Friday, March 6, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now: The "Power City's" abandoned hydro-generating stations

below: Mar.6, 2009 - the 1906 Electrical Development Company hydro-generating station (aka Toronto Power) on the edge of the Niagara River, located just above the Horseshoe Falls, now sits abandoned, just a short walk south of the also-closed Canadian Niagara Power Co. hydro-station.
below: Mar.13, 2009 - the Upper Gate House water intake facility of the Ontario Power Generating Station, which was comissioned in 1905: from here, several 6-metre diameter conduits carrying water ran 1.8 km north to the station, which was located down in the gorge just past the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. In the centre of the photo below is seen the forebay into which water was gathered from the Niagara River. The mist of the Falls is seen at the right distance. In the centre far right, a long screen house once stretched across the forebay, to prevent river debris entering the pipe intake area. This forebay was built on a shallower part of the Niagara River which once curved around the Dufferin Islands, located at the left.
above: Mar.13, 2009 - the water conduits ran underground from the Dufferin Islands Gate House to this surge tank located above the 1905 Ontario Power Generating Station (located just south of Murray Hill, below and east of the new casino). The casino itself (which is located above and to the left, behind the surge tank) was built on the station's former tranformer facility on top of the hill. The actual station - now abandoned - is still located directly below these surge tanks, down in the gorge close to the Niagara River. The Skylon Tower - seen in both above shots - gives an idea of the distance that the water conduits ran.
below: Mar.6, 2009 - this is the east-side forebay (facing the upper Niagara River, not far from the Horseshoe Falls) of the William Birch Rankine Canadian Niagara Power Co. station, which is now also closed; it was inaugurated Jan.1, 1905. The ice sheet in its forebay reflects the nearby Fallsview hotel area. Photo by R.Bobak.

above: Mar.6, 2009 - the generators inside the closed W.B. Rankine Canadian Niagara Power Co. hydro generating station sit idle, covered under tarps. When tourists visiting Niagara Falls pass these three wonderous facilities, they are, unfortunately, now looking at museum relics, representing a sorry waste of infrastrucure and of potential power. Above photos by R. Bobak.
below: ca.1900 - Queenston-Chippawa streetcar #584 heads westward down the escarpment from Queenston Heights. In the distance at the left is the Niagara River; the United States is on the right riverbank. Below is the village of Queenston. York Rd., which led to the Queenston-Lewiston Suspension Bridge, is seen going across the photo at the centre. Streetcars shuttled passengers who arrived at the Queenston Docks on ferries from Lake Ontario, and transported them back up to the Falls, and onto Chippawa, where upper river ferries again connected to take travellers onto Buffalo.

Note that just below York Rd. another streetcar-wire support-post can clearly be seen; this was where where the same streetcar tracks went eastward, along what is today Queenston St., passing Mackenzie House. To be able to make the grade of the escarpment, the tracks made a large 'U' down the side of the slope: heading down (westward) from where the streetcar is seen below, continuing (out-of-frame) over to the left, where they crossed York Rd. (at a point just west of today's Niagara Parkway) then made a U turn swing, still continuing down the slope, but now heading east along Queenston St. click on photos to enlarge!
above: same view, Mar.3, 2009 - the streetcar right of way is now an overgrown trail leading up the hill to the Brock Monument in Queenston Heights Park. The road at centre is the Niagara Parkway; further up in the distance is the now-bridgeless, dead-end York Rd., which from the turn of the century until the early 1960's led to one of the main Canada-U.S. bridges. (click here for map). A glimpse of the Niagara River can still be is seen through the trees that have grown since.

below: Apr.29, 1948 - looking westward along Ferry St., towards McGrail Ave. and Buchanan Ave. in the distance. On this sad day, a gang of labourers is removing streetcar tracks in Niagara Falls. [Niagara Falls is (and, was!) a perfect city for a streetcar system, which can be utilized not only for practical local transportation, but also can be viewed and built upon as a tourist draw, connecting, for example, the tourist district with the CN railroad station. And, the cachet of having renewable, sustainable, hydro-electric powered streetcars in Niagara Falls (once dubbed the "Power City") should be patently obvious.]

above: same view, Feb.24, 2009 - almost 61 years later - the same two buildings can still be seen on the north side of Ferry St.; McGrail Ave. is seen in the centre.
below: Apr.7, 2008 - looking at the Hilton tower under construction; the IMAX theatre is in the foreground.

above: same view, Jan.8, 2009.
below: Feb.20, 2008 - storefront on the south side of Ferry St. just east of Main St. This painted wooden sign, reading Gordon's Cigar Store and Variety, was revealed when a newer sign on top of it was removed.

above: Oct.9, 2008 - the old sign seen above was later painted over.
below: Oct.17, 2008 - Standing on the south-west corner of Buchanan Ave. and Kitchener St. was an old U-shaped motel called the Survivor Inn, shown boarded up after a recent fire.

