Balboa Park Plants
NY 240th Street Yard
Castillo San Cristobal
Milkweed Beauty
Man Swims the Gowanus Canal

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

As part of Doors Open Toronto, I toured the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, which is not only the most beautiful water treatment plants I have ever visited, it is one of the beautiful buildings I have ever visited period. Colored stone and brass are everywhere. It was built in Arts Deco style, and in my opinion as an engineer, lays tribute to the importance of what the plant does, providing clean water to Toronto. It has two galleries with huge windows to allow viewing of the filtration chambers. In front of these windows are gorgeous stone tables with simple bronze control levers. The plant itself sits on hill overlooking Lake Ontario, where it gets its supply of water to clean.

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant: filtration building on right, pumping station on left in foreground

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant: filtration building on right, pumping station on left in foreground

View of Lake Ontario from filtration building

View of Lake Ontario from filtration building

Filtration building gallery, windows on side allow views of filtration chambers

Filtration building gallery, windows on side allow views of filtration chambers

Pylon in filtration building indicating time and filter backwash conditions

Pylon in filtration building indicating time and filter backwash conditions

Gauge on pylon

Gauge on pylon

Filter chamber control table

Filter chamber control table

Filter chamber control panel

Filter chamber control panel

Filtration chamber

Filtration chamber

Filtration chamber, not currently in use

Filtration chamber, not currently in use

Pumping station

Pumping station

Signal panel in pumping station indicating status of pumps

Signal panel in pumping station indicating status of pumps

Sign reads "Original 1950s cone valve restored and ready for reinstallation

Sign reads “Original 1950s cone valve restored and ready for reinstallation

Inside the restored cone valve

Inside the restored cone valve

Portlands Energy Centre

As part of Doors Open Toronto, I toured the Portlands Energy Centre. They produce electricity by two processes. First, they combust the natural gas, which turns gas turbines. Second they capture the heat from the combustion and use it produce steam, which then turn steam turbines. The gas turbines and steam turbine produce the actual electricity. They use Lake Ontario water as cooling water, but here is what I find interesting. They need ultra pure water to use in the equipment for cooling, so they have a multi step process to clean the water, including filtration, disinfection, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange. When that cooling water is later released to Lake Ontario, after being properly cooled, it is actually cleaner then when they pumped it into the plant. I followed the maze of pipes wondering how they ever find the right one when they need to do maintenance, and I desperately a process flow diagram, so I could follow everything along. When standing in the room with several pumps for the cooling water, the room was actually vibrating from the pump motion. Then of course, I started to wonder about the structural engineering and the amount of motion the structure has to be able to bear. Things an engineer thinks about, even when on vacation.

I took lots of photos because I find a beauty in the maze of pipes. It’s probably the chemical engineer in me. Some were labeled, so were not. Almost all were silver. This must make for a fun time when you need to pipe a specific pipe. However, there is a simple elegance, and please excuse me, but beauty in the pipes going everywhere, one next to another and a top another, in an orderly fashion. It is a maze but a logical maze. No mess. Just order.IMG_6972 IMG_6980 IMG_6989 IMG_6991 IMG_6997 IMG_6998 IMG_7007 IMG_7009 IMG_7018

Huge pipe of cooling water

Huge pipe of cooling water

Ion exchange columns

Ion exchange columns

One of the pumps so powerful it made the room vibrate

One of the pumps so powerful it made the room vibrate

Reverse osmosis step

Reverse osmosis step

Billy Bishop Airport

Billy Bishop Airport opened up its behind the scenes areas for Doors Open Toronto. The airport is located on a little island just off of downtown. By just off of, I mean late last year they opened a pedestrian tunnel connecting it to the mainland, so you can literally walk to the island. They pulled out a lot of the equipment they use for maintenance including snow removal and also for emergencies including fire fighting. They have so really cool equipment. One thing I found really interesting was that they don’t use a snow plow on the runways; they use a snow brush. The snow brush is better because of the short length of the runways. They use plows for taxi areas and places where cars go. The brushes also are used during the summer to remove rubber build up from the runways. Planes braking as they land leave rubber marks, and when enough builds up, it lowers the traction, so the rubber has to be removed. They spray a chemical to the runway, then come through with the brush to break up the rubber.

New pedestrian tunnel linking airport to mainland

New pedestrian tunnel linking airport to mainland

View from a hanger

View from a hanger

Snow brusher

Snow brusher

Front of snow brusher, the brush

Front of snow brusher, the brush

Snow plow

Snow plow

Fire truck in action

Fire truck in action

Fire truck

Fire truck

TTC Leslie Barns

As a part of Doors Open Toronto, I got to tour Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Leslie Barns. Leslie Barns is a streetcar maintenance and storage facility, and it is brand new. It is not completely finished, but it is already being used. I had to ask several employees about this because I find it difficult to believe that it is being used at all. It is without a doubt the cleanest, neatest, prettiest maintenance facility I have ever been in. If you look at my blog at all, you will see I have seen a few. I love touring them. This place is ridiculously clean and organized. The pipes are not only labeled, but they are also color-coded. It makes my chemical engineering heart go pitter patter. The facility was built for the new street cars that Toronto is purchasing, which are very sleek looking. The place has a paint booth, maintenance areas, and car wash for street cars. Outside is a storage area for the street cars, and in the middle of it is a stormwater retention pond.

