I for one am not much for roller coasters . . but this does not detract from my appreciation from them. We once again take the blog and visit with my most excellent brother 'DressyMonday' who lives, works and sometimes plays in New York.

DressyMonday sent along an image of his very good friend Tim and himself hurtling towards certain doom on the Cyclone roller coaster on Surf Avenue Brooklyn, and area better known as Coney Island. Apparently, not only did the two loose vertebrae and teeth, there also may be a patch or two of blood / hair somewhere along the 3,000 feet of wooden hell.

It is certainly not the first time this deadly apparatus has tasted blood . . .
A passenger was killed in 1985 and a ride operator fell to his death in 1988 while conducting a safety inspection.

I became interested in Astroland (where Cyclone is located) very recently after reading a fellow bloggers post that the park was soon to close after decades of providing amusement and diversion to New Yorkers.

I have a sort of deep nostalgia for old amusement parks such as Astroland even though I have never visited and most likely will never have the opportunity before it is demolished and the property redeveloped.

As one walks through them, it is not very difficult to see echoes of its former glory. What is now chipped, peeling, or gaudy becomes cool retro through my eyes.

Anywho, I think I have drifter far enough - let's get back to some interesting facts and past.

The Cyclone has been an official New York City Landmark since July 12, 1988, and has been listed in the New York State Register of Historic Places on June 31, 1991.

The roller coaster gained National Historic Landmark status on June 26, 1991.

On April 14, 1992, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden issued a citation to Jerome Albert and the late Dewey Albert for their operation of both Astroland and the Cyclone, saluting them for being the primary energizing force in the regeneration of the Coney Island Amusement District.

Construction consist of steel track on almost entirely wood structure.

This coaster also has the distinction of being the most copied roller coaster ever built. There are now 7 'clones' currently operating throughout the United States, Europe and Japan.


I should very much like to photographically explore this space sometime directly after it has closed and before any preparatory work take place for demolition. I will be bothering other urban explorers I know in this state for their images of this beautiful old park.

Until next time, Happy and Safe Exploring.


Hearn Tragedy

R.I.P. Hearn Explorer
Ryan Nyenhuis

I do not personally know this explorer but do feel very saddened by the tragic loss of any explorer. My sincere condolences to his friends and family. Please understand that he was passionately enjoying a hobby at the time of his accident.
Urban Exploration does pose risks. With experience, safety equipment, and the advice of other Explorers, these risks are manageable.
Leave a message at ebituary.

(image credits - from fellow explorer 'v.n.' who requested anonymity. The community has been following this very sad story since the first emergency vehicle was dispatched)

From the Globe & Mail Article . . .
Urban explorer pays for his hobby with his life
Man dies from injuries after three-storey fall inside decommissioned power station
June 18, 2008 // Anthony Reinhart

To urban explorers, it's known simply as Hearn, one of Toronto's top destinations for camera-toting adventurers with a fondness for abandoned buildings.

From now on, they will also know it as the place where a fellow enthusiast died after a three-storey fall into a coal hopper on the weekend.

A 26-year-old man from Northern Ontario died of brain injuries in a Toronto hospital yesterday, two days after he tumbled from a catwalk high inside the Richard L. Hearn Thermal Generating Station, a sprawling fifties-era power plant in the midst of being dismantled on the city's east-end waterfront.

Police said the man and a 24-year-old friend, who were not employees at the site, "gained access through a secure area of the building for the purposes of taking artistic photographs of the building's interior" and were on a sixth-floor catwalk when the man fell and became trapped at about 4 p.m. Emergency workers took nearly three hours to free him.

The man's family has been notified, but his name has not been released.

As Detective Constable Kim O'Toole continued her investigation yesterday, alongside officials from the Ontario Ministry of Labour because the demolition site is a workplace, another adventurer familiar with the Hearn plant lamented not only the man's death, but his decision to take such an extreme risk in the first place.

"It's a shame that he died," Alex, who lives west of Toronto and works in information technology, said yesterday. "The fact that he was crawling up through a power station that's in the process of being demolished, especially that high up, is stupid to my mind."

Urban exploration, which can involve trespassing and breaking and entering, is a fringe activity that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among photographers intrigued by the decay of the built environment.

Enthusiasts range from professionals such as Toronto's Sean Galbraith, who has parlayed his forays into high-priced fine art, to thrill-seeking amateurs who prefer a lower profile and share their work on Internet sites.

Mr. Galbraith declined to discuss the practice in an e-mail exchange yesterday, "other than to say this is a truly tragic accident and my thoughts go out to his family."

