Subway Art by Serafin

Text by James Bow, Art by Serafin

In this day and age, when transit agencies plan new construction, they have at their fingertips AutoCAD programs operating on high speed computers. People interested in what a new subway station could look like can be virtually walked through the property. But this technology has only been readiliy available for just over a decade. What did agencies like the Toronto Transit Commission do before pixel and microchip? They turned to graphic artists.

Steve Munro uncovered these eight watercolour illustrations used to depict what the stations on the Bloor-Danforth and University subway stations could look like. They were commissioned by the TTC in the mid 1950s as planning continued on the crosstown subway.

The artist involved was one Sigmund Serafin. Not much was known about him, although Steve Munro did find a small file on the man in the Art Gallery of Ontario, which has one small photo of a painting bearing his signature (common to the signatures found here).

Steve Munro writes: “There was also a clipping from the Star in August 1947 showing him at work painting a mural for Gray Coach on the history of North America for the (then) past 200 years. This was captioned as taking place at the Adelaide Street bus terminal, but I think this may have been the old GCL facility over at Sherbourne, more a shops facility than a terminal… Clearly that work in 47 for GCL led to his being retained for the Bloor subway paintings 10 years later.

The status of the mural (which was ten by fifteen feet) is unknown. Serafin moved back to Chicago and the last info the AGO had for him was from around 1960.

The renditions shown below were stored in plastic. Steve Munro rescued these prints twenty-five years ago when the TTC was about to throw them out. The prints remained in mint condition in their plastic wraps. In honour of the Bloor-Danforth subway’s fortieth anniversary, Steve kindly donated these images (too large for a scanner, these renditions had to be photographed) to the Transit Toronto website.


As work had not yet begun on the University subway line, its stations were among those that were rendered. Here we see St. Patrick station, looking north towards Queen’s Park. Note that the stairwell seems to be two escalators, both heading down.


St. George station shows the two-level design, not much different from what was actually built. This view is of the St. George Street entrance, looking south. The building in the background is the York Club which still stands on the NE corner at Bloor. Bedford Loop was at the other end of the station (not in view) just east of where the OISE building stands now.


Keele station, showing the elevated tracks but, intriguingly, no tail tracks. Note that the bus terminal stretches over Indian Grove, instead of stopping just shy of it. Note also the brick and glass styling, reminiscent of Rosedale station.


This picture is labelled as a rendition of “Willowvale” station, but the street layout is obviously the Christie and Bloor intersection, looking southeast. At the time, the official name of Christie Pits was Willowvale Park. Note the second entrance to the subway. Only one (the easternmost) was built.


The complex Bloor-Yonge interchange, looking south (Yonge Street is on the right). Note the exit onto the east side of Yonge Street. Such an exit was added later, but connecting directly to the Bloor-Danforth subway platform. Note also that Bloor Street has buses on it.


This rendition of Sherbourne station differs the most from what was built. Note that the station is directly beneath the intersection instead of to the south of it and, most intriguingly, note that the station has a centre platform and is a tube design like St. Patrick. The line was moved south to provide a better approach to the line’s own bridge over Rosedale Valley. With the line south of Bloor Street, cut and cover was more feasible than boring a tunnel.


This rendition of Broadview station shows a smaller terminal than what was built, with the bus and streetcar platforms separated from the main entrance.


This rendition of Woodbine station’s surface vehicle terminal shows two platforms instead of one, with streetcars sharing space with buses, instead of operating out of a temporary terminal as was the case when the Bloor-Danforth line opened.

Many thanks to Steve Munro for uncovering this piece of history.