Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Kirkhams Road update

I've scribbled a bit about Kirkhams Road here before. I'm not sure why I find it interesting. It's not really major, and never really was. Even back in the 1960s, it didn't really take you anywhere. It was just a wiggly little road that took you north and south across the Rouge River at the far east end of Metro, in an area that remains the last rural remnant inside the City of Toronto. But, it's a place in transition, and it's about to be largely lost, so I guess that's the attraction.

Kirkhams Road was effectively the northern extension of what's now Meadowvale Road in Scarborough, at least northward from Sheppard Avenue, where they met at a brief dogs leg intersection, just separated enough to be irritating. There were scores of such wonky intersections all throughout northern Metro into the 1960s. This was one of them.

Below is Kirkhams Road in the mid-1950s, somewhere around the time Hurricane Hazel came through... probably just before, because if I'm not mistaken, its bridge over the Rouge was one of the ones we lost, and in replacing it they normalized the course of the road south of the river somewhat. Kirkham Road is in the middle here; the one that snakes to the west to cross the Rouge before resuming its straight concession line course. The major road running more or less across the bottom of the view is Sheppard Avenue, which then, as now, veers off to the southeast; its continuation easterly across the Rouge is Twyn Rivers Road, a charming little stroll down into and up out of the valley, much favoured by locals, especially on weekends. (The view is from McMaster University's online plates of southern Ontarian overflights undertaken 1954-1955, covering an area called home by nearly every third Canadian today.)

...And below is what the same area looks like today, or two or three years ago, at any rate. You can see that this is essentially where development stopped in northeast Scarborough, which is now the quasi-official, maybe, but not quite, might be one day, Rouge Park. Meadowvale Road is the major spaghetti that's superseded Kirkhams Road, and the reason it could be closed a few years ago when its bridge was deemed structurally unsound to remain in the city's road grid.

I was looking back on what I'd said and shown about the road on the blog, and I noticed that when I was there on March 25th I was marvelling about how warm it was, and wondering what that would mean for spring. Well, as I recall, that didn't last. We had a crappy spring that never really arrived. It just lingered in tepidity until suddenly one day it was summer, and then summer quit early around mid-September, and we've been having Halloween weather a month early. Just mentioning this as an aside so when I look back at this the next time I post about Kirkham Road, I'll have a seasonal frame of reference.

Anyway, I was out there again yesterday, because I'd finally found a little information about what they have in mind with the work they've been doing there lately. I knew it was at least partly about replacing the water system that's currently serviced by pipes on the underside of the closed bridge. They're putting it through in what's called a "trenchless" (whatever that means) tunnel under the river between Kirkhams Road and Meadowvale Road. The hillside between them south of the bridge, where it was so overgrown in earlier shots, is now a bare patch of soil with big holes dug in it and tubes about a yard wide sticking out of them. I came down from the north side, and found three cars parked at the barricade, possibly Thanksgiving visitors to the house at the current road's end. Just beyond that, the big clearing on the northwest side is no longer a mystery: I understand now they're constructing a loop for traffic to turn around, since it's no longer able to cross the bridge. I was a bit surprised to see the bridge still standing; I thought it might have been pulled down already as part of the work. But I suppose if the waterworks aren't completed yet, the bridge is still needed. I wonder if they'll tear it down immediately once that infrastructure's in place and the stuff slung under the bridge is superfluous, or if taking the bridge down will be a separate contract to be undertaken at a later date. Ideally I'd like to get some shots of the bridge while it's been taken down, but without knowing when that will be, I know it will only be by unlikely good luck that I'll get any such shots. More likely I'll show up one weekend with the missing bridge a fait accompli.

It's my intention to post at least a few of the shots this evening as contrast with the ones I've posted before, so if you see this before they're here, and you care at all, check back later. :) Again, the shots were taken with the W3, which as I indicated an a previous post I find myself depending on more and more as my "camera of record" on such excursions because it captures the view in three dimensions and with pretty good quality (the video abilities of the W3 in particular are a huge, huge improvement over the previous W1... gee, was there ever a W2, by the way?).

