Calgary Transit celebrates 40 years of LRT service

On this day in 1981, the Flames had only just moved to Calgary the year before, REO Speedwagon was climbing the charts with Keep on Loving You, Canada still had its first prime minister named Trudeau — and Calgary’s new CTrain service officially began.

The first leg, known as Route 201, went from Eighth Street S.W. along Seventh Avenue in the city’s core and stretched south as far as Anderson Road.

CTrain driver and rail controller Brian Langan said he remembers that inaugural run like it was yesterday.

“I was 26 years old, it was on a sunny day. I was one of the first CTrains to come out and pick up the public,” he said.

“I was shaking so much that I got a serviceman to remove the plastic because these trains were brand new and I thought I was going to slide off the seat.”

CBC reporter Scott Dippel saved his proof of fare from his trip on the first full day of LRT service in Calgary on May 26, 1981. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Since that first train on May 25, 1981, Calgary’s CTrain has logged almost 155 million kilometres of travel and expanded to 216 cars serving 45 stations on the Red Line and the Blue Line, Calgary Transit said in a release.

The CTrain network expanded to northeast Calgary in 1985, to the University of Calgary in the city’s northwest in 1987 — in time for the 1988 Olympics — and to the city’s west side in 2012.

Syd Banks, who has been with Calgary Transit for more than 47 years, started out driving the electric trolleybuses and then drove regular buses for three decades before he got his start driving the LRT about 15 years ago.

“I was planning on retiring and my grandkids said to me, ‘Grandpa, you should go and drive the CTrain so we can tell our friends that you drove the CTrain.’ Well, I said yes,” Banks said. 

“And here I am 15 years later having a ball.”

Calgary Transit is on track to carry its two billionth CTrain rider later this year. 

Syd Banks, who started with Calgary Transit driving electric trolleybuses more than 47 years ago, has been a CTrain operator for 15 years. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The planned $5.5-billion Green Line expansion of the LRT system would add CTrain service from southeast Calgary, through the core and up into north-central Calgary.

Construction on that project was supposed to start this year but has been delayed until 2022 because of a dispute between the city and the province over its funding.

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