People should just get over the industrial core, the endless complaining about Burlington Street, the carping about the view from the Skyway Bridge, it’s old and disingenuous.
Things get made there, big things, little things, things that we all use every day. I’m not talking about the need to be vigilant about air pollution, but the attitude that any sort of manufacturing is unacceptable and should move somewhere else (and become someone else’s concern.)
I write about cars for the Toronto Star, including car reviews, road trip stories, features, and coverage of auto shows. I’ve covered impressive media events put on by Audi and Volvo and just about every carmaker in between. But one of the most impressive auto events I’ve attended was put on by ArcelorMittal Dofasco, on Burlington Street and it was all about the specialty steel they make for the auto industry. Engineers, metallurgists, and sales experts were there to explain the constant quest to make steel stronger and lighter. I was driving a Chevy Equinox at the time, and asked one of the managers if it contained ArcelorMittal Dofasco steel. She had the facts and figures about the about how much the company’s S-in motion steel the Equinox contained, and what percentages were in many other cars in production. There was a lot of brainpower at that event, and media savvy and enthusiasm for the product produced. Recently ArcelorMittal Dofasco got a lot of coverage for the Extragal steel that will be used in the Ford Edge going into production in Oakville and destined for the Global Market.
This business of writing car reviews is fascinating. One part of the job is to take photos of the vehicles to illustrate the story. There again is where Hamilton’s industrial core comes into play. It’s a fantastic backdrop for car photography. You are surely in a comatose state if you haven’t seen the big bubbles that popped up at the Hamilton waterfront in the last few years. The beige domes are used to store and transfer grain, and make a dramatic statement posed behind a glamorous vehicle. When they were brand new in 2011 I pulled up pretty close in a Fiat 500 I was reviewing and took a shot before being asked to leave by an employee of Parrish and Heimbecker Limited, the dome owners. After my cover was busted, I couldn’t get quite as close for the next car I posed there, a sensational looking Corvette.
Prowling around the industrial core in what auto writers call press cars is one of my favourite activities. Hamilton Match Plate Co. on Lottridge made a perfect backdrop for the useful Subaru Crosstrek, and the big slag heaps that would build up by Windermere Basin was a fitting landscape for a Range Rover capable of climbing a rock face.
Driving really gets interesting when you stop driving, and start walking. Then you meet people and discover stories. On a recent road trip to Welland to the site of the mammoth Atlas Steel plant where my dad used to work, I posed a Volkswagen Tiguan by a railroad spur line. As I was taking photos, a friendly guy in a pickup truck stopped to tell me the line was still “live” and that I might want to pay attention to the activity on the track. I learned from him that a small group of former Atlas employees bought the much-diminished remains of the plant and were making steel again.
So readers, that’s my plan for the future, drive some press cars, assess their qualities and at the same time explore the sort of hidden Hamilton that is so intriguing. Look for upcoming installments of Drive Walk Review.