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Holiday gift ideas for transit fans

In my line of work, I tend to come across things that fans of transit might enjoy. So I thought I’d put together a list of transit gift ideas for the 2009 holiday season, for those with transit fans in their lives!

Some notes: I’ve tried to ensure these suggestions are reasonably affordable. Also, no one on this list has asked me to promote their items. Please feel free to add further gift ideas in the comments – I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I’ve missed (especially for kids).

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.

Design nerds and transit nerds alike will enjoy Mark Ovenden’s 2007 book, which collects all the transit maps from every city with rapid transit.

It might sound dry, but trust me, it’s fascinating. The book vividly shows how each transit system evolved, and spotlights each system’s different map designs over the years. My particular favourite is Berlin – the book shows how the Berlin Wall chopped up the transit lines and cut some stations right out of the network.

Available at Chapters ($18.15) or ($17.24). Or check your local bookstore!

Vancouver historical transit resources: books, DVDs, and more

The cover of Vancouver's Glory Years; the City Reflections DVD; a B.C.E.R. badge from TRAMS, and the B.C.E.R. Then and Now TRAMS DVD.

The cover of historical book Vancouver's Glory Years; the City Reflections DVD; a B.C.E.R. badge from TRAMS, and the B.C.E.R. Then and Now TRAMS DVD.

There are a great many items out there about the history of Vancouver’s transit system—terrific gifts for Vancouver transit fans who enjoy local history.

There’s Vancouver’s Glory Years: Public Transit 1890-1915, a lovely book about the dawn of the streetcar in the Lower Mainland, by local authors Heather Conn and Henry Ewert. Available through Chapters ($29.70) or Whitecap Books ($45).

City Reflections is a DVD from the Vancouver Historical Society, which shows the earliest known film footage of Vancouver, shot by William Harbeck from the front of a streetcar in 1907. The Society filmed the same route in 2007 for comparison, and there’s interviews with film and streetcar historians! Available at the City Reflections website ($19.99).

TRAMS, our local Transit Museum Society, also offers great souvenirs.

For example, there’s B.C.E.R. Then and Now ($25), a TRAMS DVD showing historical streetcars and the development of the Downtown Historic Railway.

The cover of the TransLink history book.

The TransLink history book.

They also have B.C.E.R. personnel badges ($15), Downtown Historic Railway pins ($5), and even Canadian Car-Brill trolley coaches (make an offer)! You do have to prove you can care for the trolleys, though. See the TRAMS site for more info and more souvenirs.

Oh—I should also mention that TransLink has a book about our organization’s history, called The Road Less Travelled. You can read it online in PDF format, or get a hard copy for $15 (the cost of printing). E-mail me if you want more info on that.

Transit souvenirs from other systems: Chicago, New York, Toronto, and more

A Chicago Transit Authority messenger bag; a New York subway umbrella; buttons from the Toronto system; and a model bus from L.A.

A Chicago Transit Authority messenger bag; a New York subway umbrella; buttons from the Toronto system; and a model bus from L.A.

TransLink is working on developing its own online store, but in the meantime, a few other transit systems have merchandise you can buy.

New York and Chicago both have online stores that ship to Canada. I think they might use the same supplier, as they offer many similar pieces! You can get model buses and trains, jewelry made out of old subway tokens, clothing, puzzles, and more. Watch your costs though – Chicago adds $10 and New York $17 for Canadian shipping, plus there’s probably tax involved.

Closer to home, Toronto-based magazine Spacing sells pin-back buttons with designs from all the Toronto subway stations (available in sets only: prices range from $7.50 to $49).

If you’re abroad, you might check out the transit stores in L.A., London (UK), or Hong Kong for more transit gifts. They don’t ship to Canada, but if you happen to be there, you can shop to your heart’s content. (Note, Dec 15, 2010: I’m told the London store does ship to Canada now!)

L.A. has great posters, London’s store has some gorgeous kitchenware and furniture. And Hong Kong has some super unique items like cell phone charms and crystal replicas of their trains.

And as you know, we of course do have a set of TransLink transit buttons too! If you e-mail me your address, I can mail you a set. (Not promising any dates on the deliveries though — I’m the only one picking and packing these things!)

253 by Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman's 253.

Geoff Ryman's 253.

And last, if you know someone who likes experimental fiction and public transit, Geoff Ryman’s book 253 might make a great gift.

253 tells the stories of every passenger aboard a London tube train plus the driver – 253 people in total. Ryman also limits himself to 253-word snippets to tell each story. And the stories do interconnect!

The book was originally written as an Internet fiction experiment, so you can actually read the whole thing online.

It’s available in hard copy too, but mostly in used copies. and Chapters both have secondhand copies listed, and they’re not extravagantly priced ($6.70 and up).

Add your suggestions!

Again, as I’ve mentioned, please feel free to add your own suggestions for good transit gifts too. I’m sure you transit fans have many things on your wishlist that I can’t begin to know about :)


  • By David M, December 14, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

    Great idea. I’ve seen that book in a store in Sidney.

    Speaking of geek – my Windows 7 desktop is cycling through pictures of trains and metros from the around the world – London Underground Tube train one minute, SkyTrain the next, Paris metro, New York Subway. Makes work more fun.

  • By Steve, December 14, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

    Its a shame that Translink doesn’t sell its own goodies like toys, towels etc. There is quite a market for this in London. I used to live near Camden Market and loved the stall that sold designer Oyster Card (train pass) holders – I use my Spider-Man one for my translink pass as it protects it. There seems to be quite the market for card holders (, I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on here.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 14, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Steve: We are currently working on an TransLink online store with transit goodies! But stay tuned for more info as it will launch in the near future.

  • By Steven, December 14, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

    Jhenifer, I have my credit card on standby!

  • By David Lam, December 14, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

    Go to UBC bookstore, I paid $28 for it in October, they should still have some sitting around!

  • By David Lam, December 15, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

    There are some local businesses in Hong Kong that work with the local transit agencies to create diecast replica models of buses – these limited edition bus models have proven to be very popular over the last 10 years, not only drawing attention from transit hobbyists, but also parents who were looking for toys for their kids, tourists, transit operators, investors who often buy in bulks and hope the market price will rise when there’s a shortage in supply, ordinary commuters who want a mini replica of the bus they ride to school and work everyday…….it’s definitely a workable idea! Here are some links to show what I’m talking about!

    Kowloon Motor Bus (HK) official online store:

    And this is the official site of the largest chain store dedicated to transit-related products in Hong Kong – that’s right, they have 8 locations in the city that sell nothing but goodies for bus geeks! :D

    They also accept online orders by customers from overseas!


Other Links to this Post

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for The Buzzer blog » Holiday gift ideas for transit fans [] on — December 14, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  2. The Buzzer blog » Holiday gift ideas for transit fans 2010 — December 14, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » Holiday gift ideas for transit fans 2011 — December 19, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  4. The Buzzer blog » Holiday gift ideas for transit fans 2012 — December 20, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

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