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Flashback to 1986: Join the SkyTrain team!

A photo from the 1986 'Join the SkyTrain team' brochure!

A photo from the 1986 'Join the SkyTrain team' brochure!

A colleague at TransLink has shared some fantastic old SkyTrain brochures with me, so I’ve scanned them to share with you over the next little while—yay!

Download this first brochure in PDF form: it’s called Join the SkyTrain team!

If you can imagine, back in 1986, nobody was really familiar with how to ride SkyTrain: so “Join the SkyTrain team” was produced to show everyone how to ride the train. You’ll be familiar with most of the instructions, but man, just check out those awesome SkyTrain attendant outfits!

Everyone's hair is also amazing!

Everyone's hair is amazing in the 80s!


  • By Tim Choi, March 22, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    Whoa, are there any pics of the button that people had to press to open the doors back then?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 22, 2010 @ 9:46 am

    Not in my archives! Does anyone else have a photo of the button?

  • By lala, March 22, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    the button is still om the doors of all the Mark I cars

  • By Tim Choi, March 22, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    Where is it exactly? Is it plated over now?

  • By zack, March 22, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Where exactly is the button? And is it the same as the one used in Edmonton’s LRT system?

  • By Brandon (CMBC), March 22, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    When SkyTrain first came out, these buttons were used to open the doors on request when the train was at a station, just like Tim said. They were on the inside and outside of the car. If nobody wanted on or off a certain car, the doors would just stay closed. I guess they took them out as the system got busier and required full automation of the doors.

  • By David M, March 22, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    That’s the first I’ve heard of pushing a button to open the doors – that’s must not have lasted too long. It’s still used in Edmonton and Calgary, but makes sense give it is either really cold outside or really hot.

    I love the way the little girl is not standing behind the yellow line – in fact, she is standing too close to the platform edge.

  • By Tim Choi, March 22, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    Ah ha, I found them! The external button is that little off-white translucent thing on the door at around chest level – the plate’s around 1.5″x4″, with the button in the center still depressable!

    The internal buttons have been removed, but I think they are what are now metal plates fastened on the 4 poles that are closest the doors. No other poles in the train cars have those metal plates, so I’m guessing they cover up the button mechanism that got removed. It is interesting to note that the buttons are also there on the second batch of Mk.1 cars that were ordered for the Skytrain expansion in the early 90s.

  • By ;-), March 22, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    If all the doors opened at once. It meant the trains could stay on schedule better. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all pedestrians cross at once so the bus could turn. But no there is always a pedestrian who likes to cross at the last moment. The same applied to when the doors opened.

    Also I remember the buttons got unreliable very easily.

  • By Tim Choi, March 22, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

    And actually, upon looking closer at the “While you’re on SkyTrain” pic in the brochure, you can see a grey bulge on the pole closest to the camera at the very bottom right of the picture. That looks like the button mechanism!

  • By ;-), March 22, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    Yep. It’s not much different than the request stop button on today’s buses. Only they were white.

  • By Paul, March 22, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    @Tim Choi

    You are correct. That was one of the buttons on the inside. There was of course 2 per door one on either pole on either side of the door.

    You can still see where the internal buttons were today. There is a metal plate covering a hole at that exact spot.

    Could you imagine having to push a button today. LOL.

  • By Reva, March 22, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    That brochure is awesome. I like how on the map there is no Columbia Station even though they’ve marked the future Scott Road Station. (I remember once when the Skybridge was still under construction and the trains were terminating at Columbia, I was waiting for a train at Main Station and this drunk dude points at the destination sign above us reading “4-car train to Columbia”, and he asks me, “Does this train go to South America?!”)

    Also, does anyone else remember way back then certain confused SkyTrain passengers pressing the yellow emergency strip when they wanted to get off the train at the next station because they thought it was like ringing the bell on the bus? Good times. :)

  • By Derek Cheung CMBC, March 22, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    The interior door buttons would illuminate when pressed.

  • By Frederick, March 22, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    Actually, if I remember correctly (and I was told this a loooooong time ago during a trip to the control centre, like 1996), the buttons were put in as a test during the early ’90s.
    I can’t recall the reason why the buttons were put in place, but I know they didn’t last too long as passengers were easily frustrated by them. Many weren’t used to the fact that now the trains had these buttons you had to press to open the doors and others were stuck in the trains because they couldn’t reach the button in time, seeing as the buttons only opened the door they were located at.

