Home-Built Monorail Carries Him To Shop
Ralph Altenweg rides to his shop in style on his own private monorail. The 82-year-old once spent his winters in Arizona. Now that he stays in Minnesota over winter, he needed a way to get safely through snowdrifts.
“My monorail carriage travels 97 ft. at about 2 1/2 ft. above ground level,” says Altenweg. “I designed it so it will even hold a wheelchair if I ever need one.”
Altenweg’s monorail carriage runs on 1 1/2-in. sprinkler pipe with 2-in. pipe standoff supports attached to the side of a metal shed. Between the shed and the house, the rail is supported by arms attached to a ham radio antenna. Cable attached to the antenna above the arms supports them as they link to the monorail line.
Altenweg used a discarded ice fishing house frame made from 1 1/2-in. wide, 12-ga. Unistrut hangers. It’s covered in see-through vinyl panels and a roof of tin. The only wood is old decking for a floor.
“The Unistrut is welded at the corners,” says Altenweg. “It’s surprising what it’ll hold. I estimate the carriage has about a 400-lb. weight limit.”
The carriage is suspended from two trolleys that ride on the 1 1/2-in. pipe. Each trolley has two V-shaped ball bearing wheels about 2 in. in diameter. The larger trolley also includes a battery-powered drive mechanism with a hard rubber drive wheel. The drive mechanism is a Rigid drill rewired and reconfigured to fit inside a short length of 3-in. pvc sewer pipe. It sits between the drive wheel and the two wheels.
“I turned the drive wheel on a lathe to match the shape of the pipe,” says Altenweg. “The trolley and the drive wheel have enough flex to be able to turn with the curve of the monorail.”
A former electrician, Altenweg explains that rewiring the drill was “a piece of cake”, but then he says, “I’ve learned a few tricks over the years.”
His energy source for the 1/2-in. drill is two 12-volt garden tractor batteries connected in series. They in turn are kept charged by two small solar panels on the roof of the carriage.
“Over the course of the day, the panels produce enough electricity to recharge the batteries,” says Altenweg.
A switch on the control panel can be turned toward the house or to the shop as desired. Altenweg installed a couple of safety overrides. A clutch lever to throw the drive out of gear hasn’t yet been used. Likewise, the emergency shutoff hasn’t been needed. The one safety measure that does get used is a bell, which he installed for his grandchildren.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ralph Altenweg, 14060 S. Diamond Lake Rd., Dayton, Minn. 55327 (ph 612-749-6946)

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5