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Translink Buzzer Blog

Podcast: the story of the SkyTrain chime

The Buzzer blog podcast is back!

This time, I’ve got the story behind the SkyTrain chime for you to hear. Ian Graham, operations planner for SkyTrain, talks all about how the chime was recorded, why we ended up with that particular sound, and who in the world actually played the chime.

Ian Graham, operations planner for SkyTrain

Ian Graham, operations planner for SkyTrain

 

To listen to the podcast, press play on the player above, or download the mp3 here. You can also subscribe to our podcast via RSS, so this audio file will download straight into iTunes or your RSS reader, and you’ll get all the future Buzzer podcasts by refreshing your subscription.

(And seriously, would you have guessed the SkyTrain chime was recorded at the same studio where Bryan Adams and AC/DC laid down albums?)

You can also listen to our previous podcasts:

Keep watching the blog for more podcasts! And if you have suggestions for something you’d like to hear, please feel free to let me know!


44 Comments

  • By ben K, December 1, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

    Fascinating. The types of stories you have been running on this blog lately are exactly the sort of thing I love to read about. Keep it up!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 1, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

    Thanks so much Ben!

  • By Derek Cheung, December 1, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

    And I’m told the Canada Line will have the same chime before the doors close.

  • By Vincent G, December 2, 2008 @ 8:37 am

    Great clip Jhenifer, very fun and informative, GOOD JOB.

  • By Dan, December 2, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

    Is Laureen Regan going to do the voice for the Canada Line announcements as well?

  • By Dan, December 2, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

    What about the two-note descending tone that announces the name of the line and the terminus station?

  • By Richard, December 3, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    I also enjoyed this story. I find it interesting that on the Mark 2 skytrain cars the chime for the next station announcement is not there. Also, the 2 note tone before the announcement of the train destination is also not on the Mark 2 skytrains.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 3, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

    @Dan: I’ll get back to you on whether Laureen’s voice will be used on Canada Line, but for now, Ian gave me this answer about the two-note chime:

    “No, I didn’t do the two-note destination chime. Destination announcements were added in conjunction with the Millennium Line extension, in order to advise/warn passengers of the train’s ultimate destination eastbound beyond Columbia. The tones were provided by Interalia Inc., the Calgary-based communications company that supplied the digital announcement equipment on the trains. The tones are deliberately different from the “next station” and door close chimes.”

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 3, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

    @Derek:
    I spoke to Alan Dever, Canada Line’s VP of Government and Community Relations today. He’s asked around about the Canada Line chime and the answer we currently have is this: the chime sequence timing will be the same, but it will have a slightly different tone.

    What does “a slightly different tone” mean? Your guess is as good as ours – we don’t know if it was going to be rerecorded with the exact same notes or anything.

    But rest assured, I’ll keep an eye on this item as it develops!

  • By Shawn, January 25, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    Calgary and Edmonton LRT also have the same “Ding-Dong” 2 note chyme provided by interalia “trouncer” as well Calagry has a Female anouncer while Edmonton has a Male anouncer for station names.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 26, 2009 @ 8:51 am

    Hey Shawn,

    Thanks for that. Btw, does Edmonton really have a male announcer? From riding the LRT there I seem to recall it had a female voice.

  • By Shawn, January 27, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

    The Anouncer in the stations is still female but inside the trains themselves they changed it to a male anouncer 2 years back with the the new ding-dong sound. The old ding dong chime sounded like a xylophone rather than soft tone like in vancouver and calgary.

  • By Dave, July 20, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    Very neat blog; who ever came up with the idea of a Translink blog is one smart puppy! Anyways, I live in Victoria but had a hinkering of hearing the Skytrain chime. Google fired me here, and this little entry gave me more then I could have hopped for!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 21, 2009 @ 9:30 am

    Glad you enjoyed it, Dave!

  • By Murray, August 19, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    What isn’t on the interenet these days?!

    My name is Murray Price, I was the engineer at Little Mountain Sound on the “Chime” session. Ian seems to forget that I also played some of the chimes sounds during the session. I remember there were a lot ideas we both laid done.

    The final sequence of tones that were chosen are based on the opening three notes of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”. I remember this because that was the sound the rubber wheels on the Montreal Metro trains would make as they left the station.

    I visited Montreal a lot during the 80s and as a composer that sound used to drive me crazy before I figured out what piece of music it was from. After that I always associated Fanfare for the Common Man with subway trains, very haunting.

    I’m sure Ian didn’t realize at the time that that was a direction I was pushing him in, I doubt it would have been included it if he understood the context, but I was pleased in the end that it was the one that resonated with Skytrain. (To be accurate Copland uses a perfect 4th in his opening, Skytrain is a perfect 5th, but framed the same as “Fanfare”)

    The synth that was used was my Yamaha DX7, which I still have.

    So there you have it! A little bit of trivia for anyone who cares.
    I love how the intenet self-corrects itself!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, August 19, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    Murray, that’s awesome! Thank you for sharing those tidbits. Gonna have to go dig up that Aaron Copland song.

  • By Ric, November 3, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

    Does the canada line and the 99 B line use the same chime?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 4, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    Yup!

  • By Bryan, November 25, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    Is there an mp3 of the chime? I’d love it as a tone on my phone!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 15, 2010 @ 10:12 am

    You can extract the chime out of the podcast file.

  • By skytrainboy22, February 18, 2010 @ 7:11 am

    I have a video of a skytrain chime on youtube. :) The video at the beginning will look familiar on the new Grey Mark IIs.

