Triple Word Score

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Underground

So, after going with Shane to those caves, and getting shaken down for every little bit of information I had about underground Rochester, he finally held up his end of the deal: taking me draining in Buffalo. I already knew exactly what I wanted. I’d even been to the entrance of it once, when the water was too high. It took some convincing to go here instead of Lockport but once I showed him what I thought I knew, he was all about it.

Right from the entrance Scajaquada is an epic drain: instead of an outfall, and going upstream into smaller tunnels, this was an IN-fall, taking in an entire small river into a 25×50 foot concrete pipe!

One of my favorite sights in all exploring: what’s beyond the bend?

Off of the giant tunnel there are a series of older brick branches, sewers and storm drains that once flowed into the creek and are now diverted into what appears to be an even more massive, inaccessible tunnel under this one

These branches are the perfect draining drains: ancient brickwork that is just tall enough to stand up in.

I even managed, by mostly dumb luck (I admit it) to get a drain shot I actually like. When I saw this I started to think maybe I got my artistic eye back from wherever I lost it last week.

This is Shane, with the giant flashlight cannon that made the previous shot possible.

The tunnel finally ended after close to six miles, in Forest Lawn Cemetery, after dark, with one of those wrought iron impaler fences. needless to say, it was a bit of a tight escape, and even once we got out we were basically lost in Buffalo, 6 miles from Shane’s car, soaking wet and in waders. Oops. I don’t think we took into account just how weird we’d look when we got back topside.

We got onto a bus, after a bit of a hassle when Shane for some reason unknown to all of us decided we deserved to board without paying the fare. I’m sure the driver didn’t even want us there, smelling like sewer and all, before Shane’s libertarian antics, but whatever. I was glad when we got back to Cheektowaga and off of the bus without even being suspected of much… but as soon as the reward was over, and the reeking boots stowed in the trunk, Shane made haste to the nearest bar to loosen me up and try to get any more information I had out of me. I guess exploring with a scumbag is just the price to pay for not having a car, but I really get the idea none of this was for planning future trips together.

This Is Ground Control

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Industrial

And, when Nate finally showed up, it was time to make a run for it! There were some rumors of security on site, but a quick jog to the back of the building got us in, and immediately the pungent air inside slapped us in the face, and we scurried right back to the car for our masks.

On the second try, it was clear this place was special. Designed in the typical overbuilt, ostentatious style of early 20th century American industry, the architecture (no expense spared) survived the advancing decay.

This building, now over 100 years old, was the administrative office, control center and laboratory for Bethlehem Steel’s massive Erie-Lackawanna operation. Knowing this, at first I thought I had found the control room!
False alarm

Wow! A lonely chair! (Seriously, as much as these are overdone and memed beyond recognition, I’ve taken maybe ten lonely chair shots ever…)

And, right past that chair, the next room was just what I’d been waiting for: Mission Control itself. Designed in the 1940s to efficiently manage wartime levels of production, this room became a prime inspiration for NASA’s Houston control center, anticipating space age design by 15 years.
Ground Control

The system, powered by a monstrous vacuum tube IBM/GE computer, took up an entire room, and had arrays of meters and printers, and entire panels of classical Blinkenlights. Unlike NASA’s control centers, there were no monitors — dynamic digital displays with any sort of pixel addressing were decades into the future, only the most primitive television and radar even existed.

The back wall of the control center was an enormous schematic of the entire plant’s functions at its peak, with yet more meters and blinkenlights to process incoming telemetry

In a time before integrated circuits, the computer consisted of rack after rack of this, grids of wires mimicking what would now be nanometer-scale silicon traces.

And eventually I had to leave the control center; there was still most of a building left to see. People love to photograph this stairway for some reason.

Just some long-exposure fun in a workshop

And what was once a scale model of the whole plant, but was trashed by prior trespassers

How about just one obligatory clown vomit HDR? If anywhere deserves it, it’s this place…

Check out the rest of my photos here

Theo’s Fates

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Industrial, Niagara

Five days late, Juraj and friends finally showed up to start the new year, and not a moment too soon while I’ve had it up to here and then some with Laura to the point that even she understood I could use a day doing what I want. I was supposed to help them out with a zombie movie for someone’s film study class, but with only a day free I only got to do the location scouting and run through a few of my favorite Buffalo sites.

I spent a lot of time waiting at the bottom of the grain elevators taking pictures of columns while everyone else climbed around the top, but I just didn’t feel good about the 39 missing steps.

So I went looking for even more columns, and heard a tremendous BOOM! and clatter from somewhere above. And went back to taking pictures of columns because it was all I could reach.
Columns 2

The source of the noise turned out to be another stair step falling, and Theo with it, somehow saving himself on a rickety railing. Just more proof I shouldn’t climb, I thought. Next up was the Hall of Machines, especially considering that we were a carload of engineers and Tesla geeks. So up we went again, straight to the top. Does this roof look safe to you?

No? Me either. Theo, of course, went out to test for himself. This roof had a weight capacity of about 0.8 Theos, a unit of mass roughly equivalent to a volumetric Smoot. Somehow, the pair of freshly created leg-holes happened to land right across an I-beam. Theo lived again. The hole still lives.
Holey Shit

And so we took in the hulks of rotting machinery, the behemoths that once powered a city of industry.

I’m not much of a climber but these at least were pretty manageable. And easily worth the view from the top.

The machines weren’t enough for Theo though… he disappeared again, and as we began to search, sure enough there was another enormous crash and clatter. And out of the ruckus, yet again, the legend appeared, scraped up, shaken and stirred.

Our third place, and only new one, was the Dunlop factory on Grand Island. The most notable thing about it was its featureless, flat Cleveland architecture.

Being one for completeness, Theo created yet another racket. At least he was only joking this time; nothing fell, he just started throwing bricks at the sheet metal in the windows, knocking out a perfect opening for the setting sun

True to form, we spent the rest of the night on the piss, going back to Iola with a handle of Jack and staying out well past the sunrise. Somehow, I lost my house key somewhere along the way, but… at least to me it was still so worth it!

Elevator Action

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Industrial

So I managed to get out exploring one more time before summer. Nate thought he could get us into some grain elevators in Buffalo that actually had stairs to the top so I could climb too. I guess he was sort of right; apparently the permission we got was only to walk around the outside, not to go in, so the trip ended early with us getting chased out by the owners. At least it was something… maybe enough to last me until September.

I only ever knew of Pinkertons as something from history class, the union busting scabs. I wonder what they did here?

It’s a long way down!

Nate in action … just before the “oh shit! security!” moment

The ground floor, or what they let us see of it

In which ghost-Nate is beamed up by the sun gods

This isn’t the same place. This was some random factory we looked into on the way home and set off alarms at.

Concrete Central

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Industrial

I really need to cut down on the skip class and go exploring thing. Especially a week before finals. But if Nate offers to take me to Buffalo on some random Monday, do you really think I won’t go? Of course Nate was all about climbing the thing, all he wanted was the view from the top. Like hell I’d climb a staircase with 34 of the first 35 steps missing… so I got to take pictures of the bottom for two hours while he had all the fun. Oh well… when life gives you columns, make — colonnade?


More columns.

Giant columns.

Not a column.
Not Columns

More pictures of columns

Furniture Factory

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Industrial

What we think is a furniture factory, on Sycamore street in Buffalo. I came here once in 2009, it’s changed a bit since then, less building more nature. Things haven’t been going as planned for a while so I figured I’d let anyone from my group go with the UR UrbEx club. The result was mostly weird: Nate and Amy, firmly rooted in the “other” school of urbex, came in with stealthy looks and respirator masks, and generally way out of place. It will be interesting having them around for the rest of the year…

Nate sees something on the floor

One of Buffalo’s few decent graffiti spots

Just a brick wall but I like it for some reason

The sun pours in liquidly

There’s got to be some deeper meaning to this