All aboard! There are trains of all shapes and sizes from the magnificent Royal Hudson steam locomotive to the crowded Chicago ‘L’ transit cars. It’s an amazing way to take a journey, and it’s how our country was built by opening new routes for commerce and travel.

CTA bids farewell to the 2400-series rail car

2400-series Green Line train
A 2400-series Harlem-bound Green Line train crosses the Chicago River on the Lake Street bridge.

It’s the end of the line for the 2400-series rail cars as the Chicago Transit Authority upgrades its rail fleet. The CTA is holding one last ride for the 38 year old cars on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 before they’re removed from service.

Inaugurated during the United States’ bicentennial in 1976, the cars were built by Boeing-Vertol and originally delivered in a patriotic red, white and blue colour scheme. For most of their life, the 2400-series served the Green and Purple lines, with a number dedicated as maintenance trains easily identified by their red and white striped horizontal markings. This class of rail car became the first to use sliding doors instead of the “blinker” doors, last used on the long gone 2200-series.

An eight-car farewell train will tour the Loop, Brown Line, North Side Red Line and South Side Green Line in their original 1976 livery. Visit the CTA web site for a schedule of the 2400-series final run.

Source: Chicago Transit Authority


Downtown Historic Railway no longer feasible

Ex-BCER car 1207 rests at the Granville Island station.
Ex-BCER car 1207 rests at the Granville Island station.

The City of Vancouver considers the heritage interurban cars unsafe and the cost to upgrade and maintain the vehicles could be put towards other projects.

A memo posted to city councillor Geoff Meggs’ web site outlines numerous challenges in operating the historic interurbans — reliability, maintenance, lack of qualified volunteers and low passenger volume. One of the recommendations suggests placing car 1231 on display while repairing and returning car 1207 to its private owner.

During weekends of summers past, cars 1207 and 1231 could be seen riding the rails between Granville Island, the Olympic Village Canada Line station and, for a brief period, out to Science World. Volunteers from the Transit Museum Society (TRAMS) operated the interurbans while sharing stories of the cars’ history and routes.

The Downtown Historic Railway has been on hiatus since 2012 due to a lack of funding.

Photos of the Downtown Historic Railway are available on Gallery.

Source: News1130

Farewell Trip for CTA 2200-Series

A 2200-series train at O'Hare
A 2200-series train at O’Hare

After serving some 40+ years moving people throughout Chicago, the aging 2200-series rail cars are making their final run before retirement.

On the morning of Thursday, August 8th, 2013, the Chicago Transit Authority will be holding two celebratory last trips with an eight-car 2200-series train along the Blue Line.

Famous for their rectangular shape, corrugated sides and folding “blinker” doors, the 2200-series hit the rails in 1969 as delivery continued into the early 1970s. Later in their life, the 2200-series moved to the Blue Line to be paired up with the 2600-series so that passengers with disabilities could board a train without being restricted by the narrow doors.

Two trips will be made late Thursday morning: a non-stop short run between Rosemont and Jefferson Park leaving Rosemont at 10:05 am CDT and an all-stop full run from O’Hare to Forest Park leaving O’Hare at 11:05 am CDT. Regular fares will be in effect. Visit the Chicago Transit Authority web site for full schedule details.

The 2200-series have been replaced by the 5000-series which are deployed on the Pink, Red and Green Lines.

Sources: Chicago Transit Authority,

Steam on the Tube

Three days ago, the London Underground celebrated a well-earned milestone: its 150th birthday. Part of the festivities include rides on a restored E class 0-4-4T steam engine: Met Locomotive No. 1. Coupled with the historic locomotive is the refurbished “Jubilee” carriage #353 from 1892. Another train will be pulled by an electric locomotive from the 1920s, the No. 12 Sarah Siddons. The rest of the train will include cars with first and second class seating from the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.

Only one ride remains with the heritage trains, which will occur on Sunday, January 20th, 2013. Tickets can be purchased by phone through the London Transport Museum.

If you can’t get tickets, a regular fare will at least net you an opportunity to watch these hard workers of a bygone era roar past. The BBC has a short gallery on the run from Sunday, January 13th.

SkyTrain Stories

Mark I SkyTrain interior
Don’t you wish you could have an empty car each time you take the train?

It’s never a dull moment riding rapid transit here in Vancouver. There’s always some interesting conversation going on, provocative people milling about, or odd item left behind on (or under) the seats.

While taking the train to Waterfront for the Canada Day fireworks earlier this month, I was sandwiched between two conversations that were miles apart. To my left, I had a couple engaged in a drunken babble while drinking from liquor bottles concealed in paper bags. On my right, however, was a debate between a group of friends over the circumstances someone should be called a doctor after receiving a degree from a university.