above: Nov.3, 2008 - same view, the Survivor did not survive. In the right distance is seen the former Gerber baby foods factory on Stanley Ave.
below: Oct.17, 2008, looking at the courtyard of the Survivor Inn, after the fire, from along Kitchener St. Note the Skylon and the under-construction Hilton tower in the distance.
below: Nov.3, 2008 - the former-Survivor Inn site, still fenced, looking east along Kitchener St. towards Buchanan Ave. The Waldorf motel is seen in the left distance. (The Waldorf, owned at the time by Mr. A. Saccomano, was opened in June 1952 as a 17 unit motel, and was built by contractor A. Bignucolo and Sons)

above: same view of the Survivor Inn, when it was called the Mayside Motel, July 5, 2005. Photo by A. Rashid, NFLA
below: another view of the same Survivor site, back from May 5, 1958 - when the Mayside was called the Wayside Motel! Note the house with the gable peeking out in the distance.

above: May 5, 2010, same view of the vacant Wayside/Mayside/Survivor motel site. Note same house in the distance can now be fully seen.
below: Table Rock 'Fury' attraction under construction on a frigid Feb.20, 2008.

above: Feb.26, 2009, same view; now the 50+ story Hilton Hotel is seen rising above the turret, and the Table Rock building expansion is complete.
below: Jun.13, 2008 - looking at the north side of Thorold Stone Rd., acroos the street from Confederation Ave.; a small story and a half house is being prepared for demolition.

above: Jul.10, 2008 - same view, the house is gone.
below: looking east down Clifton Hill in April 1977. The railroad tracks of the Michigan Central are seen in the foreground. The MC railroad station once stood on the corner at left, just out of frame of this shot.
above: same view, Feb.19, 2009.
below: Feb.20, 2008 - looking at the Skywheel, with the Skylon in the background. Behind the Skywheel can be seen the yellow-painted Quality Inn motel buildings, that dated back to the nineteen sixties.

above: Feb.19, 2009 - the Quality Inn buidings are gone, demolished by Jan.2009.
below: date unclear; looking at water intake pipes being buried, coming from the Niagara River intake gate house farther south in the distance at Dufferin Island. The Electrical Development Co. (built 1906) generating facility is seen at the upper left, on the bank of the Niagara River. This particular pipe, though, had nothing to do with the EDC station; it fed another generator located further north: the 1905 Ontario Power Generation Station, located at river level in the Gorge, slightly past the Horseshoe Falls. The water flow in the pipe went from south to north; in the pipe seen below, the water flowed from the distance (from the south) towards the north (heading to bottom of photo).

above: Mar.6, 2009 - same view; the now-abandoned (yes, abandoned, for several decades) former Electrical Development Co. (aka Toronto Power) generating station still sits at the left. The pipe, buried under the grass in the foreground, now carries no water, because the station to which it supplied water is also abandoned; in fact, all three former state-of-the-art pioneer hydro-generating stations which were located right at the Horseshoe Falls area now sit closed (the third station - Ontario Power - is just below the falls, down at river level, below where the Casino now is): this, as Ontario's McGuinty Liberals gamble hundreds of millions of tax-dollars on costly, inefficient wind power and other phony green-bolshevik energy "solutions".
The electrical-generating infrastructure here, that had served this province well for a hundred years, has been left to decline, unrenovated, while the constantly-available water just flows by, wasted. Another flicking shame - but hey, energy cock-ups are what you get with Liberals in charge, especially George Smitherman, the tool who helped devastate health-care in Ontario.
Why are these old Niagara generating stations sitting essentially abandoned? Why the hell aren't these generators being refurbished and rebuilt with new technology? Isn't this a prime example of a worthy, 'shovel-ready' REAL infrastructure project, not just some make-work scheme for Liberal GreenFear-pushing rent-seekers?? Sure the new Beck plant down near Queenston is being planned, and the new "Big Becky" tunnel is being bored, but there still must be economically worthwhile power - renewable power - that can be utilized from these three vacant generating stations!
There is still a massive head of water which is available through these three stations!

A shopping mall/retail concept is being talked about for the Toronto Power plant seen above: yeah, with all the empty retail space already in downtown Niagara Falls, we need to spend more (government) money to build more retail space here?! Brilliant.
(In 2015, Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati made some kind of deal with China's communists to build some kind of new nebulous 'Chinatown' on a 400+ acre site above the Falls, near the Thundering Waters golf course)

If Rankin Construction can build new, much-smaller hydro-generating stations alongside the ship locks of the Welland Canal in St. Catharines (...using a relatively-meager water-flow which pales in comparison to the massive flow wasted at Niagara...) why isn't anyone attempting a massive rebuild of any of these idle stations in Niagara Falls? (Or even developing  a 'river-run' generation set-up??)
Where is the Liberal government's leadership on this greenest-of-green issue - harnessing Ontario's water power?
The river wing-weirs are there, the intakes are there, the intake and tailrace tunnels are there, in various configurations, at each of the 3 old stations. This available infrastructure could all be re-engineered with new methods and technologies! This would be truly an exciting and worthwhile engineering challenge. The existing buildings could be readapted/modernized, existing tunnels and shaft pits could be relined; new state of the art turbines developed, etc. etc.

below: Looking north-east towards Table Rock; the American Falls are at the top centre, and the Horseshoe Falls are at the right.