  • By skytrainboy22, February 22, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufwxCgRZXFw

    this is the link to my “Skytrain Chime” video on youtube.

  • By skytrainboy22, March 2, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    Jhenifer, is there a mp3 download for the “The next station ding”?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 3, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

    Sadly, no! You could always take a voice recorder on the SkyTrain during a quiet day though.

  • By skytrainboy22, March 21, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    The skytrain chime should be on the Seabuses too, to give people a good signal that doors are about to close. But it should be loud enough for people that are in the terminals to hear. I was thinking that there’s should be speakers on the Seabuses for the chime purposes.

  • By Ric, March 24, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    Why doesn’t the canada line sound the door chime before the train takes off? This is what the expo and millennium line trains do before it takes off.

  • By Paul, March 25, 2010 @ 1:36 am

    I thought there was a door chime on the Canada Line. It might be in a different tone though.

    If there isn’t a door chime on the Canada line. Just remember it is run by a different company. So they would do things differently.

  • By Burt S, June 8, 2010 @ 3:24 am

    Hey Jhen,
    thanks for the great post and getting the chime DL from Ian :)
    Id like to inquire a couple things

    Is the current voice the same as the original 1985 voice

    Also i remember in the early 90s that they removed the next station chime and changed the voice-over to a male voice, then back to the female voice….clarification please.

    Also i noticed that the destination announcement (Millenium line train to….) has a chime on the MK Is but not on the MK IIs, whats the reason for this.

    thanks

  • By Burt S, June 8, 2010 @ 3:26 am

    I do remember the male voice-over was shortened phrased as well
    Next station, Columbia

    rather than
    The next station is…. Columbia

    he sounded cold and very robotic

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 11, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    Burt: I have passed your question along for an answer. Stay tuned: it might be a little bit before it comes back to me!

  • By Eddie, June 20, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

    “The train was about to depart and we were building excitement.”

    I like that.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, September 13, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    Burt S: Well, I’ve got answers for part of your question. The current voice is not the original 1985 voice — the original SkyTrain voice was done by Karen Kelm, an employee at SkyTrain.

  • By Burt S, September 21, 2010 @ 2:01 am

    Jhen thanks for your reply :)

    also, why are there doors on the Mark I train-front/rears (trains #1-114) but trains numbered 120s-130s have larger windows with no doors, then trains 140-150s have the doors again?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, September 28, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    Burt S: Here’s the answer from SkyTrain—it’s actually really neat!

    The 500/600 cars (with no end doors, numbered 121-136) were originally in manufacture for San Siro, Milan, for a special line to the Stadium for the World Soccer Competition in 1990. When the order was cancelled on short notice, Skytrain had an opportunity to take the order ‘as is’.

    For the last order of 700/800 cars (with end doors, numbered 137-156), this was a SkyTrain order from the very beginning, hence the reversion to the original end door scheme for crew movement between cars).

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, October 18, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

    Burt S: I’m still tracking down the info on the male voice—I seem to recall someone telling me about this once. However, with regard to the chime, it should be consistent for the MkI and the MK II vehicles. My contact at SkyTrain has asked Engineering to look into this and make sure they are the same.

  • By Allison Graham, November 9, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    Wow, this is cool!! Ian is my dad, and he never, ever, EVER told us (including my mom!) that he was part of the making of the chime, let alone record it. This is especially interesting in light of the fact that my friends and I (including my little brother) used to “play Skytrain” when we were kids on a gazebo swing; chime sound, the train start-up/slow-down noise and all!

    I know that Ian did some of the train announcements just after the Millennium line went in, because he was recording them at home, but I think they were mostly related to “This train is bound for XYZ terminus”.

    Very cool! :D

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 10, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    Allison: that’s so funny! Give your dad a hard time about it :) He’s got so many stories about the SkyTrain that maybe that one just slipped by. And very cool to know he did some of the train announcements after the Millennium Line went in!

  • By Burt S, November 12, 2010 @ 1:30 am

    thanks for the terrific answers Jhen
    those MK1 doors/no doors was really perplexing me for many year, really is a cool story of how they came to be!

    Is there anyway SkyTrain can share mp3 soundfiles of the original announcements by Karen Kelm?

    Also, Im pretty sure that the station announcement for Main Street was Main Street Expo 86 (during the fair of course) or am I imagining? lol

  • By Erik G., February 16, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

    @Murray

    “The final sequence of tones that were chosen are based on the opening three notes of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”. I remember this because that was the sound the rubber wheels on the Montreal Metro trains would make as they left the station. ”

    Slight correction, it is probably the electric motor that is making those noises. The switch from DC to AC traction motors has also introduced this sound to New York City, although riders there claim the newer cars make a tune from “West Side Story”

  • By frank, July 8, 2011 @ 6:13 am

    I just miss skytrain chime so much, as I am now back in Shanghai.

  • By Jesus Rodriguez, January 14, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

    Hi Jhenifer!

    My name is Jesus and I’m from Mexico. just to say that is unbelievable what a simple sound like the this chime, bring such memories, transport to a specific site or moment. I was in Vancouver back in 2012 and -of course- used the Skytrain, I found this website by mistake and that simple chime brought me memories and feelings of there. Is there a way Translink could share the actual chimes and announces of the stations? Or maybe not Translink but someone who lives there?. Thanks a bunch!

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » I Love Transit Week 2010: what’s your favourite transit chime? — July 12, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » SkyTrain 25th anniversary interview on CBC — December 16, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » TransLink 101: welcome to our February special post series! — February 28, 2013 @ 10:59 am

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