I should probably take a couple of evenings and work together a post about the various roads and odd little rural quirks of Rouge Park. I also need to make sure I've kept the project files as up-to-date as they should be... make sure all the photos are in there, and geotag and keyword-process them. Boy, that takes time. The one bright spot in that is that Fuji finally released a utility to cut and even merge/transition the 3D AVI files its W1 and W3 cameras produce; something I've been waiting for literally for years. For instance, I was finally able to trim down a long dashboard video that included a bit about the (former) level crossing on Sheppard Avenue that I just couldn't include before because it came in the middle of a much longer trip, and as such would only have confused anyone who saw it in the future. So, recently I was able to extract just the pertinent section and put that into the folder. Thank you, Fuji. :)


jim said...

Then-and-now aerials make me :-)

Is it a done deal that the bridge will be torn down? Here in Indiana, they often spare the expense and leave old unused bridges standing -- at least, as long as they're not a hazard to the waterway below.

barefoot hiker said...

I wouldn't want to bet the mortgage on it, but the things I've read in little bits here and there leads me to believe the city's opted to remove the bridge. Apparently it was determined it's not even technically safe for pedestrian traffic, and the fact that they're building the cul-de-sac quite a way back from the bridge suggests to me they're not keeping it as a bike crossing. One of the options was to keep the bridge and recondition it, but since it's not needed for traffic of any kind, since there's another bridge with sidewalks just a hundred feet away, I think they'll pull it down just to save the city from any liability. I couldn't swear to it, but the only, shall we say, "scenic" bridges I've seen the city save are ones that pass muster as structurally sound. I just wish I could find out when it's supposed to come down. I'd really like to record that.

Bridgewater said...

Your bridge project clearly is a labor of love; the time and effort, from field work to files to these interesting, intelligent reports, is more than impressive. The cameras are quite a contrast from the 35mm Zenit on which I cut my photographic teeth.

barefoot hiker said...

Hey Bridgewater. :) It's funny, it didn't start out to be about bridges and I never really conceived of it as such, but I guess I've been leaning pretty hard on that horn over time. Initially it was about any change in the city, especially outside the downtown core (which, frankly, I consider a done deal; what big building replaces what other big building doesn't especially fire my rockets). I've always been wowed most by the changes wrought by urbanization itself. I think that's largely what I'm after.

I've had a long fascination with closed roads. I can remember when I was very very young, the was a blocked off road over a rotary in the town where I lived, and my dad said that once, the road must have gone straight through, and they'd had to close part of it to build the rotary. That a road could exist, and be a place, and then one day be closed to everyone and even erased, really captured my imagination, and obviously it still does.

I think the reason so many bridges show up is that they're so iconic. They're part of the road, but they are themselves places, specific to a location, and in strong contrast with another feature... generally a river or a railroad. As opposed to a road in general, which is akin to a frozen river with no one part of it so much a "place" as simply part of a flow that has to be experienced in a process, a bridge has an identity and can be experienced as a moment. Often they're powerful and majestic and speak of our prowess as builders, and evoke a human pride, such as the myriad shots I have of the 1940s Dundas Street bridge being replaced over the past few years.

But yeah, I do love this. There aren't too many things I like better than pouring over old photos of familiar or vaguely familiar places and marvelling at how much they've changed. In Toronto and hereabouts, I've really come to value the work of James Salmon and Ted Chirnside. But what can you say? There are only so many photos in their repertoire and once you've experienced them all, that's that. Still, because they did the work they did, with their own time, with cumbersome and expensive equipment, with all the trouble of developing and preserving their photos, I've had the privilege of seeing things I could never have seen otherwise, because while I'm of that place, I'm not of that time. I want to do the same for other folks like me someday.

Except it's far easier for me, thanks to the advances in technology you mentioned. I always wanted to get into photography when I was young, and I kind of fiddled with it, but I found the process of having to buy film, and being locked into a few dozen exposures per roll, and having to pay to develop the film and buy the prints, and not knowing if the shots were any good when you took them, too limiting. I knew I was waiting for technology to catch up with me and my goals for it. In the mid-90s, it did. Sometime around six or seven years ago, digital cameras began to match decent 35mm film cameras for quality, and that's when I can honestly say we arrived. 3D photography is just a gimmick right now but soon enough it'll be the standard. The one thing I'll be able to say is I got there earlier enough to catch some views, like the 16th Avenue Bailey bridge in use, that no one else did. It's no Nobel Prize, but at least it's something. :)

Bridgewater said...

Your analogy of a road as a "river...part of a flow that has to be experienced in a process," with a bridge as having "an identity [that] can be experienced as a moment": truly lovely.