(NEXSTAR) – It may be a surprise to Texans today, but the state was once on the cutting edge of public transit innovation. Not so long ago, people were flocking to Houston to see the technology they believed could be the future of transportation.
America’s first commercial monorail system was created by Houston-based company Monorail Inc. to bring the vision of a suspended monorail track to life.
The monorail system consisted of two parts, the monorail coach called “Trailblazer” and its accompanying 970-foot pilot line called “Skyway.” Both names were chosen through a local contest to promote public interest in the project.
The system was initially built in February 1956 at Arrowhead Park, an old racetrack just 10 miles south of Houston. The 970-foot pilot line was used as a test track demonstrating that a monorail transportation system could work. If successful, Monorail Inc. could sell the idea in major cities across the country.
In the same year, the company contracted with the State Fair of Texas for an expanded build of Skyway at Fair Park in Dallas.
Monorail, Inc. built and operated the monorail system as a fairground concession, making it the nation’s first commercially operating monorail. The concession repurposed most materials from Skyway, including Trailblazer.
In 1956, it opened with a 25-cent fare, and it became one of Texas’ most popular attractions. Besides operating during the State Fair of Texas, the monorail also operated on weekends throughout the year.
Urban planners and city leaders from all over the world headed to Houston to see the monorail, which became a showcase of transportation technology. The system carried more than 1 million passengers throughout its near-decade run.
However, the monorail could not sustain itself and was dismantled for good in 1964 due to poor maintenance and the lack of interest in its novelty.
According to several sources, Goodell Monorail Museum in Houston was to receive the vehicle after the track was dismantled. After several years, the monorail vehicle was found in a salvage yard. After being bought, it was later moved to the town of Wills Point in Van Zandt County, where it is still in use as a residence.