  • By ;-), March 22, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    Check out this video where you can see the switches in the background and what options are available to you when the doors don’t work….

  • By skytrainboy22, March 22, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    The buttons on the Mark Is are still there. When i pressed it, it doesn’t do anything.

  • By Kenny, March 22, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    The brochure tells you not to ask strangers if you didn’t know how to get somewhere…

  • By -.-, March 22, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

    Not related, but another video from youtube:

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 23, 2010 @ 9:32 am

    Frederick et al:

    I asked SkyTrain to confirm when the door buttons were in the Mark I cars, and it seems they were part of the original set of cars, and not installed during the 1990s.

    Yes, originally there were buttons for the doors both inside and out. The doors would open only at a station only if a button was pressed. Caused a lot of passenger confusion, especially with visitors and new users. Also provided additional locations for maintenance and possible failure. Once the doors were open, then would stay open (i.e., they didn’t close automatically after a few seconds, as on some systems), so in many cases, especially in the case of an extended service delay, it didn’t really help keep the train much warmer. So eventually the buttons were removed, and not included in subsequent vehicle orders.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 23, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    PS: Just curious — does anyone have any actual photos of the button, besides the tiny glimpse in the first photo on this post?

  • By andrew, March 23, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

    whoa, i almost forgot the ticketing machines looked like that
    i was always amazed by the lights and sounds it made when i was young

  • By Frank, March 23, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

    Ahh, the buttons! I remember those. And the ugly carpeting too. Always got really gross, really quick.
    SkyTrain was fun back then.

  • By Reva, March 24, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

    @ Frank: Yeah, the carpeting! I’d totally forgotten about that. I think by the first year the carpet consisted of at least 50% chewing gum.

  • By Frank, March 24, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

    @ Reva: Yup, wasn’t it charming? Even when SkyTrain was a puppy, we all were wondering why the heck they did that to public transit.
    Remember when the trains ran in twos?

  • By Reva, March 24, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

    LOL… Remember when the platform signs would state the length of the approaching train? “2-CAR TRAIN TO: NEW WESTMINSTER”… I can’t imagine any time of day that a 2-car train on the Expo line would be sufficient today!

  • By Eric, March 25, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    Cool! Looking forward to the other brochures in the series.

    Interesting that the “walk left, stand right” direction on escalators is not there, unless that was instituted later. Which leads me to ask: Will those signs be posted on escalators at Millennium and Canada Line stations?

    @Reva: I can still remember two-car trains operating as late as 1991. Good luck running those again, even late at night!

  • By Ric, March 25, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

    When were the carpets removed from the classic Mark 1 trains and replaced with the vinyl flooring seen on them now? When I first started riding skytrain back in 1995, the Mark 1 trains already had the vinyl flooring.

    Reva, Eric, two car trains are still in use. I saw two of them at the main street science world station during the olympics. However, there are only 2 of them on the system and they are Mark 11 trains.

  • By Frank, March 26, 2010 @ 12:03 am

    The carpets went out when SkyTrain opened to Scott Road in 1990… they couldn’t survive any further.. too impractical and filthy… and weren’t being installed on the second batch of Mark I trains..

    Also, Mark 1 trains running in single pairs I think still existed up until SkyTrain went to King George, then they were only running late at night.. on weekends. Now the only time they occur is if train sets have to be broken up for repair.

  • By Paul, March 26, 2010 @ 1:20 am


    I saw the same 2 car Mark II trains running during the olympics. Once near Broadway, the other time as it crossed over Clark.

    I’m guessing they were using those 2 car trains between Waterfront and Broadway.

  • By Andrew S, March 26, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    Where does the act of linking together the trainsets happen? In the yard or somewhere in the middle of the system?

  • By Dave 2, March 26, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    A friend of mine swears he saw a 2 car MK-I train during the Olympics…. could be, I’m sure I saw many more than six 6 car trains go by while lining up for the Sask Pavillion… more than the six that are supposedly in service now.

    Jhenifer, good luck finding a photo of the old door switches; back in the olden days of film cameras we were much more choosy of the things we took pictures of. I googled the Detroit People Mover in hopes of finding some, but it looks like their MK-1 cars never had them. I pass this photo along anyway.

