Urban Transit/Light Rail

March 30, 2004

The commuter trains may look like they're speeding past, but they weren't actually photographed that way. Canada Post has issued a set of four domestic rate (49¢) stamps celebrating urban transit and light rail, but capturing effective images of these trains meant slowing them down-right down to a stop.

"The designer took a photographer to the service yard of each transit company, where they took photos of the cars, all in profile, with similar lighting in each place," says Bill Danard, Design Manager of Stamp Products at Canada Post. "The perception of speed was digitally manipulated at a later stage."

The sense of motion is enhanced by the layout of the stamps in four strips of four on a pane of 16. "This provides horizontal continuity, but it was difficult to produce," says Danard. "We had to make sure the images adjoined perfectly along the sides."

Debbie Adams designed the stamps, and she explains that on the pane "the trains become continuous, achieving the sense of rapid movement and multi-train activity that define a commuter system."

Individually, each of the four stamps has three bands, two depicting trains in motion. One shows a stationary train with commuters getting on and off, and reproduces the names of some stations in microtype. "For those views, the photographer shot on-site, visiting transit stations and taking quite a lot of photos in order to capture appropriate images with people in them," says Danard.

The four stamps are being issued on the 50th anniversary of Canada's first subway, which opened in Toronto in 1954. They portray in correct detail the trains, station names and logos of rapid transit systems in four Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

The Toronto Transit Commission's subway first opened with only its Yonge Street Line; the parallel University Avenue line was completed in 1963, and the Bloor-Danforth line in 1966. Montreal's Métro opened in 1966 as Canada's second subway system with lines running throughout the island, even under the St. Lawrence River.

Light rail is a low-cost electrical transit system, with small cars that can operate either at grade in mixed traffic or on a separate right-of-way. Calgary opened its Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in 1981 with track both below and at grade. Vancouver's Skytrain opened for EXPO 86 on an entirely segregated right-of-way through the city, much of it elevated.

As Canadian cities continue to grow and the need for public transportation increases, these speedy commuter trains may well set us on the fast track to the future.

About the designer
Debbie Adams graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art in 1983, and in 1988 established her own firm, Adams + Associates. She was recently accepted as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Her previous work for Canada Post has included stamps for literacy, Canadian achievements in space, migratory wildlife, kites, the Massey Foundation in the Millennium Collection, and the Armenian Church.

Pane of 16 stamps (4 x 4)

Pane of 16 stamps (4 x 4)


  • Product #: 403567107
  • Denomination: 4 x 49¢
  • Design: Debbie Adams
  • Dimensions: 56 mm x 26 mm (horizontal)
  • Printer: Canadian Bank Note
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 10 colours
  • Quantity: 5,000,000
  • Gum Type: P.V.A.
  • Perforations: 13+
  • Tagging: General, 4 sides
  • Photography: Andrew Leyerle
  • Paper Type: Tullis Russell Coatings
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Toronto ON
Official First Day Cover

Official First Day Cover


  • Product #: 403567126
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Toronto ON