Mural recreates historical moment in time in Southampton
by Sandy Lindsay

August 30, 2016


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(L-R) Karen Hilgendorf, Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber, Historian Jeff Hemming, Saugeen Rail Trail President Joyce Scammell, mural artist Bert DeGraaf and Rail Enthusiast Randy Schnaar

The puzzle pieces of early transportation to Southampton and Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores) are coming together as Train 1532 rolled into Southampton once again.

The train that carried passengers and freight into the region was artistically recreated in a 'trompe l'oeil' work by mural artist Lambertus (Bert) DeGraaf at, what is today, the Southampton Market.

DeGraaf, agreed to paint the authentic 3D train departing from the centre of the old Bell/Fitton-Parker factory ... now the Southampton Market, and, on August 26th, it was officially unveiled.

The project was the brainchild of Joyce Scammell and the Saugeen Rail Trail Association (SRT), who wanted to recreate the various historic methods of transportation, including the railway, that were responsible for opening up the region.

"Without these initiatives," said historian Jeff Hemming,  "a lot of history that is so integral to a community, would be lost.  These trains were relied on to carry the mail, passengers and freight to the area.  In the 1800s, local community politicians of the day, with great foresight, raised $200,000 in debentures in order to bring the railway to Southampton and on to Port Elgin."

The rail spur line went completely through the 'Market' so that freight such as furniture could be loaded under cover away from weather added Hemming.

Jeff Hemming

Hemming went on to explain that the rail yard in Southampton was unique in that there was no 'roundhouse' but a 'y' track.  "The spur line track also went down to Lake Huron and the short dock from the Grosvenor Station, that is now a private home, so that freight could be loaded and unloaded to and from ships in what became known as the Harbour of Refuge." 

Artist Bert DeGraaf (L) & Karen (Tanner) Hilgendorf

The mural is even more unique as it is an historical account of memories that pay tribute not only to the early trains that rolled into Southampton (Saugeen Shores) but also to the life of Allen Hilgendorf, a highly recognized Ontario mural artist whose giant 'history' murals adorn many buildings throughout surrounding counties. 

In the Southampton mural, the engineer of the train seen waving is a likeness of Allen Hilgendorf that his friend, DeGraaf created in tribute.

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"It's been quite a project," said artist, Bert DeGraaf, "and I appreciate having been chosen as the artist.  It was a real challenge and most of the work was created in the Westario building in Kincardine which the town so kindly allowed me to have access to.  It was also challenging because of the loss of my friend (Hilgendorf), but now he will be remembered in this mural."

The woman in the mural waving goodbye to the engineer is the likeness of Hilgendorf's wife, Karen.

The unveiling ceremony that took place on August 26th was especially touching and memorable when Hilgendorf's wife Karen recounted her brief marriage to Hilgendorf and the memories that the mural raised. 

"Allen died on August 4th, 2014," said Karen Hilgendorf (Tanner), "and when they suggested this (mural), I thought ...yes!  Bert wanted the mural authentic so I wore clothes of the era. Allen loved trains and I have a passion too for them."

Diane Huber, who also sits on the Municipal Heritage Committee, added that anything that brings heritage back to the community is appreciated.  "This permanent art fits in with the cultural aspect of Southampton."  Huber also told of how she and other youngsters in the community boarded the train as it took its last journey out of Southampton.

Joyce Scammel, Rail Trail Association President, said that it was through partnerships that the project was able to be completed.  "We had many businesses who helped along the way, such as Home Hardware in both Port Elgin and Southampton, the town of Kincardine, the many volunteers and those who remember the trains and worked on them and who forward with their memories." 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016