I received word that I would be granted access to the Bay Lower subway station, and the incomplete Queen Lower streetcar station. My daughter and I took the day off, grabbed our camera gear and with no shortage of anticipation, made our 4-hour journey into Toronto. We found a place to park and made our way to the Bay Street station where we waited for the lady from the TTC who would be our guide. Moments afterward, she arrived and ushered us through the gates. Small though it may seem, I have to admit to a little rush of glee and going past the turnstiles without paying.
We descended to the Bay platform that an estimated 31,000 people see each year. At the bottom of the steps, a divider confronted us where we would have to choose which side of the platform we wanted to be on. Instead, she walked up to a door in the divider and unlocked it. We stepped through to find another stairway leading down further into a mirror of the platform we'd just left, but eerily devoid of humanity, save ourselves.
This now empty station was originally opened to the public in February, 1966. It was hoped that it would help to reduce wait times and improve overall service. Unfortunately, due to the nature of how it was integrated, any delay here would cascade throughout the remainder of the subway system. In very little time, it became apparent that this had been a failure. Just six months after its opening, Bay Lower was closed.
Since that time it has served as a place for special events requiring a unique venue, as a place for new train drivers to practice their skills, and as a set for movie companies wanting scenes in a subway station without having to affect traffic.
After we had spent considerable time photographing this amazing place, it was time to go on to our next location, the Queen Lower streetcar station. We climbed back up the stairs and jumped on the next train, my juvenile inner voice tee-heeing that we still hadn't paid.
A short time later, we arrived and our guide led us through the station until we were again standing before a door that she unlocked. We went through and found stairs leading down. Reaching the bottom, unlike our last stop, we saw that this place was clearly not for public use, and had been re-purposed for the mechanical necessities of the rest of the station.
When construction of the Yonge line began in 1949, it was anticipated that, aside from the North / South line of the subway, there would need to be some kind of East / West corridor as well. Initially, it had been proposed that streetcars would form that line. In order for them not to interfere with other street traffic, perhaps they should run underground.
Since construction of the Queen Street station was already under way for the subway, why not dig out the necessary area for this streetcar system as well? By the 1950's, instead of a streetcar line, thought changed toward creating a second subway line. By this point, traffic was increasing substantially around the Bloor area, and attention shifted in that direction. Soon it was decided that it made more sense to build the East / West subway line under Bloor than Queen. Work on the Queen Lower station was never moved beyond "roughing out".
With our tour complete, we extended our deep thanks to our guide and returned to the subway to make our way back to where we parked. It had been an amazing day for which I thank the hospitality of the TTC.