Last ride on the monorail

It’s less than a week now until Sydney’s monorail makes its last circuit to nowhere. After 25 years of service it will be shutdown for good on June 30. It might be largely unwanted and unloved by Sydneysiders, but I like it nonetheless.

Last Friday evening after work I gave Alex, who is a bit of a transport fan like his father, a last chance to ride the monorail. I bought a day pass for myself – he’s still free – and we did a couple of circuits, stopping at World Square to discover that the Sony Centre has gone, and back to City Centre.

The monorail stations were rundown and somewhat unloved. It really does go nowhere useful. You can easily walk to Darling Harbour from Town Hall Station  or catch a train/tram combination to Central, Chinatown and the soon to be demolished Convention Centre if you find it too far to walk in that direction. At $5 dollars a ride it’s not cheap, it’s not fast (though Alex noted it was travelling faster than the cars below) and the capacity is quite poor.

But despite all that I still love it. You get a different view of the city gliding above the streets, insulated from the crowds, traffic and noise, up at the level of old facades and neon lights. Just for a short while you are a tourist again, not a bored resident of the city, desperate to get home.

Back when I was a student in Canberra I used to return to Rockhampton by train during the holidays. After a 6 am departure from Canberra I would arrive in Sydney after 10 am and then have another six hours to waste before the late afternoon XPT ride up to Brisbane. So I would catch a train from Central to Town Hall and then take a monorail ride down to Darling Harbour, maybe doing an extra loop for the views.

In those days Darling Harbour had a more family friendly feel, a big food court on the top level giving great views of the city instead of being hidden away down the bottom as it is now, the position replaced by expensive restaurants. I would eat and relax until it was finally time to return to Central.

The Sydney monorail has other links to Queensland, with similar Von Roll equipment being used on the Gold Coast at the Oasis Shopping Centre and Sea World. My first experience with it, and monorails in general, was at the wonderful Expo 88 in Brisbane.

My favourite memory of the monorail was on the night before my wedding. I had spent the whole afternoon at The Rocks and Circular Quay with friends. After saying my goodbyes to them I walked all the way back to Town Hall searching for gifts. I had booked a room at the Ibis Darling Harbour but I was exhausted and chafed and could barely walk another step. So I caught the quiet monorail those last few stops and it was good.

With Darling Harbour sold and the Convention and Entertainment Centres set for redevelopment who knows what changes will be wrought upon the area. I’m going to miss the monorail. Even if I didn’t ride it often I always appreciated it’s kinetic nature across the otherwise static landscape. Farewell Sydney Monorail and thanks for 25 years of action.