Alex, who asked that his surname be withheld, said mishaps have been rare in the three years he has been combing abandoned buildings in Southern Ontario and western New York. They are usually the result of ignorance and sometimes involve people lured to the hobby by its heightened profile in the media and on television shows like CSI and Urban Explorers, a Discovery Channel series.

"When I go into a place, I usually look to make sure that it's structurally sound," he said. "I avoid floors that have been partially knocked off, I avoid catwalks, places where there are massive holes in the floor."

He also wears safety boots with steel toes and shanks, and in some cases, a respirator mask to filter out asbestos and noxious fumes.

"I am fully trained in first aid and carry a kit with me, and have had to use it on a couple of occasions," he said, adding that he once treated another hobbyist who injured himself punching through glass.

"It's just a matter of using your head," Alex said, adding that taking a buddy along, and preferably two, is essential "so that one person can run out and make a phone call in the case that you're stuck in a place like Hearn. Cell reception is a bit spotty in there."

With four excursions into Hearn under his belt, the most recent in April, Alex said he made a point of warning his fellow enthusiasts of the dangers of their hobby when he heard about the weekend accident.

The appeal of the old generating station, mothballed in the 1980s, is simple: "It's big, it's been around for a while, and you get to see what the power stations were like when they were first built in the fifties," an era before computers when control rooms were filled with dials and buttons and gauges.

Asked how he reconciles the need to trespass to get into such sites, he said, "I don't go in with the intent to damage the property. I don't break into a building; I look for an open door, I look for a hole in the wall, an open window, something that I can just walk in. If I can't get in without walking in, I walk away."

He has been caught by on-site security guards, "and they just kick you off the property." He's never been arrested.

"The fact of the matter with trespassing is, the most you'll get is a $65 ticket, and that's only if the police can find the owner and the owner wants to pursue this. You don't get put in cuffs; you don't get jailed."

In Toronto, Alex said, Hearn has ranked alongside the Canada Malting silos at the foot of Bathurst Street and the Don Valley Brick Works as one of the top three destinations for urban explorers.

Now that there's been an accident, he expects things to change at Hearn, and if that comes at the expense of his hobby, so be it.

"Hopefully it's a wake-up call for both explorers and companies to watch themselves," he said. "I hope that they do something about Hearn; either finish the job and knock it down, or seal it up well enough that nobody gets in.
"I don't want to see other people get hurt."
Forbidden places

Urban exploration, infiltration, creeping, building hacking - whatever you call it, forays into otherwise forbidden places have become an increasingly popular, if often illicit, hobby in cities around the world, particularly since the advent of the Internet in the mid-nineties.

A Toronto man, Jeff Chapman, aka Ninjalicious, was a contemporary UE pioneer with his magazine Infiltration: the zine about going places you're not supposed to go, founded in 1996 [Mr. Chapman died in 2005 and publication has since ceased].

From photographers and graffiti artists to thrill-seekers and the simply curious, these places - some abandoned, others still active - offer the allure of the unknown, the historical, even the haunted.


Niagara Family Vacation

If you are a family man like me, there comes a dreaded point every other summer or so when you must face the inevitable . . . the summer vacation.
This post has very little to do about urban exploration but quite a bit about taking my 3 progenies (hereafter to be referred to as 'the monsters' or 'the unspeakables') on a much-anticipated family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. Since I had to endure this horror, I feel that I must share this with other sympathetic souls . . . sorry - misery likes company.

I also wish to provide some advice to other parents out there . . . bring a LOT of alcohol - it helps.

Here's a brief 2.5 minute video of the 2-day Niagara / Great Wolf Lodge experience which I have distilled for you.

We started off at the requisite unpleasantness of the physiographic falls itself . . . this is the point in the river system where approximately 165,000 cubic-metres (per minute!) of the wet stuff dumps itself over a precipice on its way to join it's salt-water brethren in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Looking down into this gorge of doom, we saw a beautiful decomissioned Ontario Power Generating Station (also decommissioned and now with a grass-covered roof) as well as a crowd of very wet tourists enjoying a shower at the 'Behind the Falls' tour.

One of the more enjoyable attractions (from an Urban Explorer's point of view) is the Rankine Hydro-Electric Power Generating Stations, commissioned in January, 1905 and decommissioned in 2005 after one-hundred years of supplying electricity to Niagara Falls' famous vibrating beds. They certainly do not construct buildings of this quality anymore.

The old barge that ran aground back in 1918 appears to be in the same fixed location as it was when I last visited it as a teenager more than 2 decades ago. This barge broke away from a tug with two sailors aboard ( Gustav Lofberg, 51 and James Harris, 40). The quick-thinking men flooded the barge in order to ground it against the shallows and then waited 19 hours until rescued. I wonder if the sound of running water made them want to pee . . .
There is also the very kewl railed derrick a short distance away from the barge which used to operate the sluice gates at the Rankine generating facility.

