The longtime voice of Calgary Transit's C-Train retires after 44 years

Holly McConnell, the anonymous voice of the Calgary LRT, reflects on her decades on the job.

'Whitehorn Station. End of line. Thank you for riding Calgary Transit.'

Holly McConnell retires Thursday after 44 years with Calgary Transit. For decades, she was the voice telling travellers when the next train would arrive. (Calgary Transit)

Trolleys still crisscrossed city streets when Holly McConnell started as an administrator at Calgary Transit.

For about 20 of her 44 years on the job, she also was the calm voice guiding train riders stop to stop around the city. 

In the late 1980s, she was selected as the Transit staffer who most clearly pronounced stop names, such as the tricky Marlborough. 

McConnell spoke with Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray on Monday to reflect on her time guiding the city's transit goers.

Q: How did you become the voice of the Calgary C-Train?

A: It started in 1986 when Transit was first going to have Teleride and they went around with a tape recorder to some office staff and they just said, "Say a few words and phrases."

And then a committee picked whoever had the best voice and the best enunciation and I was chosen for that.

It was Teleride originally in 1986, and then in 1987, when we were changing some of the names of the stations of the C-Train, they decided again, "Let's have the same voice." So I did the C-Train tapes.

Q: Do people start recognizing you from your voice on the C-Train? Has that happened to you?

A: No, actually not. You have to remember in those days, they were tapes and the tapes wear out and speed up and slow down and yeah, they didn't always sound like me.

Q: Was this a highly lucrative enterprise for you? Did you make a fortune off of it? Did you get royalties every time?

A: It would have been nice, but no. It was more kind of other duties, you know, other duties as assigned. But that was OK. It was fun to do so I was all right with that.

Q: Four decades, is that right, with the service? What's that been like?

A: Working for transit has been great but I mean it's changed so much. Of course, I started down at Eau Claire garage. We had one garage. Everybody knew everybody. The trolley buses were still running. You guys probably don't remember those.

It's changed a lot over the years but I've really enjoyed working for Calgary Transit.

Q: What do you make of the service today?

A: It's so different today with the C-Trains and the articulated buses — and now we're going to go with compressed natural gas buses. It's far different.

Holly McConnell became the longtime announcer for C-Train stops after being picked from Calgary Transit office staff for her ability to properly enunciate local place names. (CBC)

Q: What are you going to miss the most about working for the city?

A: You know, it's been the people. It's been very nice, the group of people I've worked with over the years. It's kind of like a second family, and down at Eau Claire, of course, was more so. Now we're a little bit more spread out.

I actually worked with training for the last 15 years, and one of the training officers used to kind of bring me in and he'd say, "OK. Say something."

They'd all be staring at me and I'd say, "Whitehorn Station. End of line. Thank you for riding Calgary Transit."

And then they'd still be looking at me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

With files from Caroline Wagner and the Calgary Eyeopener