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Does Bessarion Station Actually Exist?

One man's quest to understand the most inscrutable name on the subway map.

Bessarion Station is the second-least used of any of Toronto’s subway stations—and in fact it could be considered the absolute least used, because the only one that beats it is on the Scarborough RT, which isn’t even really a subway. Everything about Bessarion is weird, from its name, to its location on a sparsely populated part of Sheppard Avenue East, to the fact that seemingly nobody has ever actually been there. It almost seems like some kind of elaborate hoax or trap, like when dictionary makers slip a fictitious word into the mix as a way of catching wholesale plagiarists. Could the TTC just be testing us?

The hilarious video above, by Cameron Wyllie, follows comedian Jeremy Woodcock—a Torontoist contributor and Sketchersons member—on a mission to visit Bessarion and settle the question once and for all. “I don’t know what it’s like,” Woodcock tells the camera at one point. “Are the benches red? Probably. Are there stairs? There have got to be—I think that’s the law. But other than that I have no idea what I’m going to see there.”

CORRECTION: June 13, 2013, 3:00 PM This post originally said that Finding Bessarion was the work of John Gape. In fact, the videographer was Cameron Wyllie. “John Gape” is the name of Wyllie’s comedy collective.


  • SmarterThanYou86

    Loved the video – was very Toronto :)

    Also, kinda liked the underhanded slap to Scarborough East’s subway dreams lol

  • Syn

    Not entirely Bessarion related, but my first memory of the TTC was when my family came into the city to watch a Jays game. After the Jays game we were heading back to Yorkdale and the train had some sort of problem and dumped everyone off at Glencairn. Once we got off the train I heard someone yell, with great volume “What are we doing here? Who the FUCK ever gets off at Glencairn?!”

    • Bob K

      Interestingly, a few years ago when the TTC updated some direction indicator signs that showed the YUS line, they actually left off Glencairn. You could tell, because there were little Glencairn stickers visible on all the maps, which were easy enough to see if you looked closely. I mean, Glencairn? I always wanted to talk to the person within the TTC who spent an afternoon sticking on Glencairn stickers onto existing posters.

  • OgtheDim

    “Its a great place to take a girl on a date.”



    As somebody who has actually used that station, mainly as its the easiest way to get to that Canadian Tire as the uphill slog from Leslie is a pain, I can say the only thing in the area of note was the store Baxters, which was good for getting South African food. Sadly, closed about 4 years ago. Nothing there now worth going to.

  • sezmesez

    It’s always mystified me why when the TTC had the opportunity to put a station right in front of the one thing on that stretch of Sheppard one might want to visit (Ikea – duh), they instead put two stations on either side of it, just far enough away so that walking back carrying a 3′x4′ mirror late at night after the shuttle bus has stopped running poses a significant challenge. (Or so I have heard.)

    Oh, Bessarion, what might have been…

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      It mystifies me why a subway was built there at all.

      • Marshal Dunnik

        Ask Mel Lastman.

    • OgtheDim

      But then we wouldn’t get the fun that is waiting for the IKEA bus while your cheap ice cream melts all over your flat packs.

  • http://www.MysteryHistory.TV/ Julius James III

    Bessarion Song

  • Marc

    He’s one to talk. He lives at Keele.

  • maximoose

    Come back again in few years, young man, you’ll be in to a surprise.
    Thank you Mel, someone who was able to vision years ahead.

    • OgtheDim

      You mean the other 8-10 condos that are going up west of IKEA and Canadian Tire? With a Shopper’s Drug Mart and a bank in the bottom pedestal? And a dry cleaner, a doctor’s office and a place to get your nails done? Plus some art, a few benches, and some plants in concrete cages? All beside a major highway?

      Wow…….who knew they could recreate CITY place up in North York.

      • Morley C

        The guy was clearly being sarcastic.

      • Steve Fleck

        Not sure why this has all been delayed, but there is a massive condo and town-home development planned for the old Canadian Tire warehouse lands that are right beside the Bessarion Station. Ounce this has been built, I am sure that the station will get more use. Does anyone know why, this development has been delayed so long?

    • IB

      Yes, thank you Mel for helping to doom the Eglinton Subway.

      • chris

        Actually Mike Harris did that, but good try!

        • IB

          Yes, the final decision rested with Harris, but Lastman had prioritized Sheppard over Eglinton even though Sheppard was more expensive. Lastman’s Tory roots helped too.

