Heritage platform at Toronto’s Union Station reopens following restoration work

Work continues at Union Station to transform the iconic transit hub for the future of GO transit service. On top of the new GO bus terminal and Bay Concourse, important platform work is on its way. Get the info on platform 3 construction and more plans for platform work at Union Station.

One of the most unique train platforms at Toronto’s Union station is reopening for customer use.

Starting today, January 10, Union Station’s northern-most platform – platform 3 – is available for service after extensive historic conservation and restoration work.

a GO train waits at a Union Station platform, before heading back out into the snow.
In this file shot, a GO train waits at a Union Station platform (not number 3 platform), before heading back out into the snow. (Metrolinx photo)

While no two platforms are identical, platform 3 is historically distinct. In fact, the whole Union Station trainshed is a designated heritage structure and when platform 3 was originally restored much care was taken to preserve the heritage character, like the smoke vents, cast iron collars, and columns. 

Image shows the platform.
A look at the iconic platform. (Metrolinx photo)
Image shows the stairs to the platform.
The passenger stairs on platform 3, just before opening. (Metrolinx photo)

At Union Station, GO Trains arrive and depart from a total of 23 platforms. There are 11 island platforms which each serve two tracks (one on each side), and one side platform – platform 3. This is another unique feature, as it only serves one track.  

This is also not the first reopening for this platform.

In 2015, following some work under the Union Station Revitalization package of work, the platform (and tracks 1and 2) were reopened.

The platform remained in use allowing for other projects to take place in and around Union Station until December 2020, when it was closed again to remove the staircase and that lead to the former Union Station Bus Terminal (USBT).

This allowed for demolition work to continue on the old USBT and the continued construction of the new CIBC Square complex at 141 Bay Street (which will connect to 81 Bay Street, the site of the new Union Station Bus Terminal), and finally to allow for the restoration of the Bay Street bridge façade.

Image shows the bridge.
An example of some of the flashing work done over the iconic bridge. (Metrolinx photo)

Want to learn more about the unique features of Union Station’s platform 3? Metrolinx News breaks down some of the highlights.

Smoke vents: 

The smoke vents are a character-defining element of the Union Station trainshed. Their invention permitted the construction of a lower, lighter structure. Toronto Union Station is one of the only intact versions of this type of train station remaining in North America. 

It was important to retain some of the original fabric of the structure to illustrate the history and evolution of Union Station. That’s why Metrolinx worked to retain the original smoke vents over tracks 1 and 2. The smoke vents were repaired by removing loose and deteriorated concrete and patching with a compatible concrete material.

Cast iron collars at the base of columns: 

These are original to the trainshed and are the only purely decorative element included in the structure. 

They were buried when the platform level was raised to suit GO trains. As part of the work, the constructor removed the collars, restored them, and reinstated them at the new platform level.

With respect to heritage work, there was careful architectural and structural restoration done to the freight elevator shaft enclosures, stair enclosures, skylights, roof-level enclosures, heritage columns, and the Bay Street bridge. This included replacement of the butcher block roof, masonry and limestone repairs, and heritage façade restoration of the north face, and repairs to Bay Street Bridge south face brick masonry and windows. Read more about that work here.

What happens next?

Platform 3 work was completed and reopened in advance of the start of the Union Station Enhancement Project. This package of work, scheduled to start in mid to late February will take the two most southern platforms (24/25 and 26/27) out of service for a number of years while a new south platform, new staircases, and new concourse are constructed.

Work to convert platform 20/21 to a shared platform is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Work also continues on the second (north) tower of the CIBC Square development. Once this tower is complete, elevator and stair access between Platform 3 and the Bay East Teamway will be reinstated and a new pedestrian bridge will connect the new building and the east wing of Union Station.

The new bridge will use the façade of the railway bridge as its south wall and will feature glass walls to maintain a visual of the façade while providing direct access to the new elevator and stair. Restoration of the City-owned headhouse (north) wall of platform 3 will be completed at a later date.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Story by Stacey Kenny, Metrolinx communications senior advisor