Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bridges out west

I'm fast approaching the limit of the portable drive I've been storing my project on. I have 40 GB left out of 500. I was saying to P-Doug the other day that not all that long ago, back in 1998, I was paying $300 or thereabout for my first 1 gigabyte hard drive, more than double the size of the my first. That seemed like an impressive amount of storage then. Now forty times that much is getting tight. It's about the videos, mostly. When I consider that it's not all that unusual anymore for me to come home with videos that each would fill up that 1998 hard drive four times over, it's not really that surprising.

I'm of the opinion that this would be a good time to get the ducks in a row and consider a first accrual to the provincial archives, for a number of reasons. 500 GB is a lot of information to drop on anyone, no matter how well-organized. Secondly, I'm constantly haunted by the idea that, despite the fact that I back up the drive, they're both in the same physical location and some kind of accident could destroy a decade of work (well, four years of work, but material stretching back to the mid-90s that I can't replace), and moving it on to someone else would be that load off my mind. P-Doug thinks I should bump up to a larger drive for now.

One thing I'd like to do is get a drive small enough that I can store it in my safe deposit box at the bank; the idea being that once a month or so I could run up there and fetch it, back up the projects to it, and return it to the bank. There are 1TB and larger 2.5" drives now, powered by USB, which would be ideal... assuming they fit the box. I think they do. I don't know. I need to research that.

Anyway... here's the story of this latest excursion.

Wellington County and Waterloo Region are still more rural in their entirety than Toronto is, at least since about 1970. Consequently there are still a lot more interesting bridges out there. I spotted a handful to take in last week, to which P-Doug added the suggestion of a bridge on the Grand River in West Montrose (question: what became of East Montrose?), the only existing covered wooden bridge in all of Ontario.

It had been my intention to go on Saturday, and for me to do the driving (aside from P-Doug getting to and from my place from his). Saturday morning came around with forecasts of snow and slippery conditions, so P-Doug called and convinced me to hold off a day for better conditions. When Sunday rolled around, he offered to do the driving, in part because he's more familiar with the area. I was a little reluctant because I didn't want to use his gas on my project (and having just spent $40 on the gas to do it, I wasn't eager to pay for more gas so soon!) and because it meant I wouldn't be able to mount a camera in the windshield as well as power it off the car. But I figured hey, I have arms, I have spare batteries. And it saved me the trouble of having him turn the thing on and off and on and off. So this was the new plan. I offered instead to pay for lunch at a place we had in mind and figure we probably came out square, or thereabouts.

We headed out on the 401 westbound fairly early; probably before 10, and were in the vicinity of Guelph, our first stop, by about 11. Our first project was...

Stone Road bow arch bridge

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According to the cross bar on the bridge itself, it was built in 1916 to span the Eramosa River. Stone Road is in the south of Guelph, still essentially outside of town or just at the fringe. Twenty years from now it'll be a whole different story. It's hard for me to judge if the bow arch bridge was wide enough to let two cars pass at the same time... probably, but only just, and I'll bet the odd mirror was lost in so doing. In 2005, an adjacent modern bridge took over the route, and the bow arch was removed from the road network, but kept for pedestrians and the Scout camp on the south side.

The Scout camp driveway is as far as you can now drive on the old stretch of Stone Road. Beyond it are three barriers to vehicles on the bridge; one at the driveway, and one each on either approach to the bridge. Earlier shots I've seen of the bridge on Flickr (all, oddly, since it was closed) don't show these barriers, and I think it's a real pity the city felt it necessary to ruin the aesthetics with them since then.

We approached from the west; P-Doug wielding the S100 and me the W3 [A note about which... yes, W3, not W1. A camera store in Buffalo was unloading their demo model of Fuji's newer 3D camera on eBay at a cheap snip, less than half the price of retail, and I just had to bite. 3D HD video from the early 2010s is going to be a godsend for researchers someday; it's also stunningly better with low light conditions than the previous model.] We did some good work on the bridge during the half an hour or so we were there. I would really like to go back there in the spring when it's warm enough to get into the river and under the bridge and shoot it from other angles that February simply doesn't afford.

This bridge is likely to be around for a long time. I think the value in these shots will be its current condition, the nature of its surroundings in 2012, and even the character of the graffiti to be found on it and the barriers.

P-Doug got what I considered the best shot of the whole trip just before we left.

On our way out, I hiked up to the new road to photograph the level crossing there. They made allowance to expand the 2005 bridge, so expect before long Stone Road will be four-laned, and I can't imagine them doing that and not eliminating the hazard of four lanes of high-speed traffic crossing rail tracks. I'm convinced there will be an over- or underpass there within a decade. My shots will show what was.

After that, not far away, there was...