If you’re not already aware, SkyTrain uses the honour system — there are no turnstiles to go through after purchasing your fare. During the rush hour in spring 2004, I had the misfortune of striking up a conversation with another rider on my way downtown for school. He went on and on about how he’s never purchased a ticket and that the transit police are always out to get him (I wonder why?). As the packed train stopped at the Patterson station, two officers poked their heads into the car to make sure everything was OK and not to check tickets. The guy saw them and bolted through the open doors onto the platform before the cops shouted at him and gave chase. I think they’ve met each other a couple times before.

Headed downtown on a sunny late May morning, I picked some nice seats that had a view of a couple people going into Vancouver for, as they were loudly stating, the Roger Waters concert later that evening. It’s about 10:30 am or so, and I can tell they’re already drunk. Not only can I hear it, I can smell the cheap beer stagnating in the car. They weren’t being abusive to any of the other passengers, and no-one intervened or complained, so I got some cheap entertainment. I hope they had fun at their concert.

I have contributed to the oddities on SkyTrain too. Wearing a costume while taking the train down to Waterfront to check out Fan Expo Vancouver always invites interesting stares and comments. So, if you ever see Soul Eater or Naruto (or maybe someone else!), it might just be me.

I know this didn’t happen on SkyTrain, or in Vancouver for that matter, but I need to share it. Back in 2009, a friend and I were taking the Brown Line in Chicago to visit a friend, when a man sitting across from us noticed we were wearing anime t-shirts. He asked if we were fans of anime and then proceeded to explain that he was working on the follow-up series to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Stupidly, we got off the train a station after the conversation started instead of staying on board to learn more. What we heard would end up becoming The Legend of Korra which just launched on Nickelodeon in April of this year.

Stuff like this just doesn’t happen everyday!

Downtown Historic Railway

Car 1207
Car 1207

Now that it’s summer, the Downtown Historic Railway is back up and running. Although the refurbished interurban line doesn’t go all the way to Science World, it’s still a unique ride from the Olympic Village Canada Line station to Granville Island (or vice versa).

Operated by volunteers from the Transit Museum Society (TRAMS), car 1207 is a blast from the past, having last run the British Columbia Electric Railway’s Steveston line in 1958. Restored by TRAMS in the early 1990s, car 1207 retains its charm with its original seats, retro advertisements, and memorable whistle.

The Downtown Historic Railway operates only on weekends and holidays until October 10th, 2011 between 12:30 pm and 5:00 pm PDT. There is a round-trip charge of $2 for adults and $1 for seniors or children.

Browse through more images of the Downtown Historic Railway on Gallery.

Controls Interior of 1207 Trolley pole

Following the BCER

In the days gone by, the British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER) operated an extensive network of street cars and interurbans throughout Metro Vancouver. Now that automobiles rule the road, the paths forged originally by their railed counterparts have shaped our communities without many of us giving a thought to it.

Central Park Line

Central Park Line at Edmonds
Central Park Line at Edmonds

When SkyTrain was constructed in the early 1980s, the most appropriate path for what is now the Expo Line, was along the old BCER Central Park Line. The right-of-way started in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side from Georgia Street, south onto Campbell Avenue and then east along Venables Street. Street cars would then run south along Commercial Drive before turning south-east along Vanness Avenue towards Burnaby. The tracks would then run parallel to Beresford and Prenter Streets looping around Connaught Heights and then following Stewardson Way east into New Westminster.

Trackage can still be found through the north-eastern portion of Central Park and adjacent to the Edmonds SkyTrain station in Burnaby.

Burnaby Lake Line

The Burnaby Lake Line branched off from the original Central Park Line due east crossing major roads like Nanaimo Street, Renfrew Street and Boundary Road. The tracks followed a serpentine path through Burnaby, along the southern edge of Burnaby Lake and then looping south into New Westminster. The route is familiar to many – the Trans-Canada Highway traces most of the original right-of-way.

Marpole Line

One of the more memorable lines paralleled most of Arbutus Street in Vancouver’s west side. The original route started from behind the Molson brewery next to the Burrard Street Bridge and curved down Fir Street onto West 6th Avenue running west towards Arbutus Street. The tracks then turned south through Kerrisdale alongside Arbutus Street and then south-east around Quilchena Park at West 33rd Avenue and Pine Crescent. The route continued south-east bordered by the East and West Boulevards after breaking away from Arbutus Street to end up in Marpole south of Marine Drive at Oak Street.

The rails are still prevalent in the Kerrisdale area with some portions turned into community gardens.

