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Lyle Zapato

Instinctive Fear Of Monorails In Pachyderms

Lyle Zapato | 2004-12-09.2400 LMT | Monorail Danger | Elephants | Nature | Retro

While monorailist literature insinuates that they are a futuristic technology, monorails are actually archaic devices that predate the airplane. Case in point: the Schwebebahn in Wuppertal, Germany. This suspended monorail was built in 1901 and is still in operation -- thanks to the backroom influence of the Monorail Industry -- even though it exhibits all the dangers common to monorails; there have been train collisions, trucks hitting piers, and four people died in 1999 when a train derailed and fell into the river. However, even in the storied annals of monorail dangers, the Schwebebahn manages to impress with an incident involving an innocent baby elephant named Tuffi.

Elephant leaping from monorail
Tuffi's daring escape from the clutches of dastardly monorailists.

On July 21, 1950, the 3-year-old elephant, enslaved by a cruel circus-director/monorail-fanatic named Franz Althoff, was forced to board the Schwebebahn as part of an ill-conceived monorail propaganda stunt. Tuffi had suffered through many degrading stunts in the past -- Althoff had her driving streetcars and marching through department stores -- but she balked at riding on that dangerous contraption (the Wuppertaler Todesfalle as it was secretly called by locals). One and a half minutes into the ride, Tuffi freaked out, no doubt sensing something was awry with the train (in other words: normal monorailular operating conditions). In her instinctual desperation to escape death and with no other safe means of egress, she smashed a hole in a side window and, rather taking her chances with the Wupper river 5 meters below, bravely leapt through.

Tuffi was not seriously injured in the fall and was unfortunately recaptured shortly after. There's no telling what would have happened if she had stayed in the train, which was understandably stopped after experiencing an unexpected elephantine defenestration. Perhaps the train would have derailed or spontaneously combusted. We will never know for sure, but it is highly likely that the actions of this monorail-doubting pachyderm might have saved the lives of the human passengers.

(Of course, had this monorail been constructed over city streets instead of a river, as many monorails are or are planned to be, she would have been killed and probably have taken out some pedestrians and small cars too. When will people learn what even baby elephants seem to understand: monorails are a menace.)

Photos from the incident:

Thanks to reader Crosbie for bringing this to my attention.

End of post.