Walking around downtown yesterday with a camera, it came into focus for me that one thing this city needs is a train station. The view above is the “front” of Central Station, and the view below is the “back.” I use quotes because the building is a faceless block with no human entrance at street level. On the “front” it has a gaping maw of a garage entrance where taxis enter and leave. The presence of a Tim Horton’s and a McDonald’s are indicated by signs tacked on one corner, and that is all.
Anyone who has experienced the grandeur of Toronto’s Union Station or New York’s Grand Central has to look at this featureless nonentity of a box with shame. I know people who have lived here for decades and don’t know where the train station is, because there is no character to this thing at all.
I’m not saying we need to reconstruct something imitative of the boom days of the early 20th century, but there should be a modern structure with a distinctive presence and it should, above all, have a well-marked entrance on the front where people can walk in from the street.
The inside of Central Station is not terrible (although those featureless frosted windows are bad) and it would be nice if we could keep the anthem friezes at either end of the hall, but it’s not much compared to the soaring spaces inside the New York or Toronto stations.
Ironically, of course, we had a grand train station and you can even see a glimpse of it in the distance in the photo at top, but Windsor Station is no longer in use and the existence of the Bell Centre means it can never be revived for the purpose. Even Jean-Talon station at Parc metro, whose main hall stood empty for many years, then became an Indigo bookshop then an SAQ and is now part of a Loblaws, is an infinitely more effective and dignified building.
It’s hard for me to believe that today’s Central Station was meant to be left in the state it’s in. It looks to me like a stub, a mere placeholder. But this city can think on a bigger scale and one of the things it deserves is a train station that isn’t a cringing little box.