Friday, September 27, 2013


You really just never know.

For years now I've been recording, and occasionally chronicling, the replacement of the Dundas Street (Hwy 5) bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek in Oakville. That job is done. The bridge is replaced, the park below it is open. But there were casualties: four of the six supports of an even older bridge than the one just replaced, which had stood naked beside their replacement for sixty years, finally disappeared. Only two of them were kept around for archeological interest.

A little further to the west stands a similar arrangement. Over Twelve Mile Creek (also called Bronte Creek) is another bridge that's stood since 1948, alongside the lost pillars of the bridge it replaced, itself built in 1921 (which itself replaced a remote single-lane pony truss bridge downstream dating to the 1880s, or thereabouts). It's called the Tansley Bridge to those in the know. These bridges seem to come and go in approximate pairs, so my expectation was that, with the Sixteen Mile Bridge replacement over and done with, the 1948 four-lane arrangement at Twelve Mile Creek was now for the chop. Recently I've been past there and noticed construction work, and assumed I'd called the shot.

Not exactly. When I looked it up online to see what the nature of the work was, I read that the old lost pillars of the 1921 bridge, which have stood useless for 65 years, were being repurposed. Halton Region and its civil engineers had determined that they were structurally sound enough to be refurbished and used to carry a water pipeline across the valley. Imagine!

Well, you don't have to imagine. Here are two shots I took from between the bridges, facing west; one in November, 2007, and another yesterday at the end of September, 2013.

It's a silly little thing, I know, but it makes me happy. Pillars that carried the traffic of Dundas Street through the Roaring 20s, the Depression and World War II, have survived hard times over twice as long to come out the other side with a new purpose that might just see them into the next century. Who can say?

Here's a shot, displayed by the Trafalgar Township Historical Society, of the first cars crossing the newly-built bridge in 1921. The view faces east, in the direction of Toronto.

I was out at this bridge twice in 2007, once in July and then again in November, both times with P-Doug. Here are some shots from July...

These shots in particular show the way out to the western abutment of the 1921 bridge. As you can see, no provision was made, either in 1948 or subsequently, to put any kind of barrier up at the edge of the abutment... and there's a trail down to it. I'm absolutely astonished that no distracted kid at play or teenager at a drunken get-together ever plunged off this thing in 65 years.

And below, follow-up shots from November. Nothing much had changed, of course, but with the trees bare, the view of the structures was a little more rewarding.

The bottom couple of shots show the western abutment as seen from the "new" 1948 bridge, looking to the southwest. You can see how overgrown it got over the years. The other shots show views from down in the valley looking east, and views of the pillars of the 1921 bridge as they looked for 65 years.

Now, my expectation was that these old pillars were in for it... that soon, a new pair of bridges here, each bearing three lanes, would arise like they did at Sixteen Mile Creek, and one of them would have to assume the course of the old 1921 bridge, and these pillars would have to go. Of course, as you've seen, my guess was wrong.

I wasn't out there Thursday with P-Doug. I was actually making the acquaintance of a fellow road nerd, Phil, a longtime resident of my old stomping grounds in Mississauga. He too is a fan of recording what is in deference to what was (and what may be), and we decided to go out in the field and talk shop while I followed up on a couple of sites in Halton (the other being the old Ninth Line bridge at Joshua Creek, which I may or may not blog about; we'll see). It was a strange thing to be, for once, the person who didn't have to just imagine what it was like before, but to be with someone who was in the position. Phil hadn't known about the old bridge supports or seen them when they were just abandoned to the elements... he was seeing them for the first time as I was seeing them anew: refurbished, repurposed, rededicated and spruced-up to the nines.

The views that follow show the approach to the new bridge that carries not only the pipeline, but what appears to us to be arguably a pedestrian access route across the valley. The astonishing thing here is that the views you're seeing here are the updated views of those overgrown, tangled, hopelessly lost shots of the approach to the "cliff" of the 1921 abutment, which, I believe, forms the basis of this new bridge as well.

Notice the style of the railings in the shots just above... they've gone out of their way to design railings that match the ones the original bridge here had 92 years ago. Anyone who drove along here in the 30s and 40s would recognize this bridge reborn. I couldn't tell, with the pipeline in place, if the bridge is as wide as it was way back then... it managed two lanes of traffic, just... but I'd have to say it's at least a solid approximation of what used to be there, and that in and of itself is reason to celebrate. Somebody cares, and cares that much. Imagine that.

Above, a view back up the hill, looking westward, away from Toronto. Last time I was here in summery weather, this was a sea of what strongly appeared to me to be poison ivy, although (thankfully) it probably wasn't. But I was sure sweating the idea that it was.

And finally, a shot looking east along the westbound lanes of Dundas Street. I wonder how much longer this bridge, and this view particular to it, has?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What it took for Sunday's shots

Here's about an hour and a half of driving compressed down to about five minutes, to Duffy's Lane and back (with a couple of stopovers along the way). I decided to spare everyone the slow crawl across town that dodging the late-Sunday traffic on the 401 caused by weekend vacationers pouring off the 400 required of us.