Car 1207 at Granville Island station
Car 1207 at Granville Island station

Lulu Island Line

The tracks extended across the north arm of the Fraser River into Richmond on Lulu Island, running all the way south to canneries in Steveston on the river mouth.

Westminster-Eburne Line

This right-of-way connected the Marpole Line with the Central Park Line in New Westminster. The tracks ran east along the north arm of the Fraser River in proximity to Marine Drive in Vancouver, and Marine Way in Burnaby. The Westminster-Eburne Line route is still in use today by the Canadian Pacific and Southern Railway of BC for freight operations.

Fraser Valley Line

Fraser Valley Line at Kennedy
The Royal Hudson steams up the Fraser Valley Line near Kennedy.

Interurbans used to travel from Vancouver out to Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley. The tracks crossed the Fraser River into the Brownsville part of North Surrey and turning south to wind up the hill into Kennedy Heights. From there, the route ran south-east through Newton and down into Cloverdale before going east through Langley. Further east of Langley, the rails meandered across the valley into Abbotsford, down south to the Canada-USA border at Huntingdon and then back north-east towards the terminus in Chilliwack. Much of the track is still in use today, with western portions owned by the Southern Railway of BC, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

Where are they now?

While most of the cars have been retired and scrapped, a few are still riding the rails. Cars 1231 and 1207 are under the care of the Transit Museum Society (TRAMS) in Vancouver. These two historic cars are usually operating between the Granville Island and Olympic Village stations during summer weekends. Car 53 is a retro seating option in the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown. The Burnaby Village Museum is home to refurbished car 1223. Two other cars, 1225 and 1304 are maintained by the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society in Surrey. Finally, the company behind it all, BCER, exists now as the Crown Corporation BC Hydro.

Sources: The Transit Museum Society, Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, Burnaby Village Museum, The Buzzer Blog

Why the Canada Line froze up

Snow is synonymous with Canada, but this morning’s snow and the Canada Line did not mix. So why is snow and ice such a frustration with rapid transit lines?

Canada Line tracks
The third rail is near the top with the yellow cover.

First of all, snow and ice can affect how the trains get their power. The Canada Line runs off a single third rail using a shoe that glides across the top. During inclement weather, snow and ice can build up causing trains to lose electricity and thus stop moving. The Expo and Millennium lines are not susceptible to this type of interference because the power rails are mounted horizontally over each other. The trains that operate on these two lines use collection shoes that collect electricity from the sides of the power rails, rather than the top.

There are multiple ways to mitigate the problem. Other systems, such as the Chicago ‘L’, use sleet scrapers which brush snow and other obstacles off the third rail ahead of the collection shoe. A deicing solution can also be  sprayed onto the third rail to prevent ice from forming and interfering with the electrical pickup. Alternatively, frequent use helps to lower the risk of build up. TransLink already does this by running “ghost trains” which are effectively empty trains around the system to assist in reducing the build up of snow.

Another common issue is that snow and ice accumulate between switch points which is critical at major junctions or turn-arounds. The Expo and Millennium Lines utilize a seamless type of switch, called a swingnose, that closes all openings to allow a smoother trip. The switch points must move all at once — snow and ice can get caught in the gaps and prevent the switch points from making full contact with the rails. This can be disastrous if a train crosses over where the points have not fully closed.

Frequent use should help keep the switch clear, but a switch heater may be employed to keep the rails warm so that snow or ice doesn’t build up. As a last resort, human intervention may be required.

There’s no perfect solution to prevent snow (or any type of weather) from making the trip troublesome. TransLink has posted a press release on their winter contingency plans for 2010. Besides, it could always be worse.

Taking the Apple Line

Nephrus CTA station
Armitage is now Nephrus.

Ever since Apple contributed to the renovation of the North/Clybourn station on the Red Line, Chicagoans have wondered if the Chicago Transit Authority would let the electronics company rename the station. The CTA is investigating the ability to sell the naming rights to its stations and routes in hopes of increasing revenue for the embattled agency.

The idea would be to allow corporate sponsors purchase the naming rights to L stations and lines and bus routes. While the CTA is open to suggestions, it’s possible that North/Clybourn might become the Apple station (if not already nicknamed that).

The only downside might be for passengers who are unfamiliar with the system and could become confused or lost due to odd station or route names.

Nephrus is next. Doors open on the right at Nephrus.

I don’t think that’s in the web site’s budget.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Happy Birthday Canada Line!

Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse station
Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse station

The Canada Line turns one year old today! On August 17th, 2009, Vancouver, Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport all became linked together with rapid transit.

Since it opened, the Canada Line has transported some 36 million passengers between the two cities. During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, 3.88 million passengers rode the system between February 12th and 28th.

Ridership numbers on the rapid transit line average close to 95,000 per day.

Source: TransLink