The Sigmund Serafin Subway Paintings

About 50 years ago, there was a housecleaning at TTC’s head office at 1900 Yonge Street. A room in what was then the Advertising Department stuffed with archival material was to be cleared out because they needed the space. A call went to the transit fans interested in preservating things that would otherwise be lost. This included a set of water colours by Sigmund Augustus Serafin who produced images of what subway station designs would look like long before the days of computer graphics.

These date mainly from 1957 when the Bloor-Danforth-University subway was still in the design stage. Few of the stations were built exactly as shown here. The quaint presence of the red “G” trains that ran on BD for only six months is a wonderful touch. Other vehicles include PCC streetcars and GM buses that predate the “New Look” era. Many buildings in the backgrounds no longer exist.

For decades these paintings lived in our family house, but in 2016 with what appeared to be a “friendlier” crew with Andy Byford in charge, I decided that it was time for them to go back to the TTC and the City Archives where they now reside. The TTC had thoughts of publishing them as posters, but that idea never bore fruit. The original mats around the paintings were in less than perfect condition when I received them, but the watercolours were and are almost like new.

Reproductions are on display at Bay Station, but they do not do justice to the originals. In anticipation of the TTC’s 100th birthday on September 1, 2021, here is a gallery of the paintings with photos I took while they were in my hands.

Click on any photo to open a gallery of larger versions.

Yonge Station

St. Patrick Station

Woodbine Station

Broadview Station

Sherbourne Station

Willlowvale (Christie) Station

Willowvale, along with Vincent and Yorkville Stations, changed their names before the line opened in 1966. Willowvale was the original name of the park west of Christie Street.

Keele Station

St. George Station

4 thoughts on “The Sigmund Serafin Subway Paintings

  1. Talk about “artistic license”!

    Steve: I’m not sure what you refer to. The station designs changed substantially before they were built. Sometimes it was the location of the tunnel (Sherbourne), but a common thread is that the surface buildings changed from a style similar to the Yongs subway surface stations (a few of which still exist) to the harder edged glass and metal style used for the original BD line.

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  2. The bus layover area at Keele Stn. is very interesting. So are the extra exits at some of the stations. That would have solved the problem of extra emergency egress that they are only now dealing with.

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  3. It’s fortunate that the TTC recognized the value of these paintings at the time, ca. 1966, rather than just tossing them, as some organizations would have.

    Steve: The TTC was going to throw them out. It was thanks to Ted Wickson, then working at TTC, that a group of us were alerted to save them. An earlier generation of paintings by Serafin for the original Yonge Subway exist only as black-and-white photos. There was also a painting at the old Gray Coach terminal at Front and Sherbourne by Serafin that is long gone.

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