And so, to the karaoke version of 88 Lines about 44 Women by The Nails (love the song but a couple of the themes in the lyrics are a bit strong for my purposes here), here's a quick trip up to the northwest of the GTA and back again.

Note: I recommend watching full-screen at 720 quality if you can accommodate it.

Work on Duffy's Lane

The plan had been, originally, for P-Doug and I to head up to Bolton on Saturday, get shots of the work on the new bridge, coming down this time from the north end of the work. I also had in mind to finally take some shots of the Glasgow Road pony truss that's still in service.

As it turned out, Saturday was heavily rainy and we called it off. Instead we wandered to the pub and then to see the new movie, Prisoners. Strange, disturbing picture where no one's ox goes ungored; I can recommend it. But, as usual, I digress.

So I backed it off to Sunday, which promised to be sunny, but chilly. P-Doug had plans so at the last minute I managed to get Larry to come along to man a second camera.

We parked up at what is now the north "end" of Duffy's Lane; that is, as far south as you can drive coming from the north. Beyond that, we headed down on foot with an eye to seeing what work they'd done in the north end, and eventually what progress they'd made on the bridge. (Note: you can click on the images here to see somewhat larger versions of them.)

Looking south past the barrier.

Looking back north along the section of Duffy's Lane still open to vehicle traffic.

Looking southward from beyond the barrier.

Looking back northward at the barrier.

It was around the time we got to the point indicated in the three photos above that a couple of things occurred to us. One was that we were about to run out of pavement, and beyond that was mud, mud, mud. I already ruined one pair of sandals here in this clay-based muck. In other circumstances, I would have kicked them off and carried on barefoot. But Sunday it was uncomfortably cool, and the mud must have been clammier still. In short, heading further was off the table for that day.

The second thing we realized was that there was now a large open area on the east side (on the left in the shots above, which face south). I noticed little flagged pegs sticking out of it, and I made a quick assumption it was going to be some small subdivision... maybe townhouses just off Duffy's Lane. But then I realized the open area stretch from the bridge construction, just out of sight to the southwest, to the height of land to our northeast. And I got it: the road wasn't just going to cross a new bridge and then resume its course. It was taking a new course. And the little connector we were standing on wasn't just a momentary convenience for the construction machines... it's going to be the way you turn off the new course to get onto Duffy's Lane. And anything south of that point was about to vanish. I didn't need to see a map... I was as sure as I could be.

Seen from the little connector road, as far into the mud as we dared to go, this view looks to the northeast, and shows the open stretch of the new road course

Heading further south a few dozen yards to the end of the pavement, I managed to cross a drainage ditch and get between the old course and the new course, which you see above. This view looks off to the northeast, and will take traffic in the direction of Highway 50, which runs north and south parallel to Duffy's Lane.

This is a zoom shot of the same view. You can see how the road turns and heads pretty much due east.

This view looks southwest toward the new bridge, out of sight behind the rise.

Seen from the end of the pavement on Duffy's Lane, this composite panorama looks southeast, with the new road course running across the image, and the old course seen there on the right.

This composite view of the new road course, taken between it and the old (behind me), shows the road coming up from the river out of sight on the right, and off to the northeast on the left.

In the part of Duffy's Lane between the new access connector and where the new road course now cuts through it, the Humber Valley Heritage Trail crosses. Formerly, folks heading east would emerge from the forest, above (Duffy's Lane is just behind me in this view)...

...and, making sure no traffic was coming, they'd cross Duffy's Lane, walk north a few yards, and resume the trail on the east side. Usually that pile of earthworking dirt isn't in the view.

From now on, they won't have to do this. At least, not here. This part of Duffy's Lane will never see car traffic ever again. It's about to disappear completely.

The view above is a composite panorama, facing east. This is where people walking the trail come out onto Duffy's Lane. This view is about to disappear.

These three views, above, look north toward what will soon be the curving connector that will take cars to and from the bypass. The part of the road we're standing on has seen its last traffic. My guess is it will be de-surfaced, planted with trees, and made just a few more yards of the Humber Valley Heritage Trail. Come back in a year and a half in the spring of 2015 and reshoot the bottom photo, and you'll be standing at the south edge of the curve, with the road behind you gone.

These views face north, returning to where we parked.

When I arrived home, I decided to check it out, and sure enough, I was right. Peel Region has planned this as a bypass, to come up from Coleraine Drive, connect to Duffy's Lane, cross the new bridge, crest the hill, and then cross what is now open field eastward to connect to Hwy 50 (or "Regional Road 50", as it's now more correctly referred to). The idea is to take people right around Bolton, and the choke points on Queen Street (Hwy 50) at the King Street intersection. Click image below for enlarged version.

So, we'll be out there every week or two while the weather's good. This construction work is supposed to go on till December next year. I'm hoping to get some good shots of it for people in the future. Given how many shots I actually have in and around the area, I think there's a good foundation.