Expo 86 Skyrides – Two of Canada’s Forgotten Urban Gondola Systems

Post by Nick Chu

If anyone lived in Vancouver back in 1986, they would probably remember Expo86 — a world’s fair which showcased the best and latest transport technologies from around the globe. It included everything from monorails, HSST, and of course, Vancouver’s famous Skytrain.

And perhaps surprisingly (or not), the event featured two urban gondola systems – both of which were sponsored by two Canadian airline companies (Air Canada and Canadian Pacific). Together they combined to transport over 9.75 million passengers in the span of 5 months.

Expo86 Map - two gondola lines outlined in red.

Expo 86

Skyride sponsored by Air Canada. One of two Expo86 urban gondolas. Image by Flickr user Bob_2006.

Expo '86

Other gondola line sponsored by Canadian Pacific. Image by Flickr user compact collection.

Expo 86

Skyride travelling over venues. Image by Flickr user Jasperdo.

Expo 86

Gondola passing by Science World. Image Flickr user by Jasperdo.

Except for the Skytrain, most of the transport innovations were removed after the Expo. Whatever happened to the two gondola lines remains a mystery for now, however, my guess is that after the system was dismantled, certain parts were recycled for use in other applications.

So despite the fact that the Expo gondolas are no longer operating, I think the pictures of two actual Canadian urban gondolas may have a powerful and positive impact on any Canadian CPT proposal. In other words, while international cable transit examples are helpful, being able to demonstrate and showcase a domestic cable project happening in one’s backyard could potentially bring a proposal back into the realm of possibility.

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  1. Guess this means we beat the Emirates Air Lines by more than 20 years.
  2. I like the "Back to the Future" posting here. Highlights a system that moved a ton of people, had a "light footprint" on the ground... and sadly to say, we've not overall taken advantage of that early mover advantage from 1986. Thank goodness y'all have had 1240+ days of lighting the fire again about gondolas and CPT overall to attempt to get the momentum going again. I'm really looking forward to game changers like Sochi and I've not been able to find out much about them yet on the web (except for what is here of course). Keep up the great work!
  3. Maybe one day we'll see get to see another "Air Canada Lines". ;)
  4. Thanks Scott. We can't wait until the Sochi system is up and running. We just hope that everything is completed on schedule!
  5. I think this is a pretty great post, Nick! It makes me wonder if recreational systems like these reinforce the perception of the technology as nothing more than a toy or amusement ride. I don't know.
  6. I recently purchased one of the Air Canada sponsored Skyride Gondolas! Incase anyone was wondering, after the Expo 86, they were sold to Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana. They are still being used today. I acquired two of these unique pieces of history and plan to turn one of them into a backyard sauna!
  7. @ Chris That's awesome. How'd u managed get a hold of one? Please do send us a picture! ;)