We get around in this day and age...usually by road or air...but travel by rail is not so common in our part of the world. Passenger trains are all but a memory on Canadian tracks...with a few wonderful exceptions. In the city of Vancouver, we happen to have the world's longest automated light rapid transit sytsem...
...known as Sky Train. Built for the Expo 86 World's Fair, it uses motor-driven trains that are similar to those of the JFK AirTrain in New York. For these past twenty-plus years SkyTrain has moved passengers quickly across the region along 49.5 kilometres through 33 stations. One month ago...the new Canada Line rail was completed and now links downtown Vancouver with Richmond...and the Vancouver International Airport...adding an additional 19 kilometers and sixteen more stations.
For those of us who live out in the country...it is a novelty to ride the rails. On Sunday a group of us chose to do just that. We car-pooled to the nearest Sky Train station (about an hours drive)...bought an all day transit fare for nine dollars...and began our adventure on the rails.
We country folk are not always so savvy when it comes to ticketing machines...but the kind man from BC Transit was ever so willing to help out. Soon we were on our way!
We had us a fine time...cruising from Surrey through to the waterfront in Vancouver on mostly elevated rails. It is a most relaxing way to get downtown...no traffic or parking woes! The Waterfront Station was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1910, and was the Pacific terminus for the CPR's transcontinental passenger trains to Montreal and Toronto until circa 1979.
It is a lovely old building...and is now the hub of all transportation in the city. It connects Sky Train, Canada Line, Sea Bus, West Coast Express and many commuter buses. Our all-day pass allowed us to pick and choose any of the above options...but we were here to check out the brand new Canada Line...which has been in operation for only one month.
There was a train leaving every four minutes...and in no time we were on our way to the airport. Where before we were riding high above the city...the Canada Line is mostly underground...18 meters underground at Yaletown.
This was the view in the tunnel...but inside the train it was bright and cheery. The cars are modern...ride smoothly and quietly and have room for luggage and wheelchairs.
Once out of the tunnel...the views were amazing on a warm September afternoon.
Canada Line crosses two bridges...with the highest point on the line being the two sixty-meter towers in the middle of the North Arm Bridge. This bridge is also open to pedestrians and cyclists...we'll leave that for our next adventure.
Twenty-five minutes after departing the waterfront...we arrived at YVR. It looks rather different from this entry point...and would be a most convenient way to travel to the airport when leaving on a flight. As for us...we were just here to explore. Who would ever have thought of the airport as a destination for people who are not airline passengers?
The airport has undergone big expansions in the recent past as well...and features a wonderful new observation deck. We spent some time there...watching planes coming and going...and making use of the telescopes set up there for the convenience of children and adults. It is quite a lovely spot...and couples are actually booking this area for wedding ceremonies.
YVR has always been one of my favorite airports...and there is so much more there now. If you appreciate art...you will find some wonderful pieces at the airport as well. The owl in flight shown in the mosaic...is made from an old growth cedar stump...and arrived at the airport as part of the new Canada Line.
And food...there are lots of options. We chose to visit Milestones and enjoyed a lovely dinner before beginning our return trip.
We rode the rails as the day was ending....
...thoroughly enjoying the sights of the city and the riding experience itself.
And so the sun set on the last Sunday of summer 2009.
Our adventure ended where it began...at King George Station in Surrey. We rode the rails just for fun...and so can you. It's a great way to see the city.