Sunday, October 26, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Even after I found the long hall to the pedestrian bridge across the track (previous entry), I took no notice of this hulking piece of machinery parked in the only alcove. There are numerous lessons in that:

1.  Sometimes I see only what I’m looking for. I didn’t visit this hall often, but I must have passed the alcove a half dozen times. It is one of the few features in a very long space, and yet it made little impression on me until Corky happened to tell me the factory once had a monorail system, and I began looking for its remains. Lazlo had missed it too, but when I pointed it out, he gave it his super panorama treatment, while I took out my wide-angle lens. There’s never a shortage of things to see or ways of seeing them.

2.  I don’t usually photograph “things.” However, until I understood that the beam was a track and the car, a monorail vehicle, I was mindless and saw no picture here. The picture lies in the purpose - in the thought of that thing impelled along the track, perhaps with hampers of scrap metal hanging from it, perhaps a workmen walking next to it. Until I knew what it was, I saw no picture. However, the picture must speak without any explanation. It’s not a photograph of a thing; it’s an image.

3. If there is power in the image, visual should precede verbal, and the power will lie in realms unstated.

For the record:

The "long perpendicular hall” remains a bit of a mystery; why so long? It continues behind me and well past both bridges to where the building once ended and where other structures might once have stood. In any case, like the pedestrian passage, this alcove once went across the roof of the rod shop and then entered an enclosed bridge over the track to the flat wire mill. Of course, I’m not sure what the mills were doing when the monorail was in operation. The bridge is gone, this end walled over, and on the other end the buildings are much changed, though its easy to see how the bridge and monorail might have fit in. 

The monorail began there, in the flat wire mill.  Passing into the rod mill and turning here, it zigged down at the far end to the right, and then zagged left out of the building. It then crossed in front of the powerhouse to the foundry. Gables remain high on the roofs where it entered each building, and I think I can see it in the 1921 and 1934 aerials. 

Inside the foundry it made another turn left and crossed back over the tracks through one of the bridges pictured earlier.  That bridge must have been similar to the missing bridge of this picture. Inside the extrusion mill you can barely see where the bridge abuts, but it is at a spot where trains and trucks had access. 

A bridge, two gables, and this stretch of track where the "monorail" vehicle came to rest are all that is left of a system that once was a major artery for materials and people and the flow of product. What, exactly, it did, I don’t know, but I never realized how much this campus was once like a single, big, humming machine, back before reality was digitized.