  • Marshal Dunnik

    “I consider myself well-versed in the TTC”, John Gape boasts, then later points at a green circle on the subway station wall and says, “It doesn’t do anything, it’s purely aesthetic.”

    Oh really?

  • splagelouf

    utter non-story

  • Chris

    I’m sitting here in Prince Edward Island and, wow, up comes a video of where I grew up. It use to be called Burbank and Sheppard. When I was young there were lots of farm fields and the subdivisions were just being build. Nearby was the location of the last one room school house in Toronto (Mrs Kidd, 1955).

    • nihir

      The north side is still called Burbank Drive, though I’m not sure if that one room school house has survived!

      • hotproperty

        It did and is now worth 11 bajillion dollars. I hope Mrs. Kidd bought it and her heirs can fund the new scarborough subway.

  • Maarten Heilbron

    Charming. You might also enjoy a tour of art on the TTC:

  • DM

    On behalf of those who live at Bessarion station, thank you. And your pronounciation was spot on. The subway drone will get it wrong. Every time.

    • TheDanLevy

      Of course it gets it wrong every time…it’s a recording not a live reading! :)
      But i was wondering how it is pronounced since he never got that second opinion so thanks!

  • PumpkinCupcake

    Pape station is prettier.

  • Judy #ReleaseYou

    key landmarks of that area i’ve noticed after living at bayview and sheppard for 17 years:
    - building with a bunch of doctors’ offices (including my family doctor and orthodontist)
    - canadian tire
    - mcdonald’s
    - ikea

    LOL :P

  • Stevan

    Divisive dribble. Yet another example of what right wing nut jobs call “the elitist downtowners”. Pretentious beardo garbage. And I’m a liberal! Just because the people up that way can’t afford to live downtown doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a subway station.

    • OgtheDim

      You do know that the condos in that area go for $300K for a 1 bedroom and the houses for $800K+, right? Not exactly a poor neighbourhood. People live there because of the highway access (which is why that area has some of the worst congestion in the city).

      And, no not every neighbourhood deserves a subway station.

    • Testu

      You know what’s really divisive? Saying people “deserve” a subway station.

      The TTC doesn’t build subway lines and stations because the people in the neighbourhood have been really good all year, brushed their teeth and washed behind their ears. They (ideally) build subways stations where population density and projected usage shows that it will be viable to do so. The entire Sheppard line was not built according to this principle, it was built because Mel Lastman decided his old riding “deserved” subways.

      That’s why we have jokes about token stations with daily ridership numbers more in line with a single streetcar. That’s why the entire Sheppard line loses money every year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. That’s why instead of expanding heavily overburdened routes like Finch we’ve been subsidizing a vastly under capacity subway line.

      People deserve good transit options, those aren’t always a subway line.

  • Moaz Ahmad

    Very interesting story … I’m curious about why there is a Bessarion station but not a Willowdale Rd. station … Willowdale being close enough to Sheppard to see redevelopment … and supported by some density along Willowdale itself.

    If I recall correctly the story is that the rising cost of construction and associated delays (including those related to the cut and cover of the Sheppard & Yonge intersection and the connecting track between the two lines) led to cost cutting that eliminated a station or two and cut back the line to Don Mills.

    It’s funny, but if the Sheppard line had been built underground for LRT rather than subway, even with the bigger tunnel the underground portion would probably run from Bathurst to Victoria Park and on the surface to Downsview.

  • westendgal

    Kipling is quite the destination. It recently opened up a new entrance. Which is quite lush. West side. Braap braap!

  • Mike Lipsius

    This was actually pretty cool, but I couldn’t help noticing how he got on one of the old trains at Yonge, but got off a new one at Sheppard.

  • Mr Trainbeans

    I always thought bessarion had a cool name and determined to visit the place

  • Whitebox

    Bessarion: it sounds like a mythical land, like ‘Iowa’.

  • Chony

    Liked the video and the production idea very much. I often wonder about TTC stations that nobody uses, or just a few. I guess it goes with the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” I am interested in the music at the end, where is it from? It’s stuck in my head now. Congrats on the project. What’s next?

  • John A.

    Bessarion is the A.G.O. of subway stations.

  • Andy

    Bessarian sort of reminds me of Wiarton at 6:00 pm on a fall Thursday night….

  • Flootie McTootie

    Great video. In high school, my friends and I would amuse ourselves during commutes identifying all the double entendre station names: “High” Park; “Broad”-view; “Pape;” “Cox”-well; Old Cummer” (RIP). Good times.