Pipes and ducts and everything else

Pipes and ducts and everything else

Overhead crane lift area

Overhead crane lift area

Maintenance area

Maintenance area

Work area between two tracks

Work area between two tracks

Brand new street car

Brand new street car

Pipes, ducts, and gantry galore

Pipes, ducts, and gantry galore

Look at these beautifully labeled and color-coded pipes

Look at these beautifully labeled and color-coded pipes

Ridiculously organized supply area

Ridiculously organized supply area

Street car in the paint booth

Street car in the paint booth

Doors for street cars to enter the facility

Doors for street cars to enter the facility

Street car in the storage area

Street car in the storage area

Stormwater retention pond in middle of storage yard with facility in background

Stormwater retention pond in middle of storage yard with facility in background

Storage area with view of downtown Toronto

Storage area with view of downtown Toronto

Re-Ball

Dupont Underground is an abandoned trolley station underneath Dupont Circle that recently had a design competition to reuse a whole lot of plastic balls from National Building Museum’s The Beach. The winning entry was Raise/Raze, which formed the balls into 3 x 3 cubes that were used to build columns and walls in a portion of Dupont Underground. The structures built by the balls were rather interesting, especially when considering they were built with spheres. I also rather liked the way the cube blocks mimicked the tiles on the outer wall of the underground. IMG_6606 IMG_6612 IMG_6626 IMG_6629 IMG_6634 IMG_6638 IMG_6642 IMG_6644 IMG_6648 IMG_6653 IMG_6655 IMG_6659 IMG_6669 IMG_6672 IMG_6675 IMG_6678

Grand Avenue Central Maintenance Facility

On the level above the Grand Avenue Bus Depot is the Grand Avenue Central Maintenance Facility, which can do repairs, overhauls, and painting of buses. It can also handle compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which are not allowed in the bus depot below for safety reasons. The facility has storage of parts galore, two huge paint booths, and numerous bays for repairing buses. Also, at the time I was there, it had a vintage bus in for repair, which was really cool to see. There were also all these cool looking parts for the buses, none of which I could identify.

Buses in maintenance bays

Buses in maintenance bays

Bus in for maintenance

Bus in for maintenance

Back of the bus with all the stuff that makes it run

Back of the bus with all the stuff that makes it run

Fans for bus mechanical parts

Fans for bus mechanical parts

Engine pulled out from bus

Engine pulled out from bus

Wheel parts

Wheel parts

Methane sensors in ceiling of facility. Facility handles CNG buses, so special sensors needed.

Methane sensors in ceiling of facility. Facility handles CNG buses, so special sensors needed.

Bus paint booth

Bus paint booth

Bus in paint booth. Machine on wall is a platform with spray gun for a painter to paint from.

Bus in paint booth. Machine on wall is a platform with spray gun for a painter to paint from.

Vintage bus

Vintage bus

Vintage bus with poor man's lock out tag out "Do not start bus"

Vintage bus with poor man’s lock out tag out “Do not start bus”

Grand Avenue Bus Depot

I toured the New York MTA’s Grand Avenue Bus Depot with the New York Transit Museum. The depot is relatively new, which is evident when you are inside. I don’t know much about bus depot design, but I was astounded by the amount of ventilation in the building. Considering the number of vehicles going and in and out every day, the ventilation is needed, but still I was surprised by the amount of it. The bus depot occupies the first level of this huge building, and the second level holds the Central Maintenance facility. They are considered to be different facilities. The bus depot is, well, a depot, or parking area for when the buses are not in use. The depot also where regular maintenance is performed and everyday activities like fueling, money removal, and washing.

Multiple bays for maintenance

Multiple bays for maintenance

Regular maintenance performed on buses

Regular maintenance performed on buses

Hoses needed for normal maintenance hang from ceiling

Hoses needed for normal maintenance hang from ceiling

Lane to maintenance bays

Lanes for parking and to maintenance bays

Buses parked closely until needed

Buses parked closely until needed

I asked the facility manager what this garage style door was for. He looked at it and me and said he had never been asked that and wasn't actually sure. Leave it to me to be able to stump people.

I asked the facility manager what this garage style door was for. He looked at it and me and said he had never been asked that and wasn’t actually sure. Leave it to me to be able to stump people.

Confession: Other people in the group asked the depot manager to please let us go through bus wash, so he granted their wishes, and we all boarded a bus and went through a wash.

Bus wash

Bus wash

The ceilings and walls were almost completely filled with ventilation ducts, pipes, and conduits.

Ventilation everywhere

Ventilation everywhere

Ventilation, pipes, and conduit everywhere.

