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Fun poll results: 59% first rode the SkyTrain when they were kids

In a fit of SkyTrain nostalgia, last week I asked about your first ride experience on SkyTrain.

And after 309 votes (one of the highest vote numbers we’ve had in a long time!), 59% said they first rode the SkyTrain when they were kids!

The next most popular answer was “as an adult,” which claimed 22% of the vote, followed by “as a teenager” with 18%. Just 1% said they had never been on SkyTrain before (if not, you should! it’s a lot of fun!).

Everyone had such charming stories in the comments, too—stories of kids riding public transit always warm my heart, at least! Here’s Reva:

In the spring of 1986, before Expo was officially opened, our Grade 6 teacher took our class on a field trip to Expo Centre, and thought we should check out the new SkyTrain on the way. We walked all the way from our school to Nanaimo Station, then rode the train down to Main Street Station.

Our class had a whole car to ourselves (lucky for the general public!). I remember being fascinated by the sound of the motor and the door chimes, and being amazed that there was no driver.

I also remember our poor teacher frantically running around the train trying to prevent 25 11-year-olds from pushing all the cool door handle and emergency buttons!

And Tim Choi:

When I was 5 years old, I was still living in Hong Kong. In preparation for immigration to Canada the year after, my parents and I visited Vancouver for a few days (weeks??). That was when I first encountered “train-that-hangs-in-sky”, as the literal translation of SkyTrain is termed in Cantonese. Upon my return to Hong Kong and kindergarten, one of our activities was to name a mode of transportation. As you can imagine, my teacher was not much amused by my answer of “train that hangs in sky” – “Such does not exist!” she exclaimed.

Oh, and Ed!

My first SkyTrain ride was in the early 2000s, when I was around 9 years old. Me and my mom would always go out to New Westminster (we reside in Richmond), and it was quite a long trip! This was back when there was no 98 B-Line, so we had to take one of the Richmond buses that went to Burrard Station.

From there, we would take the SkyTrain to New Westminster, where we would visit the River Market. I have fond memories of a particular shop, where I would get my favourite dessert: ice cream with M&Ms! I also recall a bookstore nearby, where I did buy a few kid’s books.

All in all, it was good fun, and I think the trips really opened me up to public transit. You just never know what will happen the next time you step on a bus, train, or seabus. And that is why, it may sound silly to some, but one of to-dos on my list is to personally travel every TransLink bus route. Still a way to go, but there will definitely be no problem getting motivated for that. :)

(Best of luck with your quest, Ed — keep me posted if you manage to ride all of the routes!)

There were many more stories like this, and I wish I could showcase everyone’s in this post, but instead I will simply urge you to visit the comments of the previous post and enjoy yourself :)

Thanks to everyone who participated — this was a lovely trip down memory lane!


  • By lm, February 11, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

    Tim Choi’s teacher response sounded awkward. Hong kong original mass transit line (the first phase Kwun Tong Line that first run in 1979) contains a long elevated section, similarly ““train that hangs in sky””.

  • By Jacky, February 13, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    I first rode a skytrain and Bus when I was 5 years old! I’m still riding the skytrain and bus to get to where ever i want to go. When i grow up i want to be a bus driver. =)

  • By Tim Choi, February 15, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    @lm: You’re probably right – however, as you probably know, the MTR is called simply “[under]ground rail” (dih [ha] ti, in canto). “Gah hong li cheh” (SkyTrain), as a proper noun for a -mode- of transportation, was not a term used outside of Vancouver (as far as I know), which was likely the source of my teacher’s confusion, rather than the result of any (failure in) comprehension of literal meaning.

  • By Tim Choi, February 15, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    Addendum: Or maybe the phrase I used was “hong zong li cheh” (literally, train-in-the-sky). I don’t clearly recall, seeing as it was a good 15-16 years ago :P

  • By Andrew S, February 15, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    @Tim Choi: It’s kinda interesting, everyone that speaks Cantonese that I know (including me) call the SkyTrain “fai-cheh” (like “fast car” or “fast train”) :P
    “Let’s ride the SkyTrain!” becomes “Dahp fai cheh la!” (kind of…)

  • By ;-), February 15, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Yes, I often hear “fai-cheh” as well, however I’m starting to see some visitors called it “tien-cheh” for Skytrain. Sorry my Cantonese is not the greatest.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 15, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

    Tim, Andrew, ;-): I’m enjoying this conversation greatly, as I had no idea the SkyTrain had a different name in Cantonese. Perhaps I’ll make a little post about it to see what the nicknames are in other languages! So if I have this correct:

    – “fai cheh” means “fast car” or “fast train”
    – “tien cheh” means “Sky train”

    Can I ask a bit about the subtleties around the translation — ie: how is “cheh” either a car or a train? Is it actually referring to a generic conveyance/vehicle or something?

    And you have to tell me what this actually literally translates to, if it’s only a partial translation: “Let’s ride the SkyTrain!” becomes “Dahp fai cheh la!” (kind of…)

  • By ;-), February 15, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

    I recommend you also visit the local non-English media outlets(TV stations, radio stations) and see what they have on the subject. Does Translink have a communications department on the subject?

    I remember when they had to all come to a meeting in a big room to decide the Chinese translation for Gorden Campbell and Larry Campbell was going to be consistent when broadcasted.

    I’m sure I’m butchering the phonetics. Also have some fun with Google translate….|zh-CN|sky%20train Notice how different it sounds as “Skytrain” and “Sky train” with the space.

  • By Andrew S, February 16, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    Jhenifer: Yes, I think “cheh” is pretty much a kind of general term for vehicles. And my translation of “Let’s ride the SkyTrain!” becomes “Dahp fai cheh la!” (kind of…) was a bit cut off… I cut the “Let’s” part off and “dahp” means to ride. And “la!” is like how we like to end off some of our sentences =P

    And my Cantonese isn’t the best either lol Just my perspective of the translation =D

  • By Tim Choi, February 17, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

    As Andrew stated, “cheh” appears to be used for any ground vehicle, ranging from baby carriages/buggies to rickshaws to bicycles to trucks to tanks.

    Ways to say “train” include the following:
    “li cheh” – ‘li’ means a series, so a series of ground vehicles = train!
    “foh cheh” – ‘foh’ means fire, and so a vehicle that uses fire describes the early steam trains, and thus the term is used more commonly for heavy rail.
    “fai cheh” – ‘fai’ means fast, and thus used to describe express trains (the Westcoast Express, for example, is called “xih on fai cheh”, where “xih” means “west” and “on” means “coast”).

    If you want to say “Let’s take Skytrain!”, one possible translation would be “yuh cih dahp [preferred translation for SkyTrain] ah!”. “Yuh cih” means “[all] together”. The ‘c’ in “cih” is pronounced like “church” without the ‘hurch’, and the ‘ih’ is like “ick” without the ‘k’ sound.
    “ah” or “la” are exclamations you can use to end off statements.

  • By Vincent Ng, March 24, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    The local Chinese-language media seem to have the following consensus:

    架空列車 “elevated train”
    Cantonese: ga hung lit che
    Mandarin: jia kong lie che

Other Links to this Post

  1. Tweets that mention The Buzzer blog » Fun poll results: 59% first rode the SkyTrain when they were kids -- — February 11, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Fun with language: how to say SkyTrain in Cantonese — March 24, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

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