storyline train ride with a miniature pink pig locomotive pulling a set of pink child-sized passenger cars at ground level, instead of the original suspended monorail design. It has been speculated that the original monorail was retired because it could not be maintained as a viable and safe children's ride.« »