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5 things you (probably) didn't know about the SkyTrain

You know they take you places, but did you know these things

One of the most recognizable parts of Vancouver, seen all over the city and metro area, is the SkyTrain.

Built-in the mid-80s and unveiled for Expo 86, originally, it was the world's longest automated (that is, driverless) rail transit system for decades, and it's still one of the longest.

And while almost everyone in the city has ridden on one at one point and heard that unusual electric whine as it pulls out of the station, there are lots of odd facts about the city's light rail transit system.

1. They used to be carpeted

Perhaps one of the grosser facts about the Mark I cars is that they used to have carpeted floors.

Initially, that might not seem so odd, given other trains and most planes have some level of carpeting. But at the same time, it may be a bit nauseating to imagine what all has been absorbed by a car after a week of regular use in and out of downtown Vancouver.

The carpet lasted for a little while, too. It was only ripped up in 1992.

"They were pretty grubby at the end; we didn’t save any samples for museum display!" wrote a TransLink spokesperson on the Buzzer in 2010.

Another feature they used to have were buttons, which people used to open and close the doors. Back in the 80s they weren't automatic. Their use was discontinued in the early 90s as well, but the Matk 1s still have them.

2. There's a Royal Car

When they were first unveiled in 1986, one of the first people to try out the SkyTrain was a man now known as King Charles III. He and Princess Diana took a trip on car 14; it's since been dubbed the Royal Car (and is still in use, as all Mark I cars are, though they'll be retired soon).

3. They pop up in films, TV and music videos

SkyTrain cars, or the SkyTrain itself, have featured in everything from the X-Files to the Friday the 13th franchise to a K-pop music video.

Being that Vancouver is a major hub for film and TV, it's maybe not that big a surprise the SkyTrain shows up in unusual places. Here's a car standing in for a New York subway and at the end of this trailer Ben Affleck runs away from another.

And for fans of Twice, a fan has even identified which car they shot their "Likey' video on.

4. There used to be SkyTrain attendants to help people use them

Going back to 1986, when the SkyTrain was first introduced to people it was not only new technology but also unfamiliar.

To help people learn the system, and to help tourists from around the world navigate Vancouver as the World's Fair was on, there were SkyTrain attendants, like a cross between a flight attendant and someone working in a tourist info booth.

A transformer-like mascot was also used to help educate people about the SkyTrain.

5. The SkyTrain uses a 90-year-old tunnel

While the SkyTrain system was built in the 1980s, a part of it is 50-years-older than that.

Built in 1933, the Dunsmuir Tunnel was used by the CPR to keep trains off the streets of Downtown Vancouver.

Over the years the port and track routes changed, and the tunnel wasn't needed for big trains anymore, so when the SkyTrain was built they took advantage of the tunnel that already existed in the city's core. However, it was a narrow, though tall, tunnel.

That's why the Granville and Burrard stations have tracks on two different levels. The tunnel wasn't wide enough for tracks to be at the same grade, so one track was built above the other.

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