Lower Bay Station, What a Disappointment - The Intrepid

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lower Bay Station, What a Disappointment

Lower Bay Station TTC
I have to admit that I’m disappointed. When I looked up images of Lower Bay today, I expected to see a spooky old station with perhaps a dash of 19th century charm. In my mind I had conjured something reminiscent of the abandoned train station from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. (Yes, I’m well aware that Lower Bay was built in 1966.)

Unfortunately, for a brief moment, I let my imagination get the best of me and trump my natural inclinations as a historian. What a mistake. History is rarely as exciting as fantasy.

For those who are unaware, Lower Bay is an abandoned Toronto subway station. The station was used for only six months in 1966 before being mothballed. The station was originally part of an ‘interlining’ experiment that would allow riders to travel between the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-Spandia subway lines without having to change trains.

The experiment was a huge failure. Delays on the integrated lines quickly cascaded, shutting down the entire system. Passengers were also befuddled by the system. Trains arriving at St. George or Bloor-Yonge were inconsistent. A westbound train at St. George Station might arrive on the top platform or the bottom platform, and passengers wouldn’t know until the train actually arrived. This led many passengers to wait on the staircase between the levels, so they could quickly check which trains were going where.

The signs in the older stations that indicate the final destination of the next train are a remnant of the experiment.

Although the station lies dormant, it still sees a fair amount of activity. The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) uses the station to train new operators and the line itself is sometimes used to move equipment. The station is also used by tv and movie productions. Since the station is fully equipped and usually empty, it’s the perfect low cost substitution to building a set or shooting in a busy subway station. The TTC used to even have a pre-built New York Subway Station set, but it was eventually disposed of. Some of the movies filmed in Lower Bay include: Johnny Mnemonic, Darkman, Bulletproof, and Monk.

More recently, Microsoft used Lower Bay for its Gears of War 2 launch party. The lights were turned off and the station was decked out with fake flaming garbage cans and LG screens to preview the game.

Lower Bay Station TTC
Although intriguing, Lower Bay really isn’t that creepy. (Unless you fill it with flaming garbage cans and video game nerds.)

Lower Queen StationLower Queen Station is a little scarier. The station was originally designed as an underground street car stop in the 1950s, but was never finished. Between 1950 and 1980, the city debated creating an underground street car or subway line along Queen Street, but the proposals never made it past the planning stages.

Today, Lower Queen lies dormant beneath Queen Station. Rumour has it that a scene from one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies was filmed in the station because of its dark and rather sinister atmosphere.


Mimmo said...

It's not true that people waited on the stairs -- there were illuminated arrows on a sign on the upper levels of St. George and Bay near the stairwells that informed passengers which platform (upper or lower) to use for the next westbound (at St. George) or eastbound (at Bay) train. It looked like this ...

EASTBOUND [down arrow] ->
DOWNTOWN [down arrow]