Reindeer Bus, explained

Reindeer Bus, explained

Like the Vancouver Christmas Market, Bright Nights at Stanley Park, and VanDusen Festival of Lights — the Reindeer Bus is a Metro Vancouver holiday tradition.

Since 1985, transit staff – Santa’s elves – have dressed up a bus during the holiday season as the Reindeer Bus complete with antlers, eyes, a nose and a tail!

It brings a bus filled with more than 3,000 unwrapped toys to the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau where it’s distributed to families who need help putting a toy underneath their Christmas tree.

The toys are generously donated by transit staff through the Toys for Tots donation drive during the first two weeks of December. It has raised more than 85,000 toys and raised more than $48,000 in donations.

As well, the elves work hard each year to amp up the Reindeer Bus.

In 2020, one Reindeer Bus became a fleet of nine Reindeer Buses to spread some much-needed cheer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The year prior to that, a singing Christmas tree was added.

But what hasn’t changed is the elves’ unwavering commitment to spreading holiday cheer and sustainability.

Much of the bus is made from recycled materials. We use scrap metal and insulation to create the antlers.

The antlers are made using aluminum that’s plasma cut from an antler pattern created in-house. Then, structural polyurethane foam (Styrofoam) to give it the antler texture and then painted brown.

The nose is a red, polyform mooring buoy that’s attached to half of a 45-gallon drum, which previously held liquids like engine oil and washer fluid.

Powering all the twinkling lights and Christmas music is an inverter that converts that bus’s standard 24-volt power (two 12-volt batteries) into 110 volts, which is what you get from the outlets in your home.

Lights are attached to the windows and fed into the overhang above the seats on each side of the bus. The lights are plugged into a long extension cord that runs from one end of the bus to the other.

“It brings people so much cheer – it really does,” says Neil Pepper, body shop supervisor at Coast Mountain Bus Company, who’s been involved since 2005.

“You can be having the worst possible day waiting for your bus in a cold and miserable Vancouver. And as soon as you see those antlers that nose flashing you hear the Christmas tunes going onboard the bus. You’re in a better mood, you can’t help it.”

That’s what makes it a labour of love for the Reindeer Bus team at Coast Mountain Bus Company’s Vancouver Transit Centre.

Remember, every holiday season, if you spot the Reindeer Bus, share it to social media using the hashtag #ReindeerBus. We’d love to see your pictures!