Radio Control Modifications
***this is legacy information for my original conversion, over 12 years ago. With smaller radios this has become much easier and with better performance.
Best Improvement = Control
Metal Rails - too much work
Radio Control - much easier
Futaba - industry leader, larger, difficult installation
Plantraco - newer 900 MHz system, smaller, easy installation
The best improvement to the monorail is to add some means of controlling it, and radio is the easiest (although not an easy task). The control system used in model railroads, two metal rails, is used on the prototype monorail but on the model this means adding two close-tolerance rails to the entire beamway, a large task. Instead, a commercially available radio control system is used to provide forward and reverse speed control. Futaba, the industry leader in hobby grade RC systems has some small radio equipment that fits in the monorail shell with some cutting and grinding.
Plantraco is newer on the RC market but their 900 MHz system is even smaller and does not require a long antenna. This system fits in the monorail shell with little work but still requires modification to the batteries, motor, and wiring. One very simple scheme would provide forward speed control only and would work with the original motor.
Adding radio control to the original monorail seems simple now but it seemed very difficult 8 years ago when I did the first one. The main modifications were to make space for the receiver (orange box), servo PC board (sitting vertical in the lower left corner) adapting a new motor, and fitting more batteries to raise the voltage from 3 to 4.8 to accomodate the receiver.
Eventually it all fit, with todays smaller radio gear I could do it much faster and cleaner. In any event this was a triumph, the monorail pulled smoothly away from the station, ran under full control, and came to a gentle stop at the next station. Even reverse worked perfectly! Disney's model still doesn't have any of these features so there are only two ways to get this: do it yourself; or order one here! ;)
To encourage do-it-yourselfers I am putting all the information I learned from converting two monorails on this web site. For those that want to do some of the work I may offer services to do some of the trickier parts, like motor installation and wiring.
With radio receiver, servo board, and new motor
More batteries to run the receiver at 4.8 Volts