Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Exploring Niagara's Hyrdroelectric Plants

I've been particuarly interested in the Toronto Power Company Hydroelectric Plant since visiting Niagara Falls last year. The plant has gotten a lot of buzz in the urban exploring community recently, and its 33' dia. brick-lined discharge conduits (which empty just behind the Horseshoe Falls) are somewhat of an UE Holy Grail. The 100 year old plant (no longer in use) worked on simple gravity: taking water from the upper portion of the Niagara River, dropping it down a 10+ storey shaft into turbines, then releasing the water at the base of the falls. It sounds simple enough, but the sheer scale of the project makes one marvel at the power of both nature and engineering.

Toronto Power Co. tailrace by Sleepy City

This past November, Sleepy City published a thorough DIY guide for exploring this subterranean lair [previously posted on Burnlab by Toybreaker.] While reading the always excellent BLDGBLOG last night, I was reintroduced to Sleepy City via Geoff Manaugh's article Urban Knot Theory. The kids went back to Niagara just a week or so ago, and returned with some stunning photos. [edit to the edit: photos are back.]

Ontario Power Co. by Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point is a great site run by 23 year old Toronto resident "Kowalski." It documents many types of infrastructure and underground systems, but focuses mainly of the drains of Ontario. Kowalski descended into the Niagara tailrace back in 2004, and offers an excellent report here. Also be sure to view his well documented report on the Ontario Power Company hydro plant - located inside the Niagara gorge.

Rankine outfall/Niagara Gorge by Work Songs

Another explorer who has descended into the bowels of Niagara is Andrew Emond, who runs the photo blog Work Songs. Read an interview with Emond here, and be sure to check out his other exploration photography. (I want a mercury vapour rectifier!)

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