Tuesday, September 22, 2009

easy rider...

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. 


  1. What a fun idea to do this with friends. Your photos are beautiful!!

  2. What a great way to spend the day. Thanks for sharing your day and for all the wonderful photos.

  3. Oh Judy I loved that. I just told HH I would love to live in Canada. I know OBama wants to see a rail line in the US, I would too. It seems like it would solve some problems. We have so many, who knows.

  4. I can't help myself, I love a train....I'd like to travel cross country on one with sleeping cars and dining cars and observatory cars..I was born to late. Lovely post!

  5. What a day, and what a grand idea! You and your friends have the most interesting adventures in your own 'neighbourhood'. I haven't been on the sky train since Expo year but have followed the building of the Canada line with interest.

  6. My sister and I rode the rails from the same starting point this summer. We took 2 16 year olds, her daughter, and a relative from overseas. The purpose was to let the girls 'loose' for periods of 'shopping', while we did likewise, or sat and watched people. We had lunch with our elderly aunt near the beach, then took in the Seabus, Lonsdale Quay, Gas Town and the Spagetti Factory for supper. What a stress free way to see the city! Dairymary

  7. I so enjoy reading your blogs and I have finally decided this am to respond for the first time. Your day trips and adventures on the farm with your kids and grands is so inspiring. My H and I have had the opportunity to try several of your little adventures and have thoroughly enjoyed them. The next trip will have to be to take my H on the Canada Line. It will be his first. We live in Langley and enjoy little vacations to Van. when we can.

  8. You are continually creating a desire within me to move to Canada. I am so fascinated by the amazing attractions you have in your part of the world. This post looks like a special way to spend a day with friends, on a new rail line. I want to thank you for sharing the pictures and the info that you do. I am learning so much. That train station is definitely a place I would love to visit.

  9. Thank you for the nice little local tour! Not something we would ever think of doing, but obviously you see so much more than when you fight your way through traffic in a car.

  10. Thank you for another fun idea! You are so creative when it comes to planning activities with friends or with grandchildren. I've been taking notes : )

  11. Toot Toot, as my little Silas would say. How fun to take this trip and more fun because you were our tour guide...It was a great day. You got some great shots.
    I should of added a few from the paparazzi.

  12. Judy, I must say this again...you and your friends seem to have so much fun on your adventures. I'll bet you had a great time!

  13. I can't wait to do this. . .I love your photos, they are just beautiful. What a great group event.. . .especially for country folks like us.

  14. I'm thinking that train ride would be such a fun "kidnap" adventure to celebrate an event like a birthday or anniversary...with friends getting on at one place and being on board as a surprise.

    One of my life goals is to ride the Trans-Canada Railway. Expensive, but from what I've seen oh so very much worth it.

  15. LRTs are great for getting around, require a lot less roadway and parking. They are the way of the future. Too bad most politicians' minds are stuck in the 1970s when the car with king.

  16. That was a fun adventure! Now you will be an experienced traveler the next time you take the train.

    As a NYC subway rider I know there is no better way to get around the city, but I really prefer an outdoor train ride and an elevated one gives the best views.

    I am curious as to how strict the security is at your airport? No one is allowed into JFK's main terminals without an ID, airline ticket and a strict security check. Long gone are the days of going into the terminal to watch airplanes depart ;-(

  17. Judy - when we left for Europe at the end of August we got a ride to Surrey Central Skytrain station and then took the train all the way to the airport. We arrived at the airport on time and Stress free - no worries about trafffic tie ups. It worked so slick I think we may do it again. I agree the Canada Line is lovely - quiet and very convenient. You did a great job in giving us information and terrific pictures.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson