April 15, 2015

Horse 1877 - Walking On Perfection

What do you see in this picture?
If you said "a shoe on a set of stairs" then whilst I don't question your powers of observation, I do question your powers of imagination. What do I see in this picture? Perfection.

There are some things in life which once crafted, have never needed to be redesigned ever again.
The Bialetti Moka Pot is perfect in its execution of design, functionality and simplicity. With no moving parts whatsoever, it could even be taken camping and still produce a better cup of coffee than the vast majority of baristas working away at complicated machines that cost many many dollarpoundeuros.
Levi's 501s apart from the removal of the infamous groin rivet, have remained basically unchanged since their inception on the Californian gold fields in the 1850s. From humble work wear of gold miners (49ers), the black and then later blue jeans of Californian merchants Levi and Strauss, became the uniform for teenagers and dowdy old people alike (especially those on now cancelled television motoring shows).
However we might like to dress it up or down, the modern business shirt is practically cut the same way as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The business shirt's story does involve the deaths of more than a hundred people in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and did bring about major changes to labour laws in the United States, but that's no fault of the shirts themselves.
I know that this might sound daft, but I think that there are some things which should be praised because of the elegant solutions they have employed. Whether by design or sheer dumb luck, I think that the stairs at Milsons Point Railway Station are practically perfect in every way.

The rise between each stair is perfect. You're not straining to climb up the side of a cliff with every step and the run is also perfect and accommodates a size 9 shoe absolutely perfectly. The width of the stairs is perfect and allows substantial ingress and egress of passage, even when there are trains arriving hither and yon up above. There are also windbreakers at station level, which means that even on windy days, for a train station which is both exposed and almost on top of the harbour, passengers can ascend and descend without copping a battering from the wrath of the elements.
Every single thing about the stairs at Milsons Point Railway Station is so utterly perfect in every conceivable way that its very existence is almost a fluke of history.

Yes there are grander stations in Sydney such as Sydney Terminal with its steel frame, arching cathedral like above; there are the twin jewels of the City Circle, Museum and St James, which are prettier than a chocolate box at Christmas; and there is what's left of the modernist Eastern Suburbs Railway line with its tiles and two-tone colour schemes but only Milsons Point Railway Station has a feature where function trumps form so eloquently.

Yet there is a kind of sadness in this perfection, a melancholia which goes by unnoticed by the general public. Maybe a few of the many throngs who cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge daily, notice this sadness but if they do, they remain silent.
Milsons Point Railway Station is a twin. Its twin died a forlorn death when the Cahill Expressway appeared and then finally when the Warringah Expressway devoured entire streets of North Sydney, the body was disposed of. I refer to the Milsons Point Tram Station which used to stand on the elevated platform where the toll booths and lanes 7 & 8 now run. Trams used to fly over the Bradfield Highway to North Sydney Station and Blue St via a box girder bridge but once the tram lines were unceremoniously ripped asunder, the tram station ceased to have a purpose.
The perfect stairways at the Railway Station were duplicated at the Tram Station and alas they too faced the hand of destruction.
Milsons Point Railway Station hasn't mourned its twin's loss though. As the sole remaining station on the bridge's approaches, it is a glory hog. It has become a prime vantage point from which to watch the New Year's fireworks displays and the bridge itself is still something whose glow it can bask in.

Beautiful perfection; melancholic destruction - What did you see in this picture? If you still say "a shoe on a set of stairs" then I still don't question your powers of observation. You may however, question my sanity because I just wrote a 770 word piece about a set of stairs.

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