As part of Doors Open Toronto, I visited the High Level Pumping Station. It is the oldest building in Toronto’s water supply system. The oldest part of the building dates back to 1906 with other additions added later until the final one in 1953. The building houses a vertical triple expansion steam engine from 1909 with a huge crank and flywheel, not to mention a lovely set of huge wrenches hanging next to it. The building also houses a steam-geared centrifugal pump. However neither of those are used anymore but instead have been replaced with nine electric motor-driven pumps to fulfill the pumping station’s objection of conveying drinking water to that area of Toronto.
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.
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.
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.
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.