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Cal Expo monorail offline after electrical mishap during State Fair maintenance run

Monorail Fire at Cal Expo

A fire breaks out on the monorail at the Cal Expo at the California State Fair, Saturday, July 21, 2018.
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A fire breaks out on the monorail at the Cal Expo at the California State Fair, Saturday, July 21, 2018.

The 50-year-old monorail trail at Cal Expo is out of service after an electrical malfunction Saturday during the California State Fair.

No one was injured after the Sacramento Fire Department was called out to the “small electrical fire,” confined to one car in the six-car transport, according to a tweet by the department. Fire crews quickly assisted the car’s only occupant, the train’s operator, off the ride, said Cal Expo spokeswoman Darla Givens.

Video posted to Twitter shows a stalled monorail car emitting sparks and smoke above a food stand. Guests at the fair on the ground can be seen running away.

Givens said the fire started around 1 p.m. after an “electrical brush” – a contact point, typically spring-loaded, that carries the system’s electrical current – caused a spark on the monorail track between buildings No. 1 and 2, near the main entry gate.

The monorail system was in maintenance mode at the time of the incident, with no passengers on board, Givens said.

Givens said the Fire Department was called as a precaution and that the train itself never caught on fire. The monorail will be closed the rest of Saturday, with no estimate on when it will be back up and running, she said. Givens said the spark primarily affected the monorail track, rather than the train car.

The train will stay in its current spot between the buildings until the fair closes at 10 p.m Saturday. It will then be towed away and closely inspected at a maintenance barn.

Givens said rides at the State Fair are inspected by an independent, third-party company.

“Where it’s sitting is where it’s sitting until we can get it moving,” said Barry Schaible, a certified amusement ride inspector with Coulter Associates. “We have a tug that moves the train to evacuate. It takes time to bring it here.”

In 2013, 38 passengers were stranded on the popular “people mover” during the State Fair and the monorail was shut down for service for two days because of a power failure. A spokesman for Cal/OSHA said at the time the cause of the power failure appeared to have been a loose wire, which was hit by the train, causing a spark that tripped the circuit and stopped the car.

The ride underwent a $1 million renovation in 2011, according to State Fair officials at the time.

The monorail is nearly one of a kind, one of two operating permanent monorail systems in California – the other is at Disneyland, upon which the Sacramento monorail was modeled.

Built in 1967, Cal Expo’s monorail is also one of the last Type 2 Universal Mobility Inc. trains on the West Coast.

The Bee’s Daniel Kim contributed to this report.
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