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Electrifying the Porcupine

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center looks back at a little bit more of the story of how hydro-electricity was produced for the gold mine camp
Workers with the Porcupine Power Company in 1911 work to set up 12 kilometres of power lines from the Sandy Falls generating station on the Mattagami River, through the Timmins townsite, and ultimately to the Hollinger Mine. Timmins Museum photo

From the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center:

In a previous Remember This, the museum dug up a photo of employees of the Northern Canada Power Company who were out inspecting the hydro lines on horseback in the 1920s. Here is a little more of the story.

Early mining developments in Northern Ontario were typically powering their operations by steam power, using wood fuel from the vast forests that surrounded the camps. When work first began at the Hollinger Mine in the spring of 1910, they constructed a plant with two 60-horsepower boilers to power their two hoists, stamp mill, and drill.

But once it became clear that operations would expand their power needs beyond their available fuel source, they turned to hydro-electricity.

Using water to generate energy was not a new idea by any means. Waterwheels were being used in gristmills and sawmills in Ontario starting in the 1850s. Electrical generators which could be used to power a few buildings came around in the 1880s, but it was the development of transformers in the 1890s which finally allowed electricity to be transmitted over long distances. This meant that more remote rivers and rapids could be used to produce hydro-electricity.

The Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mines contracted the Porcupine Power Company in 1910 to build a power generating station at Sandy Falls. Power was available starting in June 1911, although the mine was not yet in a position to receive it owing to a devastating forest fire which burned through the area. Once they were back up and running in October of that year, twelve kilometres of power lines carried the electricity from the generating station to the first wooden buildings constructed at the townsite.

The lights were on in Timmins!  

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here.