Niska Road Bailey bridge

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Now I'm used to thinking of Bailey bridges as a phenomenon of World War II and just after. But from what I understand, this bridge was built only about 25 years ago, or so. It's a one-lane bridge that carries Niska Road across the Speed River on the southwest corner of Guelph. The whole idea was to discourage traffic using the road to get back and forth to Hwy 6, while enabling access for locals. Judging from what we saw, that's really backfired. There were long stretches of so much oncoming traffic that for much of the time it wasn't worth the risk of trying to cross the bridge on foot. We were there 15 or 20 minutes, and I wouldn't be surprised if close to 100 cars crossed it in that time, and some of them just flying, too. There were at least a few occasions when cars had to stop to yield to traffic already on the bridge. I've seen proposals to replace this bridge with a two-laner, which strikes me as a good compromise between encouraging too much traffic (Niska Road is residential for a while east of the bridge) and continuing to risk the almost inevitable mid-bridge smash-up. Suggestions are that there will be money earmarked for this in Wellington County's 2014 budget, so this bridge may not be around as such for much longer.

In a way, it's regretable; there aren't that many Bailey bridges still in use in Ontario. But it's clear the status quo isn't viable... especially not with Guelph growing like it is.

We headed north across country and into Waterloo Region, where we stopped at what was the gem of the expedition...

"Kissing Bridge"—covered bridge

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This bridge dates to 1880, spanning the Grand River in the little hamlet of West Montrose. Another bridge about half a mile to the east carries the serious traffic nowadays but this treasure is not only still in existence, it's still in use by vehicular traffic. It draws dozens of tourists daily and is in extremely good upkeep.

To be honest, this stop wasn't really so much for the project as it was just to see the thing. I honestly don't think this area is going to look remarkably different within my lifetime. It's a long way from any city, it's already clearly a heritage-heavy site, and the bridge is the heart of the community in more ways than one. It's all going to look like this for a very long time, so at best, the shots of this bridge in the projects will be more about the chronological details the bridge finds itself in in 2012 than about the bridge itself.

Something about the covered bridge just lends itself to a winter setting. The colour, standing out against the grey pallor and the dead river passing below; the snow scattered around... it simply wouldn't be as evocative, I think, in warmer weather. My one regret in our not going on Saturday is that the shots might have been that much more romantic in heavier snow (even then, we did see a few flakes in the air while we were there).

Wonder what they would have thought of this back in 1880:

For myself, I got some interesting 3D shots of P-Doug using a couple's camera to snap some touristy shots of them. I was inside the bridge and the w3 had just enough zoom and just enough balance sensitivity to capture those interesting views.

JB's Mongolian

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Not a bridge, but the place we went to eat after a quick stop at Picard's Peanuts in St. Jacobs. JB's Mongolian is the first Mongolian BBQ place I ever found in Ontario, out in Kitchener-Waterloo long before I ever found one in Toronto (of which even now there are still only two that I'm aware of). I'd had Mongolian in both Los Angeles and Chicago, but JB's was my first in Canada. I hadn't been there in probably six or seven years. It was nice to go back.

The big adventure here was the money situation. Since P-Doug was driving and gassing up, I said I'd pay for lunch. Well, I almost never carry cash. I tend to pay by debit. Their internet was down and despite several attempts, we weren't getting a line. So we decided to wait a few minutes. Finally it worked... but with the tip, the amount exceeded what I had in the account, so it was their turn to wait while I used an app on my phone to move money around in my accounts. Finally, on the fifth attempt, the bill got paid. Sheesh. :)

After that it was a drive out to New Hamburg to see...

Perth Street one-lane wooden railway overpass

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This one's definitely not going to last forever. It's one of the last remaining, if not the last remaining, wooden road bridges over railroad tracks in Ontario. I missed photographing one in Durham Region recently by about a year. But we got this one, at least in video. We didn't get out and shoot this one. P-Doug figures the real value will be when it's shot from the tracks, and right now it's just too cool and difficult to do that, so maybe in the spring or summer.

By that time, it was past four, so we headed home, making our way back to the 401 and the hour-long trip back to Toronto. It was a full day and I'm really pleased we did everything we set out to do and got some good work out of it all.


jim said...

Great stuff, all three bridges you shot. It's a real shame the bowstring is blocked. Perhaps it has deteriorated underneath and the city doesn't want to risk it.

barefoot hiker said...

Heya, Jim. :) I think liability is the issue. I don't know if it's cars they're worried about... the approach is desurfaced and I can't imagine anyone taking it on in a car... but an SUV? Yeah, those guys are everywhere. I think they're looking to avoid some guy fishing off the bridge being turned into paté by some helmet-clad JuicyFruit commerical wannabe on his oversized Tonka.

Boris T said...

If you're looking for a wooden surfaced bridge, In Peterborough McFarlane St crosses the Trent Canal on a one lane wooden surface bridge.