Sunday, November 20, 2011

Abandonment Issues: R.L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station

IMG_7392

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.

R.L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station

turbine hall of fame
turbine hall of fame

turbine hollow
turbine hollow

pillars of the community
turbine hollow

lurking in the shadows
lurking in the shadows

age against the machine
age against the machine

everything but the kitchen sink
everything but the kitchen sink

dust collector 1-8
dust collector 1-8

proportional band
proportional band

out of order
out of order

the peelers
the peelers

T.
T.

subrooftopping
subrooftopping

office space
office space

kilograms per second
kilograms per second

out of control room
out of control room

pushing buttons
pushing buttons

up up and away
up up and away

fear factory
fear factory

fear of heights
fear of heights

here we go again
IMG_7228

i do my little thing on the catwalk
i do my little thing on the catwalk

red tape
red tape

Please hang up and try your call again. This is a recording.
Please hang up and try your call again. This is a recording.

cracked pipe
cracked pipe

heaven spot
heaven spot

don't look down
don't look down

control room
control room

360
IMG_7395

wheel of fortune
wheel of fortune

dialed in
dialed in

inter-office memo  Oct 8/76
inter-office memo  Oct 8/76

prop-aganda
prop-aganda

Resident Evil Redemption prop
BHNMAHNE

lever me alone
IMG_7170

A2 A1
A2 A1

The view of downtown Toronto from the roof of Hearn
The roof of The Hearn


smoke stack clouds
smoke stack clouds

the ghosts of ninja IX & skootles
the ghosts of ninja IX & 
skootles

on the road again
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

8 comments:

tocsin_bang said...

Totally loved this - Thx :-)

Anonymous said...

Tried to visit this past saturday (yesterday) but no luck.

Unknown said...

I want to photograph this place so bad!! Advice/tips? Apparently security's tight..

Unknown said...

I hear security's tight, but I really want to go! Gah, someone help

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you would dedicate this to us. If you wanted to do anything in memory of him you should stay away from places like this.

Jerm IX said...

I share his passion for places like this and his adventurous spirit to explore and document them.

Anonymous said...

I just went to Hearn today, getting pas the fence and the two guards. With most of its equipment removed the place seems to extend on forever, and with the cut off catwalks, missing swaths of floors it is a literal maze. Would go again soon

Judy Sullivan said...

Thank you for the memories. My father was E. B. Sullivan the writer of the interoffice memo of Oct 8/76. To see his handwriting from so many years ago was a thrill. Judy Sullivan