The skyline (from the river) of Niagara falls at first appears familiar with the Minolta Tower, constructed which opened in 1962. I do understand that this tower does change hands as frequently as some South-American countries change governments, but it will always be the Minolta Tower to me. The Tower is now jostled for space with many newcomers such as the Fallsview Embassy Suites and the Marriott.

After playing tourist among the many unwashed foreigners down at the Falls, it was time to retire to our reserved rooms at the Great Wolf Lodge . . . If I only had a change to 'retire'. The munsters insisted that the communal bedtime story event be attended at 8:00 PM.

With very little sleep that night, I was to endure the majority of the next day riding down terrifying water-slides at the 103,00 square-foot indoor water park. Were it not for the kindness of the bar-keep and the unrelenting barrage of tropical blender-drinks, I may have very well perished.

I sincerely hoped that reading about this misadventure was as unpleasant to you as it was me experiencing it . . . Until next time, Happy & Safe Exploring !

~ Copy-('Lemony-Snicket])-Six


I Get Around

I get around . . . One of the characteristics of a passionate urban explorer, is simply that he or she explores. This means that no matter how cold, or hot, how much precipitation in its many wondrous forms is draining from the skies down the back of your neck, there is a drive to constantly interact with one's environs.

Here's an aggregation of how I saw my world through my lens over the last 72-hours. My apologies in advance - not really 'UrbEx' per se, but still encompassing the essence and spirit of exploration.

Another Downtown Fire
Yet another tragedy downtown. Thank-fully nobody was hurt in this latest string of fires. The first incident I spoke about took place 7/08/2007 (Earth & Sky Connection) with the second one on 12/06/2007 (Five Points), both leaving many unfortunate tenants homeless.

The latest fire occured on Tuesday 20 May at 98-104 Dunlop Street East (Bedrock's Smoothie & Pita and Janet Kemp Ladies Fashion), but I only had an opportunity to poke around just now. The Office of the Fire Marshal has labeled the incident as suspicious - a mattress leaning against a gas meter at the back of the building caught fire and spread to the commercial spaces at street level and apartments above.

Although the building looks fairly intact from the street, there was heavy interior smoke and fire damage. The Owner has been ordered to engage a structural engineer to assess the damage and report on recommended remedial work necessary to make the building safe again.

Robert Simpson Brewery
Directly across the street from the fire-damaged Pita joint lies the wondrous Robert Simpson Brewery. This brewery is named after a master brewer who was also happened to Barrie’s first mayor. Mr. Simpson founded Simcoe Brewery in 1843. Back then, it was healthier to drink beer than water they may have been pulling out of the lake or shallow dug wells.

Brewmaster Gordon Slater, together with owner Peter Chiodo, have spent years developing and evolving their Confederation Ale. Gordon and Peter craft their batches 'o' brew according to the 'Reinheitsgebot' or Bavarian 'Beer Purity Law'.

Robert Simpson and his brewery was in great demand as every small hamlet in Simcoe County paraded economic inducements to have him locate his business in their community. A measure of success for these early settlements was to be able to demonstrate a list of industrial entrepreneurs working and living in their forward-looking municipality.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Robert Simpson had one of the best-burning breweries in Ontario. Fire struck his brewery in the Village of Kempenfelt (1836), and Tollendal Village before he finally settled on the Marry Street location in Barrie in 1849. Each time incentives were offered to Mr. Simpson to relocate to their community.

Ardagh Accident
I was coming back home on Friday night (from an undisclosed location) when I rolled up to a police road block near to where I live. Inquisitive as I am, I popped out to talk with on-lookers and take pictures (as my camera always seems to be about my person).

Here is the Police blurb . . . Barrie Police are reporting that a serious motor vehicle collision occurred this evening just after 8:00pm. Police report a Buick Regal was driving westbound on Ardagh Road, east of Ferndale Road, at a high rate of speed. The vehicle lost control on the crest of a hill and veered across the east bound lanes of Ardagh Road, mounting the sidewalk and striking a female pedestrian walking eastbound. The 36 year old female pedestrian has serious injuries and was flown to Sunnybrook Hospital. The 21 year old male driver has been arrested for Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm. The Barrie Police Service Traffic Unit and Identification Unit have been called in to investigate. Police are asking citizens to avoid the area for now.

I am trying hard not to pre-judge here but from what I saw the accident reconstruction officers doing, it appears this idiot really laying it down hard and fast over the hill and lost it, skidding out at least 200 metres before finally coming to rest on the sidewalk.

Feel free to provide comments about what you think is wrong with this driver.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Exploring,
. . . and watch out for idiot drivers.