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Not a boo from riders in ghost station

Subway trains take detour through abandoned Lower Bay

ZOSIA BIELSKI, National Post
Published: Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Last week, Torontonians got their first glimpse of Lower Bay, the phantom subway station that’s been closed off beneath Yorkville since 1966. Few of them seemed to care.

A gem in this city’s urban mythology, Lower Bay has served as film set, training ground for the Emergency Task Force and playground for urban explorers risking their necks to troll through the storied spot.

For everyday Joe’s, the rare opportunity came as transit officials detoured east and westbound trains from Museum station during maintenance work.

Last Sunday, TTC supervisors redirected the hordes with megaphones. I asked one which train I should take to sneak a peek of Lower Bay. “You wanna see it? It’s kind of dirty,” he said, looking like a surprised host. Eastbound, he said.

Aboard the train, we squealed and crawled along a seldom used piece of track until we emerged at the decommissioned site. There it was, a dingy version of Bay station. As the subway train passed through, our conductor gave us a narrated tour. He called it the ghost station, Bay Lower, which sounded more like Bay Lore when he pronounced it. He told us about the films shot here (gems that include Take the Lead and Undercover Brother) and about the “SWAT team” that trains along its corridors.

He meant the ETF, but it hardly mattered since many of the passengers barely registered the scene. Some were passed out cold, others stared vacantly ahead — it was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons, the grey variety. Others fumbled through their Metros, history sailing by them.

On another spin through the station, the conductor doesn’t even bother narrating. This time, the passengers perk up. “Where are we?” their bewildered looks seem to say, then back to the Metro celeb page.

I think of all the transit geeks blogging on Transit Toronto, where they anticipated this moment with effusive posts for weeks. I recall the excited You- Tube postings filmed from the first car through the station. I call the ETF in hopes of stirring some excitement. A bored Constable Gary Moxham tells me Lower Bay’s “the only opportunity we get to train on subway cars where it’s out of sight.” Yawn!

And I think of the late Jeff Chapman, a.k.a Ninjalicious, the man who coined the term “urban exploration” and published Infiltration, “the zine about going places you’re not supposed to go.” Lower Bay was one of them.

“Lower Bay is still quite accessible to anyone willing to take a quick stroll through the tunnels heading west from Yonge or northeast from Museum,” he once wrote.

Later, Chapman would change his tune: “The journey to Lower Bay is actually quite dangerous. Though the tunnels leading to Lower Bay are no longer in constant use, they are frequently used by trains switching lines, or by drivers in training. If a train came along at full speed while you were on your way to Lower Bay, you would almost certainly be killed. As far as I know there is no way to get to Lower Bay through the tunnels during operating hours without risking your life. I don’t make the trip any more, and I don’t recommend it to others. There are other ways to get to Lower Bay — after hours, on a tour, during a film shoot.”

So fellow dozy Torontonians, get on the train. On May 26, Doors Open will see us lined up around the block to wander through Lower Bay, at least according to project manager Jane French. Until then, we have five more weekends to hop on the eastbound train from Museum and maybe engage what’s left of our civic curiosity.