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Toronto Transit Trivia Answered

We received a lot of response to our photographic trivia (prize-less) contest, and it’s clear a lot of you had a lot of fun playing historical detective.

The photograph is, of course, of Queen subway station, on the northbound platform. Although the station has been heavily renovated, it has maintained a lot of its basic look, making this part of the trivia question the easiest to answer. Sadly, I can’t give you the exact date on when this picture was taken, because the person who donated this photograph didn’t know it either, but many of you still managed to work out a decent date range.

Of course many of you noted the presence of the Gloucester cars in the background, which dates the picture before 1990. Many of you also noted the presence of vitrolite tiles, the old transfer machine and the old style turnstiles (with “ENTRANCE” printed vertically in TTC subway font) and the lack of a yellow edge strip on the platform, placing the picture before the station’s renovations in the mid 1980s.

Then some of you noticed the subway map at the right of the picture, which was both a blessing and a curse. Clearly it shows the Yonge and University lines, with no Spadina subway, which gives this picture a range between 1963 and January 1978. It’s unclear, however, whether the Bloor-Danforth subway is shown, or how far north the Yonge subway extends. Some of you thought that, with no Bloor-Danforth subway present, the map dates the picture to within a year range of 1963-1967, but that type of map was more common in the 1970s, and tended to show the line it was on, ignoring the other line in the system.

Also, if you compare the relative distance between St. George and Union on this map, and the corresponding Yonge portion, which has more station stops than portion of the line between Bloor and Eglinton, it suggests that the map does show the North Yonge extension, although whether it’s to York Mills or Finch isn’t clear. So that narrows the range between March 31, 1973 and January 28, 1978. The Millionnaires advertisement doesn’t help, because although they were active in the mid 1970s, the company had been selling sardines from the fifties on.

Pete Coulman guesses June 1975, or any of the summer months between June 1972 and September 1977 for a number of reasons. For one thing, nobody is wearing any coats, and for another, one “dude” is wearing an “ugly 1970s paisley shirt and bellbottoms” (a outfit Pete painfully remembers). Alan Gryfe and Alan Levita picks up on the one detail that everybody missed. In Gryfe’s words: “The train has the vinyl stickers in the doors (telling people not to lean on the doors), which would put it in the mid-70s.”

So the best guess we have is that this photograph was taken at the entrance to the northbound platform of Queen subway station, sometime between June 1973 and September 1977, in the summer months, either late evening or on Sunday (due to the lack of crowds, and the fact that the newsstand is closed).

The first participants who guessed in this range include Leo Mui, Edward Chan, Stephen Parkin, Stanley Wojtowicz, Matt Blackett and Calvin Henry-Cotnam.

A special mention goes to Michael Hawkins who, although he didn’t guess within the date range, does come up with the most detailed explanation of where this picture was taken from. In his words: “the picture you have is of Queen station, taken on the northbound platform side, just to the south of the collector’s booth on that side. This picture would have been taken approximately a metre and a half away from the original stairwell to the surface, which was closed when One Queen East went in and provided a new link to the surface (although the stairwell remains in place).”

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