The Niagara Falls Library dates this photo ca.1906; noting the building at the lower right is the IRC International Railway Co. station, which generated electrical power for the IRC's great Gorge Route streetcar system; its intake channel is at the far right. The old Table Rock building (built by Saul Davis in 1853, demolished in 1926) is seen at the far upper left, seen with the cupola. The 'new' Table Rock building, as we know it today, was built in 1927 nearer to where the middle building is; more closer to that still-familiar slight round protrusion that juts out at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. That middle building was the Niagara Falls city water pumping station, seen further below. At the bottom of the above photo, the pipeline leading to the Ontario Power Co. surge tanks is shown being buried.

above: Mar.6, 2009 - same location, looking towards the 'new' Table Rock in the far centre-right distance, and the new pedestrian overpass is seen in the centre-left distance. (click on photos to enlarge!) On top of where the pipe was buried is now a massive, money-making parking lot for the Niagara Parks Commission.
above: a closer view of the Niagara Falls pumping station, which was seen previously above. It was built in 1888, abandoned in 1930, and demolished in 1938. Date of this photo not known; this view looks east, the familiar cut-stone fence wall at the gorge edge is seen in the distance.
below: the steel bridge which had carried streetcars across the IRC generating station's intake channel was demolished, and the channel itself was filled-in with rocks from the river, during Dec.1937. (click photos to enlarge!)
above: the Niagara river would be to the left in the photo; the channel is shown being filled in, with some water still seen at the bottom. This bridge can also be seen in the fourth-above photo, at the far right. I wonder if those concrete bridge piers seen at the left were actually fully removed, or just buried, and are maybe still there?! Photo from the Niagara Falls Review, Dec.27, 1937.
See here for another photo which shows the IRC station's intake channel and bridge, seen in context to the river.   (Click photos to enlarge!!)
above: a 1921 aerial view of the buildings at Table Rock. The IRC generating station is circled in light blue, and the streetcar tracks which cross the intake channel are also outlined in light blue: this is the channel which would be filled in 16 years later, as seen in the previous photo. Note that River Rd. ran closer to river gorge back then, and it also crossed the intake channel on another bridge. After the new Table Rock House was built, River Rd. was later slightly reconfigured to pass behind the new building.
Also, the Niagara Falls pumping station is seen outlined in yellow.
The original Table Rock building is seen outlined in red. The new Table Rock would be built 6 years later where the green X is. The blue line along the bottom shows the curved run of the water conduit leading to the Ontario Power station.

below: a view looking south-east, probably taken from just north of the Inspiration Point Michigan Central railroad station, nearly about where the Minolta Tower now is. The Niagara Falls Library dates this photo as July 10, 1910. In the far left distance along the Niagara River, the 1906 Electrical Development Co. generating station building can be seen.
In the middle-centre-right is the William Birch Rankine hydro-powered electrical generating station, which was inaugurated Jan.1, 1905, and built by the Canadian Niagara Power Co. The pipeline leading to the Ontario Power plant is seen again under construction, as it was being buried; today that area is a long parking lot.
above: Both now-closed hydro stations are seen in the distance in this May 11, 2009 view, taken from above the long-abandoned old Michigan Central train station platform, which is seen along the bottom. Further up can be seen a line of cars parked at the bottom of the hill - this is where the pipeline is buried.
above: Mar.6, 2009 - a closer view, still looking south-east, of the same Canadian Niagara Power station seen previously above. As can be seen from the previous shot, the pipeline to Ontario Power is buried under the parking lot in the foreground. (Of course, this pipeline had nothing at all to do with the CNP plant; the pipeline was just passing by the CNP plant, on its way to supply river water for the Ontario Power plant, further downstream). The CNP got its water supply directly from the river, from a massive wing dam built along the river bank; the spent water was then drained into a tailrace tunnel which emerged at the bottom of the gorge, below the Falls - right near the Ontario Power plant!
Older photos in this study are from the Niagara Falls Library Archive. The recent photos are by R. Bobak.


paul66 said...

Excellant photos and archival photo comparisons.I agree its wasted doubt politics had a big role,some of the stations became absolete when bigger plants were built to replace them,but not all of them should have allowed to close,looking at photos of the supply tunnels it is obvious that they will last 200+ years,the buidings have many more years left in them and there is more than enough water flow/volume to restart these plants and put them back on the grid.

Family Mousley said...

Great insight into the Niagra Power scheme. We are here on holiday and i wss really looking forward to see this landmark engineering feat in action almost 110 years later. Maybe a more common sense approach is required by your goverment, to right the wrongs that have clearly lead to the mismanagement of this historical infrastructure. Yet another example of social engineering gone mad, and as a visitor to this natural icon, you don't need anymore retail or casinos.