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December 2, 2001

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A Parallel Universe?

December 2, 2001

 "Will I see you tonight
On a downtown train
All of my dreams, they fall like rain
On a downtown train..."

- Tom Waits (subsequently butchered in a bizarre form of tribute by Rod Stewart)

Okay Paperless, what's the deal with quoting Tom Waits?

Imagine this.  You are on a TTC subway car, going east to west, on the Bloor-Danforth line.  You leave the Yonge Street station, anticipating your next stop, Bay. The roller-coaster adventurer in you told you to sit at the FRONT of the subway car, for the added thrill of hearing the screeching brake echo, feeling the G-forces, and seeing the lights at the end of the tunnel before anyone else does. 

Sure enough, you see the lights first.  However, there appears to be TWO distinct sets of lights emanating from the Bay station ahead - one atop the other!

That makes no sense.  Although the Bay station is surrounded on either side with double-level stations that serve as junctions between the two subway lines, it is merely a single station...

Or is it?

Bay Station

Urban mythology has a way of making tales like these sound a lot better than they really are (as in the case of the "streetcar terminal" known as Lower Queen, which isn't much of a station ata all), but in this case, the meat and potatoes of the legend are REAL.

There really is a doppelganger Bay Station.  Known as "Lower Bay", it remains locked up below Bay Station like a mutant twin brother that had to be locked away in the basement out of sheer necessity.

Lower Bay was the TTC's mutant child.  In 1966, they envisioned this for the subway system:  when the Bloor line opened in 1966 the two lines were fully integrated by a Y-shaped interchange consisting of Museum, St. George and Bay.  Yonge-University trainswould alternately run east and west along the Bloor line, and every other Bloor train would run downtown.

This seemed like a good idea for all of six months, after which the TTC found that having east-west trains run on two platforms was a bit too confusing for the riders.  It was then that they realized commuters had no qualms about switching trains to board the other line.  They also found out during this six months that if a train broke down in the Y-interchange serving the Lower Bay station, that it would cause delays on BOTH subway lines.  The concept was scrapped, and the duplicate Bay Station was boarded up and locked in the basement, never to be used again...

...until Hollywood came knocking.

You see, in Canada, a subway that has been abandoned and neglected for almost 36 years has that special look of a New York City subway station, and is appealing to film crews as a set.

The fact that running trains in and out of this station doesn't interfere with either actual subway line is a major factor in the station's versatility as a Hollywood set, as does its bland appearance (a creepier, less polished, advertising-free version of the above Bay station, makes it easy to dress up as a New York Subway station.

In the 1997 Mira Sorvino film, "Mimic", Lower Bay Station served as a replica of the actual New York City Delancey Street Station.  Much of the film takes place in the subway system, so shots of trains coming and going from Lower Bay are abundant throughout the film.

I'll never tell about this subway station...Other movies to have used the "set" include "Don't Say A Word", "Cletis Tout", "Extreme Measures", "Johnny Mnemonic", "Darkman", "Bless The Child", and "Last Night".

The "Don't Say A Word" transformation was reported to have cost over $150,000 U.S., and ironically enough, the space was said to have been "restored" to its previous "beauty" immediately following the shoot.

According to snoopers from the underground zine Infiltration, the stairs to Lower Bay have a facade reading "Charon".  For those familiar with mythology, you will recognize the tongue-in-cheek association in the phrase "Charon doesn't make change".

In Greek Mythology, Charon was the ferryman who transported the dead across the river Styx into Hades.  Coins were traditionally placed over the eyes of the deceased to pay Charon's fare.  Since the "riders" are all ghosts, Charon didn't need to make change, and since there are no riders on Lower Bay, the same rule applies.  Funny but creepy, much like the whole station itself.

That way to downtown...

Hopefully all of this action that the Lower Bay Station has seen on film has done something to help mend the wounds of the TTC for its embarrassing guffaw oh so many years ago!  Even if it hasn't, the tale is a great piece of folklore .

For more on the subways of Toronto, check out the following links:

http://www.cygnals.com/zine/complete/subway.htm

http://www.infiltration.org/transit.htm

http://www.vad.freehosting.net/urbansites/canada_toronto.htm

http://www.torontoghosts.org/transport/lowerbay1.htm

http://www.fyitoronto.com/htdocs/static/secret_city/secret_pop1.html

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