  • By Dave 2, March 26, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    more re the Detroit People Mover: zoom in on the trains, as the line snakes through below the skyscrapers the cars have advertising on the roofs. Many videos on YouTube as well…,-123.001595&sspn=0.007897,0.01929&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Detroit,+Wayne,+Michigan,+United+States&ll=42.332884,-83.046641&spn=0.008946,0.01929&t=k&z=16

  • By Frank, March 26, 2010 @ 8:58 pm


    Train yard.

    @ Ric — the two car mark ones look really cool on their own.. ah, alas.. long ago was the day when skytrain was a really quiet simple system.

    Someone needs to create a SkyTrain historical website.. with the old 1983 test train, construction pictures in the 80s, audio samples of the old voice.. Karen I think her name was. So few Vancouverites were raised here or lived here during the infancy of the old SkyTrain.. and its odd to see all the changes over the years for us.. where as most people here don’t know about the goodies like door buttons, wool carpets, two car trains and sunday hours…

    hint hint!

  • By Don, March 26, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

    Wooaah! Flashbacks dudes! Rugs..? I remember those.
    What about the orange seabus?

  • By Eric, March 26, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

    @Ric: Reva and I were referring to a trainset of two Mark I cars, which, if Frank is right, could have run late nights into the mid-1990s, after SkyTrain extended to King George.

    Now that you bring it up, I haven’t seen a two-car Mark II train in a while…

  • By Dave 2, March 26, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

    @Eric, thankfully the 2 car MK-II trains seem to be a thing of the past, other than the Broadway short turns…. They were real sardine cans on the AM westbound M line trains.

  • By Dave 2, March 26, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    @Don Orange Seabus

  • By Frank, March 26, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

    Does anyone remember doing the demonstration train in 83?

  • By Dave 2, March 26, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

    @Frank, somewhere I have the souvenir ticket…. I do have this

  • By ;-), March 26, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    I do…. the tracks were worn down so much that when operation started in 1986….the trains actually ran smoother and quieter. To get the same effect throughout the line, the entire Expo line had track grinders working through the night. Track noise barriers were added later to further reduce noise to nearby residents.

  • By Frank, March 27, 2010 @ 7:48 am

    I still insist on a SkyTrain historical website for us 80s people.
    Google SkyTrain up and there is literally nothing from the early years in terms of photographs.. no 2 cars, no red seats, nothing… not even what Vancouver looked like when they were building it..

    I have a dream!

  • By zack, March 27, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

    Thank god I no longer see those 2 car Mark IIs. The 2 car Mark IIs used to be as full as a can of sardines.

  • By ;-), March 27, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

    It’s unclear to me how Translink assigns Skytrain service levels. Do they just count the riders that pass their Edmonds location?

    As mentioned another thread… Perhaps we can short-turn high capacity trains at Broadway or Metrotown. That’s where service usually jam up with the mall and/or Millenium line. Ridership thins out East of Metrotown and can be serviced by shorter trains.

  • By Reva, March 28, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    @ Frank: A SkyTrain historical website would be AWESOME. Heck, a Vancouver transit system historical website would be awesome. I have a large list of favourite sites I regularly comb for “new” old photos and other tidbits… would be great to have it all in one place! And yeah, there are very few photos out there to be found of SkyTrain in its infancy, I wonder why that is?

  • By Meraki, March 28, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

    To add to ;-)’s comment on high capacity trains short-turning, it always seems like a waste to have coupled pairs of Mark II trains running on the Millennium line, the line never seems to need that much capacity on a single train.

    It’d be neat to see 4-car Mark II/6-car Mark I trains running the Expo line and 2-car Mark II running the Millennium line, it also IMO would fit ridership better.

  • By Frank, March 28, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    They need the two car mark I trains at night. They are perfect. Quaint, small, they fit the midnight ridership beautifully, and it would put less stress on the coupled 4 car pairs..

    When SkyTrain was built, we had no one living here.. I kind of miss it the way it was.

  • By Paul, March 29, 2010 @ 12:32 am


    The problem with your idea is that the trains that run on the Millennium line also run on the Expo Line in the interlined section.

    So people are down at Granville in the afternoon rush hour waiting for the next train and suddenly this 2 car MK II shows up because it just happens to headed to VCC-Clark.

    Meanwhile most of the people one the platform can’t get on this train. Even though most of them might only be heading to Broadway or Metrotown.

