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The Story of Disney's PeopleMover in Texas technology connections



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This is the fun, weird, and surprisingly complicated story of Disney’s PeopleMover attraction and how it ended up somewhere unexpected. And maybe even somewhere *really* unexpected!

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The Story of Disney's PeopleMover in Texas

The Story of Disney's PeopleMover in Texas

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42 thoughts on “The Story of Disney's PeopleMover in Texas technology connections”

  1. I put a lot of great links and other info in this comment, so be sure to expand it to check them out!
    Someone on Twitter gave me some really neat extra info on the LIMs used in the WEDWay system. And also, there was a patent! I just couldn't find it.
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US3974778
    Basically, the motors are capable of pushing the trains at up to 20 mph (that's their synchronous speed), but in practice this is limited. The design of all the motors is the same, and the reason they are bunched up is just to provide more force. The key is that they are reversible, and they also monitor the vehicle's speed and adjust how long they stay on to correct it. So they don't run constantly when a train is above them, rather they pulse on and off. This is very surprising to me, as you can't really hear this or feel it! But, it makes a lot of sense, particularly with the knowledge that even the sparsely-spaced motors on the straightaways are able to restart the Tomorrowland PeopleMover from a stop. And, it explains why they also bunch up to slow the train down, as they work together in reverse to slow the train, and once the desired speed is reached, they switch back to forward propulsion. Pretty advanced stuff for 1975!
    Want to know what happened to Disneyland’s PeopleMover? This video by Offhand Disney does a great job explaining (and includes some great footage of the ride pre-demise). It’s a pretty neat channel for the Disney enthusiast, so check it out!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OgpbNT9oS8&t=288s

    Here’s that video of the Senate Subway I mentioned:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DYwkysVIHU&t=63s

    These are some cool links explaining the origins of the PeopleMover itself:

    https://www.waltdisney.org/blog/walt-disneys-peoplemover

    https://www.micechat.com/17017-peoplemover/

    And if you’re looking for that site detailing the subways below the capitol, here it is:

    http://www.belowthecapital.org/capitol/

    There are some other relevant links in the description, so be sure to check those, too!
    And it turns out that you can indeed be deemed suspicious by the TSA for talking to yourself while filming things in an airport. Oh well, I did it for you!

  2. It's a twin to the WDW PeopleMover. I was there just last week as I was going to Brownsville TX, I decided to take a ride on it. As I got to my terminal, this PeopleMover broke down. It's either luck or a coincidence both Houston and WDW PeopleMover constantly breaks down.

  3. In Taiwan, in addition to the Bombardier trains being used in their airport, they also use them as mass transit lines too. Unfortunately it was not a good line, and it's called the brown line because that's the color of poop. It was the first mass transit line in Taipei, and given the city's population density, the cars are way too small and there is no way to move between cars while the train is moving. Furthermore, it has some stupid design elements like a seat section that is clearly big enough for 3 people to sit on it, yet it has two butt grooves, so maybe they are anticipating that only two very obese people will sit there? Also when the line got expanded the train has issues, like BSOD causing the train to simply STOP, shut off its AC, and basically do nothing for hours. As you can imagine this led to a lot of complaints… I guess the mass transit corp had the foresight to call it the brown line…

    Actually I have no idea what operating system these trains run on, but it had to be a glitch that was eventually worked out… but it kinda sucked. Furthermore the capacity of the line is just too low.

    Taipei started another line, the circle or yellow line that uses automated trains but these trains are completely different, that they run on standard railroad tracks and I think the train themselves came from Korea.

    Never ask an aircraft company to make non aircraft stuff… like trains or guitars.

  4. As someone who grew up in Houston, TX, there's a local joke about the main airport (George Bush Intercontinental or IAH) regarding Terminal D in that it doesn't exist. Technically, it exists and you can see Terminal D listed alongside Terminal E. Ignoring Terminals A and B (the oldest, ugliest terminals with the fewest amenities), if we travel from Terminal C (the largest terminal that was the home of Continental Airlines and probably home to United Airlines today), you'll seemingly pass through where Terminal D should be and eventually get to Terminal E (the international arrivals area).

    In reality, I think Terminal D might be for cargo planes and other shipments, which is why passengers never see it. However, it makes for a slightly humorous joke when at an airport, a place that's noisy, annoying, and usually full of tension.

    One last thing: If you live in Houston, you probably already know that finding parking for Terminal C is a difficult endeavor at best (and at worst, simply impossible). To deal with that, I used to park at Terminal A or B and then make my way over to Terminal C. Sure, it required a little walking (IAH is a very large airport that's spread out) but it took less time and was less frustrating than trying to find parking at Terminal C.

  5. 1:22 In my city in France, the metro has rubber tires, we have the same grooved steel plate, and the doors open up like that (the metro's doors and the station's doors open at the same time). There are other cities that have this too. The inside looks different though, as it just looks like a metro (there are more seats).

  6. Neat. I rode the George Bush one a few years ago when flying from IND to SFO. Who knew when I rode it to my connecting flight it was an orphan son of Disney.

  7. I know this is an older video, but you should look into the "PRT" (Personal Rapid Transit) at West Virginia University. It is a very interesting people mover.

  8. Great, thanks. I thought I've achieved a 100% completion of doing every Disney thing. I guess I'm at 99%…and need to go to Houston to finish it.

  9. My guess on the DC – Houston connection is that someone at Powell worked on the airport buildout, had a bunch of "I can do this better" ideas (VFDs…) and saw a chance to apply them for the Capitol project.

  10. There's a couple of these in Hyogo prefecture, Japan, both going from main-line rail stations to artificial islands just off the coast and, at the far ends, ports for ferries One's in Kobe and the other is… not. It's pretty close by though. I was on one train on the not-Kobe one that also had some tech to "frost" the windows when it passed by residential buildings. Tech much newer than the trains it was installef on, I'd imagine!
    Also, I commented too soon and by "these", I mean the trains at the start of the video that run like buses on tracks.

  11. I HATE O’Hare. As someone who has a lot of family in Chicago and visits somewhat regularly it is such a pain. Do what you can to avoid it. Especially if you are renting a car. That multi modal rental car bullshit sucks. I haven’t been since that train stop was added and I am sure that has helped as the bus ride was a huge additional annoyance, but that probably just elevates it from god awful to bad.

  12. If you've been to Vancouver you may know about the SkyTrain.
    It is a powered rail technology, just in reverse of these induction "people movers" having the windings on the train and the permanent magnets on the track. The old expo line trains are actually extremely reliable in bad weather compared to all other forms of transit in Vancouver. Not being a friction based propulsion they don't get stuck on ice or even really thick snow, though they do have track heaters in place of snow plows that are usually enough (again compared to the never even close to enough snow management devices for other transit systems in Vancouver, they seem pretty acceptable and fallen trees are usually what stops a train in heavy snow). The two biggest downsides to this system are it's low electrical efficiency when the tracks aren't completely frozen over (which is almost all of the time) and wheel mushrooming. Because the train is being pulled down against the track the wheels get little dings and dents going around corners, the frequency from the induction motors causes these tiny dings and dents to form patterns that eventually feel like the train is riding on square wheels with a violent vibration and horrible grinding noise as some cars go around corners (the ones that haven't had their wheels done recently). Translink (formerly B.C. Transit) actually employs a full time machinist who re-machines wheels all day long on a special lathe. I've ridden some expo line trains that seem like they're going to shake themselves apart and it sounds like standing inside of a jet engine that's sucked up a bunch of gravel! this is totally normal and most people who live here learn to ignore it.

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