Hay’s Daze: How to fix a dead Monorail

I decide to finally give up when the Better Half says, “Let me see that for a second…”

So last week, I was on about the addictive perils of online commerce and about how the Better Half and I drove more than 400 kilometres to purchase a “like new” Disneyland Monorail Playset for a mere $25.

And about how an experience like that can often bring forth yet another truism: “Sometimes, you get what you pay for.”

Because when we finally got back from our road trip — which was quite pleasant and a great little vacay, thanks for asking — I mentioned that this marvelous iconic train, with its huge oval track and the remote control and the lights and actual Disneyland Monorail announcements as it smoothly glides around the room, didn’t actually glide, smoothly or otherwise.

As soon as we set foot in our door, I carefully unboxed the five red Monorail cars (with opening doors and roofs and see-through tinted windows), 14 track pieces, a couple dozen tall pillars for the track, and eight (count ‘em, eight) miniature Disney characters to ride in the Monorail.

I did, in fact, notice that, as promised, everything was intact and in surprisingly good shape. I was cautiously optimistic at this point.

After much longer than expected, on account of the excitement level, I suspect, I finally got all the track assembled and it formed an impressive oval halfway around the living room.

So far, so good.

Next, the Monorail train itself. All five cars hooked together nicely, forming an exact miniature of the real thing.

For the umpteenth time, I marveled at how the perfectly symmetrical streamlined rail rocket could still look impressively futuristic today, even though it was designed and first built in the 1950s.

With shaking hands and steadfast encouragement from the Better Half, I gingerly lift all five cars and place them on the rail. I switch the front engine on, take a big breath, reach for the remote, and resisting the urge to genuflect, I start to press the Forward button when the Better Half says, “Batteries. Don’t you have to put batteries in it?”

So I’m downstairs in the office digging in my battery box. It seems like the house is literally littered with devices that require batteries, so I have a box of new backup batteries.

Trouble is, there are too many types of batteries in this world, and when any device really needs a battery, I usually happen to have the wrong kind.

So I pull out four AA batteries and four AAA batteries just in case. I can’t resist doing a quick check on one of those box-shaped nine-volt batteries by placing my tongue on the two little battery posts, and I confirm it’s fully charged when the painful volt jolt sends sparks from my teeth and causes me to lose my sense of smell for the rest of the day. (I don’t recommend this method.)

Back upstairs, batteries installed, I ceremoniously press the button and, voila! Nothing. Not a twitch, not a whirr, not a tremor. The amazing Monorail just sits there looking at us.

“Uh, oh…” I say, and immediately pick the engine up and start trouble shooting by shaking it a bit and blowing on the wheels. Still nothing.

For quite some time, I continue “repairing” the little front engine unit by removing and re-installing the batteries and squirting 3-In-1 Oil in various places. Still an actively dead Monorail.

I decide to finally give up when the Better Half says, “Let me see that for a second…”

She wiggles the drive wheel back and forth and it makes a clicking sound and she puts it on the track and says, “Try it now.”

And it’s been merrily gliding loudly at a snail’s pace around our living room ever since. Pure magic.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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