Ventilation, pipes, and conduit everywhere.

I couldn't get over the amount of conduit.

I couldn’t get over the amount of conduit.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was learning that they vacuum money out of the fare box. MTA buses only accept coin and not bills. They hook up a hose to outlet at the bottom of the fare box, and the money is vacuumed out to secure boxes where it falls into bags or some other movable containers. The staff of the facility never touches the money. Then the money is removed from the boxes on a regular basis by armed staff. I think it is because I have a B.S. in chemical engineering that I found this so fascinating. We learned about pipes and other conduits and pump design for fluids. Coins are obviously not fluids. I am intrigued by the design that would be needed by items that are going to bounce around and not flow the way a fluid does. Also the pressure needed to pull coins out must be interesting.

The outlet at the bottom of the fare box is where a hose is inserted to vacuum out the money. They vacuum the money to a secure box.

The outlet at the bottom of the fare box is where a hose is inserted to vacuum out the money. They vacuum the money to a secure box.

Hoses and vacuum pump used to vacuum money out of fare boxes.

Hoses and vacuum pump used to vacuum money out of fare boxes.

Sentient Chamber

There is an art exhibit at the National Academy of Sciences called Sentient Chamber that is unlike anything I have seen before. It reminds me of a gigantic hairy caterpillar. It kind of looks like technology and science based items hung as a chandelier among other items I associate more wind chimes. It is interactive because as people get close and walk through it, lights turn on, sounds are made, and certain items move or vibrate. I really can’t describe, but it is beautiful and interesting to look at. It makes really cool shadows on the ceiling, walls, and on itself. It also makes some really cool reflections in itself.

Entire structure

Entire structure

Reminds me of a hairy caterpillar

Reminds me of a hairy caterpillar

More of the caterpillar

More of the caterpillar

Looking from below

Looking from below

Plastic and metal spine

Plastic and metal spine

Beakers and plastic feathers

Beakers and plastic feathers

Wonderful shadows on ceiling

Wonderful shadows on ceiling

Wonderful shadows on ceiling

Wonderful shadows on ceiling

Hanging pieces of science items include flasks, tubes, and pipets

Hanging pieces of science items include flasks, tubes, and pipets

Beautifully intricate metal spine

Beautifully intricate metal spine

Tubes and pipets

Tubes and pipets

Looking from below

Looking from below

Hanging flasks. I didn't notice the reflections until I uploaded photos to computer.

Hanging flasks. I didn’t notice the reflections until I uploaded photos to computer.

Colorful shadows

Colorful shadows

Plastic feathers and flasks reminds me of a palm

Plastic feathers and flasks reminds me of a palm

The plastic feathers and vial together look like a butterfly

The plastic feathers and vial together look like a butterfly

Plastic support symmetry

Plastic support symmetry

It’s a Pipe

I went to a reception for a new(-ish) exhibit with the Culture Programs of the National Academy of Sciences. The exhibit are paintings by Jonathan Feldschuh that are inspired by the Large Hadron Collider. The paintings are acrylic on mylar, and they are quite gorgeous. While I’m sure my art-knowledgable friends will correct my terminology, to me, they look like impressionists paintings of very high-tech subjects. I love impressionism art, and of course, I love technology, so I really like these paintings. My friends R, J, and I were discussing this one painting that R and I both rather liked. I said I really like the way the perspective of the pipe or wires going off into the tunnel. I questioned whether it was a pipe or a bundle of wires. This is the conversation that ensued.

R: It’s not a pipe. It’s where the collisions occur.

Me: It’s a pipe then.

R: No, it’s not solid.

Me: Pipes aren’t solid.

R: Yes, but it’s different.

J: It’s more high tech.

Me: It’s a pipe.

R: There aren’t fluids flowing through it. It’s particles flowing through it and colliding.

Me: It’s still a pipe.

R: It’s not a pipe because the particles are in a vacuum.

Me: It’s a pipe. Those things at banks where the little container at the drive through is pushed through a pipe is pushed through a vacuum. It’s still a pipe.

R: [sighs] Ok, it’s a pipe.

It should be noted that according the CERN website, “The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum.” Thus, it’s a pipe. However, in R’s defense, I have a B.S. in chemical engineering, so everything is pretty much a pipe or a tank to me. Also, everything can be fixed with a hammer, but that is another story.

Balboa Park Plants

While in San Diego, I spent an entire day in Balboa Park and didn’t go inside one museum. I was too fascinated by the plants. There are beautiful tropical plants in the Botanical Building, but there are just as many beautiful plants outside. Colorful plants are everywhere, including the Desert Garden, which has many plants that I loved photographing while ever mindful not to get too close, or else ouch.IMG_4390 IMG_4440 IMG_4470 IMG_4499 IMG_4552 IMG_4591 IMG_4633 IMG_4670 IMG_4737 IMG_4801 IMG_4838 IMG_4847 IMG_4871 IMG_5023 IMG_5081 IMG_5110