Giants in the Playground

Author Axle - Last updated: 16.02.2013

"We’re going in there?" I asked, looking up at a towering stack, and a red brick bunker sitting on the edge of the shipping channel. A tall fence stood between the group of a dozen or so explorers and the trek across an empty field and our target.

"Yes, here, climb the fence, the barbed wire won’t be a problem," the purple haired explorer whom I had met a few hours earlier in a cafe on the other side of the city explained.


We moved through the soft december snow, making sure we stayed in single file, keeping equal pace. An odd idea, but insisted upon as we moved across the old coal fields. The location loomed larger than life. A slightly opened garage door allowed our motley crew to slide under. The purple haired explorer, I now had been introduced to as Bobthealmighty chose a more ‘matrix’ style entry, running, diving and rolling through a broken window in a door.


And to think, before this I wandered the back roads of milton looking at houses. My mind had never seen something of this scale before and abandoned! My little Minolta DiMAGE Z2, was clicking away furiously. I wanted to see everything.


There were giants in the playground.


The station was called the Richard L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station. Hearn, the person was a member of a group of men who under the direction of Sir Adam Beck brought modern electricity to Ontario after the first world war. The station bearing his name was started up in 1952, equiped with 4 100 megawatt steam driven turbine generators. Four more 200 megawatt generators were added by the late 1950s as the demand for power increased for the growing city of Toronto. (By this time, Hearn was working on Nuclear power stations, odd that they named a Coal station after him).


The station reached full generating capacity on March 22nd, 1961. At it’s peek Hearn consumed 440 tonnes of coal, 36,000,000 gallons of water per hour. The station was operated by 600 staff at its peek. In 1970 the famous Hearn stack was built, replacing the 8 smaller, shorter stacks.


Hearn also had four generators converted to burn natural gas in the 1970s, but the Engery Crisis in the middle east squashed that idea quickly, and the station’s Natural Gas generators were mothballed. By the 1980s the station was operating on only two of its eight units, and costing 8-million a day to operate. By July 1983, the station was shut down and put on standby. The station would continue to provide voltage regulation duty.


The stations 7 and 8 generators were activated in the winter of 1988 to deal with the sudden cold snap to provide the sudden need for power. A similar program was put into place for the winter of 1990, but a change in government stopped that plan. And in 1995 the doors were closed and the staff was dismissed, all ten of them.


Of course, today Hearn is known as a movie studio, her super structure stripped fairly bare, the coal fields now holds the Portland Energy Centre.


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