Sunday 24 June 2018

Sauntering in Brighton

“I have met but with one or two persons in the course of my life
 who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks –
who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING...”
- Henry David Thoreau, American Philosopher and Walker

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love to wander with a camera. With no particular goal for my photos, I derive great pleasure discovering visual treasures while just...wandering.

Henry David Thoreau, the great American philosopher and writer, recently reminded me of another word for walking: sauntering. Thoreau was an avid 19th century walker who frequently referred to himself as a saunterer. (The fact that he also had friends and family who did his laundry and cooked his meals certainly freed up his time for sauntering, but that’s another story!)

Thoreau wrote a brief book about walking, appropriately called Walking. (A free Kindle ebook on Amazon, BTW.) In the opening pages of that book, he describes the derivation of the word ‘saunter’:

“...beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under the pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terre,’ a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home...”

Thoreau goes on a bit more about this, as Thoreau tends to do, but this quotation captures the essence of his thinking.

Without claiming that I am heading towards the Holy Land, I do like the word ‘saunter’ to describe what my camera and I do.

Which brings me to nearby Brighton. Two weeks ago, Bill and I drove there so he could help with the community quilt show. While he was doing that, I had two uninterrupted hours to saunter through the town with my camera. It’s a pretty community, with an active sense of history and a tidy sense of landscape.

One of Brighton’s gems is the Memory Junction Railway Museum. Situated next to the busy VIA Rail Canada, Canadian National Railway, and Canadian Pacific Railway main lines, the museum is housed in the old Grand Trunk Railway station. Two local angels, Ralph and Eugenia Bangay, bought the station and adjacent property in 1995 for their growing collection of railway equipment, including a 1906 Grand Trunk Railway 2-8-0 steam locomotive (#2534).  You can still see the museum on the north side of the tracks as you whiz through Brighton on VIA trains to/from Toronto. The museum was created as an absolute labour of love, with an impressive collection.

Alas, it has fallen on hard times. The Bangays are no longer able to handle the demands of maintaining the museum, so it is closed. I had heard that the property was for sale, but I can’t confirm it.

And that’s where I ended up for an hour, sauntering through the outdoor collection of freight cars, cabooses, and railway paraphernalia, not to mention that magnificent locomotive. It was both a happy time and a sad time for me – almost like visiting the remains of dinosaurs. Ghosts lingered at every turn.

This museum is in need of both guardian angels and box cars of money to be restored to its prime.

These photos, all made on the grounds of Memory Junction, give you a flavour of the special place it once was – and could be again. Enjoy.

I plan to be in Manhattan for a few days, so I will not be posting in a week's time. I hope to post later next week.

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