  • By Dave 2, March 29, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    Also, the 2 car MK-II’s on the M line were insanely crowded during the peaks; leading to passups.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 29, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    I’m with you on an archive. Give me time :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 29, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    I’ve just realized the door buttons are clearly visible in photos inside the SkyTrain Flight Plan leaflet!

  • By frank, March 31, 2010 @ 9:55 am

    thank you jhenifer!

  • By Frederick, April 1, 2010 @ 8:22 am

    Hi Jhenifer, thank you for clarifying!

  • By Ric, April 7, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    When were the red seats removed from the the mark 1 trains?

    Why were they removed?

  • By Ric, April 7, 2010 @ 8:14 am

    One more thing: How many more years can the original mark 1 trains last?

  • By Frank, April 7, 2010 @ 11:34 pm


    The red seats were removed in the late 1990s, early 2000s.. due to an over amount of vandalism. They had to be replaced twice as often as the blue seats because people could take things like black markers and have a fun time doodling on the seats..

    I asked someone who worked for SkyTrain and they intend on running the Mark I trains for at least 30 more years.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 13, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

    The answer’s been a long time coming, but I’m told the carpet was pulled out in 1992!

  • By Don, April 16, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    Is there an answer as to what happened to the original test trains? We don’t see them on the guideway at all.. nor are they at edmons. Were they destroyed?

  • By ;-), April 16, 2010 @ 11:00 am

    Look for Mk1 trains 001 and 002. I believe they were the test trains.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 21, 2010 @ 11:38 am

    Long time coming for this answer too, but here it is.

    Built in Kingston in 1982, they were named PV1/PV2 (as in pre-production vehicles 1 and 2). When they arrived in 1983 to run the prebuild service from Main St. along terminal Avenue, they were renamed BC1/BC2 in honour of British Columbia.

    At the conclusion of the spring/summer demo, they returned to Kingston. Some serious consideration was given to making them production vehicles for the 1986 opening of the Expo line, but there were too many limitations to be practical. Two examples: The hydraulic brakes were non-standard from a company called Abex (NYAB brakes were used on the production fleet). The truck frames were designed with hollow axles, which did not have sufficient fatigue life for production in the event.

    So they stayed in Kingston and over the years were used at the Test Track there in a variety of testbed roles. Finally they were siamesed
    together to make a prototype MK II car length for testing MK II trucks and propulsion. This hybrid is still used at the Ontario Test Track.

  • By Arnold McKay, April 21, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    What happened to the paint job on the front of the old Mark I trains? Around the lights and the front step used to be white, and then it was painted over in red… like the rest of the front of the trains.. what happened?

  • By Carl, April 21, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    When did SkyTrain STOP using two-car mark I trains for revenue service?

  • By Ric, April 21, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

    Are Mark 1 trains still in production?

    How many more years can the original mark 1 trains last? I wish that they will stay in service forever as classics must stay.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 22, 2010 @ 5:33 pm


    It seems that 1988 was when we stopped using 2-car Mark I trains. For a history of Skytrain lengths, see this comment in an earlier post.

  • By Arnold, April 24, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    what about the skytrain paint job… the old trains no longer have their happy faces.. :(

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 26, 2010 @ 2:45 pm


    Here is the answer from SkyTrain.

    No, Mark I trains are no longer in production.
    The very last MK I was Train 156, produced at the Kingston factory in 1995.

    According to SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey, we could get 10 to 15 more years out of the original Mark I trains but they would require an extensive overhaul to extend their life – which would cost less than replacing them with new vehicles.

    That decision will of course have to be made in the next couple of years.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 26, 2010 @ 2:53 pm


    Here at last is the answer from SkyTrain to your question, as well!

    The original UTDC paint job was white around the lights and under the door, with the rest red.

    When we repainted the cars, time was of the essence – it was painted in 1 colour rather than 2. Also, it was also more economical and it didn’t change the overall appearance.

  • By Ellie, April 26, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    Sorry to contribute to the interesting geekiness on here… but when did Main Street Station add the Science World part to its name? Are the rest of the stations on the old line going to get a signage upgrade like you see at Waterfront, Broadway.. and I think.. umm, Columbia?

    Also.. whatever happened to the idea of Woodlands Station? I am kind of curious, I stumbled upon it being proposed as a future station on some of the old maps…

  • By Anonymous, April 26, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    Jhen, if it will cost less to overhaul the mark 1 trains than replace them with new ones, why don’t they just overhaul them?

