The mills of Hamilton
Posted by Frum Hiker on March 3, 2009
Every time I come up over the bridge I slow down to gaze at the beautiful expanse before me, I like to stop on the shoulder, but the high winds and crazy Canadian drivers deter me, and force me off the road to take a closer look, to gaze intently at the smokestacks making artificial clouds, the fire pouring forth from what I can only guess to be burn off stacks, buildings, piles of gravel and ships fill in the scene.
I am running across the street camera in hand, I am excited, the sky is bright blue, but it has that winter slanted light feel, it is dreary for most, but for me it holds some special qualities, qualities missed since moving south. The late day slanted light with tinges of orange and pink, reflecting off of the frozen inlet.
Ships are docked off in the distance, and the looming steel mills and oil refinery create this beautiful scene of industry and darkness. The light cannot penetrate this scene, the light can only show me the smokestacks and the looming buildings, with out of proportion triangulated roofs. Camera in hand I run back across the street, cold, numb hands and unsatisfied, I want to see more, I want to see the pipes and gangways and railroad tracks crisscrossing throughout these industrial complexes.
To most, Hamilton, Ontario evokes an image of blazing smokestacks and a huge portion of the Queen Elizabeth Way that is elevated, they merely glance at these smokestacks polluting the sky with their waste, as they hurry on to Toronto. I wonder who else stops to take in the sites and sounds of the industrial areas of Hamilton.
Very few places I have traveled to paint such a picture as the port of Hamilton does from the Skyway. People probably visit the museums and zoos and main streets, but who would get off and wander around the old and new steel factories, I would hardly call it a tourist district yet here I am going up and down side streets that dead end at guard booths with large signs telling me to KEEP OUT!
It not that disappointing for everywhere I look, railroad tracks snake off into the plants creating good romanticized shots for people like me whose lives revolve almost solely around the romantic idea of the long forgotten train.
Tracks embedded in cobblestone do it for me, the industrial areas of cities not yet paved with those common found materials of asphalt and concrete,. Cobblestone, evokes never actually remembered memories of trains, horse drawn wagons and grimy men with their lunch pails in hand off to another 12 hour shift at the plant. The Jungle describes what I want to remember but never actually experienced. I imagine ten ton buckets of molten steel being poured while men in overalls and hard hats scream above the din. The danger and the mystery all combine in my head, I wish I could see the inside, not have to dream about it.
I pass by an amazingly redone art deco entrance to a train car company, it is almost too good to be true, I snap pictures quickly as I begin to think of art deco and why every town from upstate NY to south Texas has an art deco movie theater, no idea why, maybe movies were the invention of the roaring 20s and to show the progress every town had to have one and they all had to have the art deco lines that ran along the big vertical sign hanging from the buildings façade.
I begin my journey east back on the highways with thoughts of factories filling my imagination.