In the backyard of a suburban home in Fremont, California, is the Niles Monorail. It has one stop: the house of Kim Pedersen, lifelong monorail fanatic and founder of The Monorail Society.

Nerdkore Painting

Illustration by Chris Bishop

When did you see your first monorail?
It was 1959 when Walt Disney first showcased his monorail on the Disneyland TV show. I never missed the show. I was seven years old. I just loved the futuristic rocket ship look of it that Bob Gurr had come up with, and at the same time I was mystified as to how that big train clung onto the narrow beam.

How did the Niles Monorail come to be?
I wanted to build a backyard monorail as far back as 1969. I still have a sketch I presented to my dad to run a hand-cranked monorail down the side of our Bakersfield home and into the backyard. He turned the project down, which is probably a good thing, because my design had some serious flaws. Flash forward to 1989, when I became even more enthusiastic over monorails and founded The Monorail Society, and the idea popped back into my head. This time it was my own house, and I only needed approval from my understanding wife.

What is it about monorails that inspires you?
The monorail is the most misunderstood and underutilized form of transportation on the planet. Disney didn’t intend to typecast monorails as theme park rides, but that’s how it turned out, at least in the USA. Thankfully other countries see the value of monorails and are building more of them. They are quick to build, use far less construction material than other grade-separate rail systems, they don’t block out the sky like elevated heavy or light rail, they are incredibly safe, and no other rail system can touch monorail when it comes to reliability and low cost to operate. Oh, and did I mention: they’re hecko cool and sexy! The goal of The Monorail Society is to get the word out, and hopefully get more of them built. We’ve got over 500 pages of monorail information and pictures at

What’s become of the Niles Monorail?
Well, I’m no great engineer, and there were some flaws to my design. I thought a solid 4x8-inch beam of wood would stay solid, but it turns out that when weather-exposed it gets softer with time. It just got to the point where the beam bent a bit too much under the weight of human riders. I still have the train stored here, but the Niles Monorail is no longer rideable. The good news is that the track is still capable of supporting my next project.

What’s your next project?
The Niles Garden Monorail! I’ll use the same track as the Niles Monorail, but I’ll use it for a remote-controlled scale monorail train. It will look just like the real transit monorails in Japan, Malaysia, Las Vegas, Disney systems and other straddle-beam monorails, but it will be scaled to riders like Barbie or G.I. Joe. Garden Railways are a popular hobby these days, but I don’t think anyone has tried a monorail, certainly not on this scale!

Take a photo tour of the Niles Monorail.

Derek Powazek is the founder of Fray in San Francisco and a geek for Star Wars Lego because he sees spaceships in his dreams.

Chris Bishop is an artist and designer in Washington, DC, and is a geek for video games because he never grew up.