Steel triangular roof trusses extend the entire length of a building, viewed in perspective. Some small lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling, and many of the steel trusses are dirtied with bird poo.

Steel Roof Truss Array

I'm a fan of repetitive geometric patterns, so I'm an easy sucker for roof trusses found in most older industrial buildings. This one seems fairly typical, but the construction is a little different. When I visited the station in 2006, I didn't realize that the roof construction was different enough to have some dangerous consequences.

Beware Falling Rocks

There is no wood deck above the steel roof trusses to which the roof tiles are mounted. Put another way, there is nothing between the roof tiles and the interior of the building. That's important because... wind.

When the wind gusts in, it creates an upward force that pushes against the underside of the roof tiles. Over time tiles can crack, become dislodged and drop down into the building.

The roof tiles are effectively rocks weighing a few pounds each. Anecdotes from former workers confirm that it wasn't fun worrying about rocks falling from the ceiling while you were trying to do your job. (Natural air conditioning with possible skull-crushing rock hazards? Or faint from the sweltering heat? Tough choice...)

Janitorial Target Practice

Can you believe that one of the janitors' duties was shooting pigeons with a pellet gun?1 Because of the generators, the temperature inside the power house would get very hot. As mentioned above, to help relieve the heat the windows would be opened. And when you open the windows, the pigeons start flying in.

Anybody who's been in an abandoned structure will understand the consequence of pigeons flying about or roosting in your building. It's pigeon crap, literally everywhere. In this image, it's very clean. But those vertical white streaks on some of the roof trusses? Pigeon crap.

I'm just imagining what day one of this job must have been like. “Welcome aboard! Here's your mop, broom, and rifle...

Imagine The Chaos

What was it really like to work here? I don't know, but I like to imagine a Charlie Chaplin-esque scene in which the windows are opening, birds are flying in, roof tiles are randomly falling from above while workers below dodge them, and a determined janitor is firing his rifle at the birds (also hitting the roof tiles and causing more tiles to fall).

Maybe Chaplin's Modern Times factory scene wasn't too far off the mark...

  1. Ball, N. R. (2005). The Canadian Niagara Power Company Story. Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press in association with FortisOntario.