  • By Ric, April 26, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

    Jhen, the previous comment was posted by me. Sorry that I forgot to put in my name.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 26, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    Ric: it all comes down to money. We may know how much it costs, but if we don’t have the money to cover it, we can’t actually do the work!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 27, 2010 @ 2:31 pm


    Main Street Station was renamed to Main Street-Science World in 1990 — here’s the Sept 21, 1990 Buzzer announcing the name change.

    The new wayfinding signage at the downtown Vancouver stations and some of the Richmond stations is eventually planned for the whole system. However, getting this done requires funding, and we are a bit stretched at the moment!

  • By Anonymous, April 27, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

    and woodlands station? I think its still an idea.. right?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 28, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    Woodlands Station was a proposed Millennium Line Station, but didn’t get built because an adjoining development never came to fruition.

    I guess theoretically we could put it in for the future, but I haven’t heard any rumblings at all about that happening!

    You can find a bit more information about Woodlands in this blog post at WhattheHelvetica as well.

  • By Anonymous, April 28, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

    Man, I love those attendant outfits. I remember them. When were they changed? They are so.. actually, quite classy. SkyTrain in its early years looked so professional.

  • By Jack Lewis, April 30, 2010 @ 8:36 am

    Someone needs to overhaul SkyTrain’s official website… the gallery doesn’t work, nor does half of the rest of the website.. its not very functional at all.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 19, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    Anonymous: I seem to recall seeing a 1990 Buzzer saying that the SkyTrain outfits have changed. You may want to check our Buzzer PDF archive to research it out a bit more.

  • By Roland Jones, October 10, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    Gotta love the hair back then! Hard to believe its been almost a full quarter century since Expo, and SkyTrain is actually still running. Those computers have to be pretty vintage by now eh?

  • By Bert, March 26, 2011 @ 12:01 am


    When was the seating arrangement in the old trains reconfigured? If you look at photos of the trains around Expo, there seems to be more seats and less handle bars/ceiling railings in the trains than there are now.. why was this done, and when?

  • By ;-), March 26, 2011 @ 6:15 am

    It’s been discussed a few times now….

    Seating arrangements on the original trains never changed. Seating arrangements have evolved on the newer trains. Handle bars were double near the doors to allow for more standing in 1.5. Bench seats were replaced by doubles for more privacy in Mark 2. Mark 2.5 has more single seats to bring back more capacity for standee’s. Canada Line trains are designed wider for more standee’s.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 26, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    I hope that if they buy more cars for the Canada Line, then they will make them all have no seats. I’m under the impression that they will buy middle cars, to make 3 car trains. Since those cars will probably be smaller, they might as well not have any seats except near the accordions. Also, once the Canada Line is filled to capacity, then that will be it for the Canada Line. They might as well “jam” as many people in as possible.

    I hope that they will do likewise for any middle cars on the other lines.

  • By ;-), March 26, 2011 @ 8:30 am

    I prefer what they did on Expo line… More trains at higher frequency. The Richmond segment is brutal after 6pm when every second train detours to the airport.

  • By Bert, March 27, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

    Re: ;-)

    No, they have changed. On the left hand side of the ends of each train, there used to be double seating on both sides and no upper handle bar. They removed seats and added handle bars at the top.

  • By ;-), March 27, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    Ooops, OK I see what you’re referring to with the picture at top.

  • By Morris, May 5, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    The Canada Line station announcement system should be better done! It gives NO transfer information when it terminates at Waterfront Station, 41st Ave and 49th Ave Stations are missing the “Avenue” part, there is no chime before the station is announced… people seem to tune in more carefully when a chime is there.. or they miss their stop, I’ve heard this a few times from fellow passengers… and the voice is a tad too cheery… not calm, it sounds like she’s in a rush.

    Please, whoever is in charge, have the announcements either re-done or fine tuned…

  • By Andy, April 24, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    Hey any idea if those souvenir tickets they gave out pre expo are worth anything??

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Another SkyTrain flashback: the SkyTrain Flight Plan from 1986 — March 29, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  2. The Buzzer blog » SkyTrain turns 25 years old on December 11, 2010! — December 10, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  3. The Buzzer blog » SkyTrain 25th anniversary interview on CBC — December 16, 2010 @ 11:52 am

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