NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. –
The turbines that once harnessed the mighty energy of Niagara Falls into a great source of electricity shut down years ago. But the secrets of the depths of the power plant come to life.
Visitors can now explore the ancient Cathedral of Power and a tunnel that opens to a spectacular view of the falls.
The Niagara Parks Generating Station was once a pioneering masterpiece that helped usher the area into the modern age. In operation from 1905 to 2006, there is a lot of history hidden within its walls.
“It’s a story on many levels, it’s a story of entrepreneurship and innovation, it’s a story of architecture of course, it’s a story of hydropower,” said David Adames, CEO of Niagara Parks.
The first major hydroelectric generating station built on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, it was originally operated by the Canadian Niagara Power Company and used state-of-the-art technology for its time.
In the early years, customers were offered special views overlooking the main generator stage.
“We have to remember that back then people still had to be convinced to buy electricity,” Adames said.
The generator stage of the Niagara Parks Generating Station. (Courtesy of Niagara Parks)
Today’s visitors need no convincing. They can come and see the engineering marvel first hand, much amazed by the architecture.
The generator building and floor aren’t the only spaces with stories to tell.
Deep below the surface there are chambers that have been used to harness the power of the thundering river. The water rushed in, spinning the turbines with energy and now these are fully exposed.
Visitors can travel 55 meters in a glass elevator through the heart of the facility, watch the turbines as they descend and through a 670-meter tunnel. This is where the water flowed through and returned to the lower Niagara River. People can now walk through the brick-lined tunnel where water once flowed at around 70,000 gallons per second.
At the end of the tunnel, formerly known as the “back climb,” it opens to the lower Niagara River and a new viewing platform. As visitors emerge, they are greeted by the sound of the rumbling falls. This provides a new perspective of the Niagara Gorge.
“People know about Niagara Falls but now can enjoy it in a different way,” Adames said, calling it a “legacy project” that anyone can enjoy.
It is an area rich in natural beauty, but even this new sight offers people a chance to reflect on the strength of Mother Nature and how she has been captured to usher us into the modern era.
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