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Video: On Track, a SkyTrain project video from 1983!

At the end of December 2010, I posted the fantastic Going To Town 1985 SkyTrain documentary—well, since then, more classic SkyTrain video has come out of the woodwork!

My colleague Bill Knight, who you may know from the TransLink in film and TV posts, dropped by my office bearing VHS videotapes with even more tantalizing archival SkyTrain footage.

So SkyTrain’s 25th anniversary festivities continue with one of those goodies today: On Track, a video from 1983 highlighting the early development of SkyTrain! Similar to Going To Town, this video showcases the early stages of the project and the building of the early Main Street demonstration test track, which opened in 1982. And like Going to Town, the music is both amazing and epic :)

You’ll note that virtually all of the footage of the train in motion is filmed in Kingston, Ontario, where they were manufactured by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation. As well, just like Going to Town, nobody mentions the word “SkyTrain” at all: that name didn’t show up until 1985, and before that, people just called it the Vancouver Regional Rapid Transit project, or ALRT, Advanced Light Rapid Transit.

Also, here’s one bonus video: it’s b-roll footage of SkyTrain construction and the Vancouver region that was eventually shown in Going To Town! There’s no sound, but there are some amazing aerial shots of the Vancouver region in the 1980s. Enjoy!

Remember, you can check out the entire Transit History category for other posts on SkyTrain’s history and more. Happy 25th, SkyTrain!


  • By Sewing, January 12, 2011 @ 11:52 am


    Before the SkyTrain name was adopted, the system was marketed as “ALRT”: “Advanced Light Rapid Transit.”

    And a super thanks for this old footage! Wow!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 12, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    Sewing: corrected now! I knew I was forgetting something.

  • By Alan, January 12, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    That was really fascinating. I have only been in Canada a year, but was always interested in local history in Wales and have gotten the bug for BC history too, so seeing these old videos, especially of transportation, is brilliant for me, keep it up! It is amazing to see how the city has changed over the years. I see in that video, they show the entrance to the Dunsmuir tunnel, there is a photo of it on this site too, and it is shocking to see the difference then to now, where the tunnel entrance is obscured by Canada place etc.

  • By Erik V, January 12, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    I’ve seen quite a few of these videos now there all awesome. But I am curious if there any out there of the sky bridge and Surrey section getting built? As a Surrey resident I would love to see one for that.

  • By Derek Cheung CMBC, January 12, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

    I always thought the “A” in “ALRT” stood for Automated…

  • By Alan M, January 12, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

    Wow Jhenifer (and Bill)!!

    This video played continuously during the Prebuild test section.

    You’d walk up the same stairs west of Main Street that are there today. That whole area from the escalator to the elevator was an enclosed room. Taking up a good portion of that room was a huge model of Vancouver with little trains running from New West to Waterfront. Around the room were photos, a Control Centre display and this video playing every 15 minutes or so.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 13, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    Alan M: Thanks for letting us know! I was curious as to where this video played exactly.

  • By Alan M, January 12, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    Sorry Mr Cheung,

    All my pamphlets and literature call it “Advanced Light Rapid Transit”. Certainly in the year this video was made it was referred to as such.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 13, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    Erik V: I don’t have any Surrey build videos in my collection at the moment… but that doesn’t mean some won’t eventually pop up somewhere! I will keep an eye out.

  • By Sewing, January 13, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

    Well, I finally found the time to watch On Track, and rewatch Going to Town. I must admit that even after 25+ years, I never thought I’d feel any particular nostalgia or fondness for the Expo Line. Trolleybuses or ferries, sure, but SkyTrain is just a way to get from point A to point B!

    But these movies are great. Up-to-the-date promotional material for a state-of-the-art system when they came out, but what a marvelous historical record now. And at the same time, it’s interesting how well the films have aged, and meshed with more recent history. On the one hand, it’s amazing how much the city has changed just since Expo ’86; but on the other hand, you can catch a glimpse of the more recent growth, especially in some of the models and artist’s drawings, like of the False Creek area.

  • By ;-), January 16, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    If you like old images of Vancouver. Check out this newly posted video. At 1:32, you can see public transit of the day. Was anyone here back then?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 17, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    ;-): That video is great! I’m adding it to the next links & tidbits item :)

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