Sunday, November 20, 2011
Abandonment Issues: R.L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station
The R.L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station opened in 1951, providing power to the city of Toronto and beyond. On March 22, 1961, the plant hit full steam so to speak. At full capacity of 1 200 MW, the boilers burned approximately 400 tonnes of coal per hour, and 36 million gallons of Lake Ontario water were also needed hourly to cool the turbines and other equipment. At its peak in the 1960s, the plant employed over 600 people. Hearn was a heavy polluter and contributed to Toronto's smog problem, which continues to be an environmental and health issue to this day. In 1971, the entire plant was converted to burn natural gas, but remained to burn coal in 4 of the 8 units. In 1978-79, units 1-5 were mothballed, and in 1983, due to air pollution and an abundant source of energy across the province, power production ceased. 10 employees remained at Hearn until 1995, manning the electrical control room, operating some of the generators as synchronous condensers to improve Toronto's power quality.
In 2002, the boilers and other equipment were removed in anticipation of a new lease with Studios of America, who planned to build a massive film studio on site, but the deal fell through. However, Studios of America still has a lease to this day with Ontario Power, with a duration between 20 and 32 years, depending on which party you ask. Many films and television shows have been filmed at Hearn in recent years, and it has become a playground for urban explorers and photographers.
As alluring as Hearn may be, it also presents a plethora of dangers. On June 15, 2008, a fellow urban explorer was trespassing on site, when he fell three stories into a coal chute where he was trapped for three hours, pinned under a steel plate. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital two days later.
This post is dedicated to the memory of that explorer, and his loved ones.
R.I.P. Ryan Nyenhuis.
Our first pilgrimage to Hearn in February of 2011 was a scouting mission that went all wrong. Face to face with security is a bad way to start a scout. It left a sour taste in both of our mouths but taught us many valuable lessons that have helped us greatly in all of our explorations this year.
And here we stand, finally inside the belly of the beast, tense in the present tense. jerm and Ninja IX, with our tour guide, a fellow explorer named Skootles. Our introductions are brief and incomplete when out of nowhere Skootles dodges behind a pillar, kicking up dust, and we do likewise instinctively. A man is standing across the building, glaring in our direction. We assume he is the security guard that patrols the property 24/7, and we become mannequins. We peek and creep around corners, hoping to avoid him as he gets closer and closer. We take a wrong turn and pin ourselves in a corner. We whisper and plot, gesturing with our hands. He saw me peek out just now, I know he did. We locked eyes. To our surprise, he passes us by and we quickly venture deeper into Hearn.
Filming had just wrapped for the new Resident Evil Retribution movie, and a small crew of workers is dismantling the set. We make it to one of the control rooms, which is still covered in faux snow and Commie propaganda from the movie set. Then we silently and stealthily traverse the staircases and catwalks. My crippling fear of heights overwhelms me, but with the encouragement and support from Ninja and Skootles, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, hanging on for dear life, gripping the dust covered handrails with white knuckles and sweaty palms. Endless stories above the crew on ground level, we continue to ascend the metal staircases. I have the shakes. My dirty palms are sweating profusely and my heart is pounding out of my chest. The crew remains oblivious to our presence high above, although we remain vigilantly aware of their movements. Stepping out onto the sub roofs, the cold air chills my sweaty face and hands. After walking most of the catwalks and stopping in all of the control rooms, we plan our final ascension to the roof. The importance of support from fellow explorers cannot be overstated, as considerations are made to accommodate my fear of heights, and we retrace our steps to our entry point, where a concrete staircase leads us to the roof. A strong wind blows my long hair into my face, as we enjoy snacks, conversation and the views of the beautiful skyline of downtown Toronto, and Lake Ontario.
turbine hall of fame
pillars of the community
lurking in the shadows
age against the machine
everything but the kitchen sink
dust collector 1-8
out of order
kilograms per second
out of control room
up up and away
fear of heights
here we go again
i do my little thing on the catwalk
Please hang up and try your call again. This is a recording.
don't look down
wheel of fortune
inter-office memo Oct 8/76
Resident Evil Redemption prop
lever me alone
The view of downtown Toronto from the roof of Hearn
smoke stack clouds
the ghosts of ninja IX & skootles
on the road again
Thank you for taking the time to explore Hearn with us, and a special thanks to skootles for the guided tour.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES