The Way To Swampscott: Adventure of A Lifetime

Artist John Bonner ventures to uncharted territory: upon the would be Swampscott Rail Trail.


In June, Columbia Pictures began pouring millions of dollars into the making of the Adam Sandler movie Grown Ups 2.

At the same time, Marblehead artist and animator John Bonner set in motion his own movie — Thighs of Steel.

He did it himself. The planning, the script, the filming, the acting, the special effects and the editing.

He also financed the venture. It cost about $25.

His goal? Raise awareness.

"It was to raise awareness of the idea of making at some point the Swampscott branch of the former rail (line) a full amenity bike path," he said.

When John first moved to Marblehead 12 years ago, he was surprised to discover a beautiful smooth rail trail on the leg that runs to Salem and, on the other leg, to Swampscott, to find the route blocked and without access.

He's very familiar with the Marblehead to Salem trail. He rides 5 miles on it about every day.

He was not so familiar with the Swampscott path, which, John says, takes a meandering course.

In any event, John decided to have fun with the movie, assuming a persona that is one part Sir David Frederick Attenborough and one part world traveler and Monty Python actor Michael Palin.

He wanted to make a movie that was fun to watch and did not browbeat those who watched it.

So here it is: a trip by bicycle over the untamed leg of a former rail line extending from Marblehead to Swampscott.

To see John's paintings and drawings visit his website www.johnbonner.com

The Swampscott path has yet to be converted to a rail trail though some people in Swampscott have been working to that end. For more information on their efforts here is a link to a Patch story earlier this year and video from a year ago.

Mike F September 22, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Awesome film! Thank you for putting this together. It is really sad that while other communities are building bike paths, too many S'scott NIMBYs are blocking ours.
Myjanda September 22, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Totally agree! Heard people were complaining that it went too close to their backyards, whatever that means, but when I tried to ride it once I had to stop- it was so isolated I felt nervous! Bike trails seem to exist in affluent communities all over the state, country and world, but in Swampscott the complaint has been that it will bring crime and a bad element... Sad.
Nancy Diaz September 22, 2012 at 01:45 PM
This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Dreams that could become a reality! Let's work to make this happen.
Glenn Paster September 23, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Absolutely fantastic film.
AmyO September 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Can someone post the YouTube link. I can't seem to find it, and the above video doesnt work in iOS.
Terry Date (Editor) September 23, 2012 at 02:45 PM
David Gustavsen September 23, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Great job
Myjanda September 24, 2012 at 01:22 PM
"Swampscott, the very name has romance written all over it" LOL.... Great video - how can we get more people to see this and finally get a bike path here in town?!
Dawn Thompson September 24, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Nice job!! Would love to see it come to fruition!!
brian condon September 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Several years ago I walked the railroad bed from the center of Down Town Marblehead to the location of the former Phillips Beach railroad station. Marblehead had done it right! For Swampscott it appeared to be an idea whose time had not yet come.....as a kid we walked the tracks in Swampscott regularly. It was safe as there were only a couple of trains a day. As an adult, I could not fully savor the nostalgic experience as crossing over into the Beach Bluff area, was like entering a lush Guatemalian jungle. I continued on with much difficulty. Made my goal, but shed a tear that Swampscott had not salvaged that great piece of right of way for a linear park. Linear parks are filling old railway beds throughout the country. They require an invest ment , but are good fund raising targets. The NIMBY factor will always surface, but they have all purchased their abutting properties subject to that right of way. Dormant or not I have not been able to down load the video, is there a utube link,
Terry Date (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Here you go, Brian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y47xRLiez4
Terry Date (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Myjanda, you can send out this link to your friends — http://patch.com/A-xY32 — and urge them to do the same.
Mrs Ross September 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I just want everyone to know that we continue to be persistent with this project. Our eminent domain easement documents are on the Town Administrators desk awaiting Town Counsel review. Hopefully in the near term it will be ready for the Selectmen to sign. This is just the beginning of the land acquisition phase of the project and represents a small part of the entire project but its surely a start. These projects, unfortunately, take along time since there are many variables in play but we continue to work hard to make this a reality in Swampscott.
Roger Talkov September 24, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I can confirm the last post. The Rail Trail Committee is continuing to push forward with the project and we appreciate the town wide support for the project.
brian condon September 28, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Teri Thanks for the link! It sounds like the committee is advancing well in its efforts. Great project!


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