Memories of the monorail

The Toronto Zoo monorail’s abandoned Canadian Domain station

For people of a certain age, memories of the Toronto Zoo begin with riding the old monorail. Only it wasn’t the old monorail back then—it was the super-futuristic monorail. The line was abandoned following a 1994 accident that injured about 30 people, and the train’s power supply rails and portions of the guideway were removed a few years later. But if you know where to look, most of the route remains visible as it snakes through the grounds of the zoo.

The abandoned station above is in the Canadian Domain, midway between the grizzlies and the enormous bison enclosure. The guideway remains intact under all that foliage at the edge of the platform even though the vegetation gains ground every year. Other sections are still in pristine condition, almost as if the next train is only minutes away. Watching the monorail be consumed by nature is a small preview of what the world would be like without us.

The Toronto Zoo monorail guideway disappears into the woods

Take a Google Maps tour of the monorail starting here. The train ran on the track in the center of the map curving down to the right. You can trace the remnants of the route three-quarters of the way around the zoo before it finally peters out, passing by two abandoned but still-standing stations along the way. A third remains in service near the main entrance, used for the monorail’s rather pedestrian replacement, the Zoomobile.

The really surprising thing about following the train’s route in Google Maps is just how much of it goes through what are still completely undeveloped parts of the zoo in the southern portion of the grounds. It’s easy to forget just how enormous the zoo is—at 710 acres, it’s seven times the size of the San Diego Zoo. The monorail used to be the only way to see to the bison, which are kept in an enclosure that itself is probably larger than many zoos.

In addition to visiting the Canadian Domain station in person, you can catch a glimpse of the other lost station if you take the Zoomobile ride: look down and to the right as you cross over a bridge after the Americas Zoomobile stop. Pay attention transit fans, this is what the Sheppard subway could look like after sitting unused for a few years.

Oh, and of course, an abandoned monorail isn’t the only thing to see at the zoo; the animals are worth a trip too.

A version of this article appeared on Torontoist.

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