"" Writer's Wanderings: Niagara Falls -- Beck Generating Station

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Niagara Falls -- Beck Generating Station

The Sir Adam Beck Generating Station is a huge power plant on the Canadian side of the Falls that has been around since the 1920s. It has grown from the original but was championed by Sir Adam Beck who felt that the Niagara should be harnessed to provide power for Ontario. It is open to the public and tours are offered every 1/2 hour in the summer beginning at 10 a.m.

This was obviously something Bob wanted to do more than I did but I was quite impressed with it even though I have no idea of the intricacies of generating electricity. It's kind of like a faith issue--don't know how it works sometimes but it's there. I do know that water has to flow down tubes and turn turbines that spin electromagnets. These are inside a coil of wire in a generator and the spinning electromagnets create a flow of electrons. (Okay so I cheated and looked it up.)

For our tour, we were included in a group of middle school-aged kids which made it much more interesting. They ask questions adults only think about asking. The tour takes you through a room with story boards that explain the function of the plant and the history and then into an observation room where you can look down into the long building that houses the turbines. Directly below is a huge machine shop where they repair and rebuild the turbines.

What struck the kids' fancy most was that the workers rode tricycles from one end of the building to the other because it was so big. They (and me) were fascinated to hear that the Falls have been harnessed by an international dam that only allows about 50% of the actual volume of water to flow over the Falls and at night, it is reduced to 25% after the tourists are tucked into bed and the lights turned out.

Of course one youngster asked what happens when someone falls over the Falls. "Well," said our tour guide, "then they cut the water back even more. Of course that's only to hunt for the body. I wouldn't recommend going over the Falls."

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