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A Trip Through Lower Bay Station

Lower Bay Station—which passenger subway trains are passing through until May 24—opened in 1966. Bay Station, one storey above, opened along with it. By the end of that year, Bay was open, and Lower Bay was closed off.

Even though it hasn’t been a proper station since, Lower Bay hasn’t gone unseen. It’s been used for film shoots (from Max Payne to Johnny Mnemonic), special events (like Nuit Blanche and Doors Open, and at bargain rental rates at other times), training (for everyone from TTC maintenance staff to Toronto Police), and public tours (the next is on June 26).
On Saturday afternoon, Torontoist made our way down into the station, through one of two pairs of locked metal double doors at Bay Station, to see something few people have from the platform in the last forty-five years: trains filled with passengers going through the shuttered station. As when in-service trains last came through the station in 2007, passengers this long weekend don’t get off at Lower Bay: if they ever did, it’d be because an emergency has necessitated it.
Whether it’s viewed from a subway car passing through it, or along its platform as cars pass by—video of both scenes from Saturday are above—Lower Bay Station is remarkable not for how different it is from other TTC stations, but how similar it is. There are security cameras trained on the platform, the live feed going to the collector’s booth. There is a working (which is to say, muddy-sounding) broadcast system. There is signage. And the third rail is electrified, detour or no detour.
Lower Bay’s still a little dirtier, a little rougher, a little weirder, though. Drag your fingertips along most any surface, and they’ll get instantly covered with jet-black brake dust. An escalator is boarded-off, disabled, its steps removed. The yellow line that runs along the edges of both sides of the platform—the one you’re always instructed to stand back from—is made up of a smooth, continuous, and vinyl-looking material, not the bumpy hard plastic we’re now used to. The TTC once tested different styles of the line at Lower Bay, so the platform edge transforms a half dozen or so times: there’s a panel or two where the nubs are dime-sized, rather than quarter-sized; there’s another where the spacing between those nubs is different; there’s another where the yellow is a different shade.
The differences, in other words, are mostly things you have to look for to find. As the passenger trains go by, there are a few riders who gape out the train’s windows to see an empty Lower Bay, but as usual, most keep their heads down.
Video by Miles Storey/Torontoist.


  • http://undefined SpupEh

    Nice video, Miles! Kinda poetic, with just the rhythms of the trains going through. I rode through Lower Bay on my detoured way eastbound last night and I was sad to see that Lower Bay’s advertising panels had been removed. Now normally I’m all for removing advertising, but the last time I rode through, I got a kick out of seeing the old ads for Eatons and Simpsons and other long-gone enterprises.

  • http://undefined polaroid!

    what kind of camera are you guys using for this video?

  • http://undefined Miles Storey

    Thanks SpupEh, I think the station’s constantly in a state of transition when it comes to things like signs and ads, there are film sets built down there, parties held, etc. Those old ads would have been cool though.
    polaroid!, I used a Canon 5d with a couple of prime lenses, an 85mm f1.8 and a 20mm f1.8. We recorded the sound on David’s stereo dictaphone as the camera only has mono without an external mic.

  • http://undefined Tony

    That’s a nice video. I took some photos and blogged about my first time at Bay Lower this past Saturday morning, and the crazy crowds at Museum later. Just search ‘brokeradioguy’ and you’ll find it. (not sure if it’s ok to post links so I won’t)

  • thelemur

    The lack of features (I didn’t see any BAY signage) makes it even more eerie. Too bad the dirty subway windows impeded the view for riders though.
    Lower Bay is like our own version of Berlin’s ‘ghost stations’ – the ones where trains didn’t stop while the Wall was up.

  • accozzaglia

    It really is an amazing station to walk through. Any chance the TTC open the floor to the public, just go. It’s a cultural history experience in real-time.
    This was from Doors Open 2008.