Tonawanda Coke is probably the second most toxic location we’ve been to. For the past few years the EPA and a local environmentalist group named the Clean Air Coalition of WNY have been going after the company for doing things like dumping cyanide in the water and lots of benzene in the air. They can tell you better about all that than I can, so, to the urban exploration.
My friend spotted this site from a boat while out on the Niagara river and it’s pretty easy to see on the highway as well. From the road you need to access it by, however, you can’t really see anything except trees and tall grass. Lots of tall grass. We trekked about a mile in from the road before we got to the river and the gigantic coal loader we were looking for. On our way there we came across a little stream that will be important later and noted that it had an odd silvery color to it and smelled of bleach. There was nothing alive in the stream. No fish, no plants, nothing could apparently survive in it. Also this stream dumps water right into the Niagara river.
Anyhow, the coal loader, I’m told, would use this huge claw to grab coal off a boat and then load it onto this two mile long conveyer belt. The belt would take the coal to the main site (across the street) where it would be put in furnaces and made into coke. Coke is used for many things including steel smelting and oil refining.
So from this place we saw a well worn trail and followed it to this complex of buildings that the conveyer belts ran through. I’m not really sure what they were for, maybe for some sort of quality check on the coal, or maybe they did something to it there. I have no idea.
It might not be easy to get a sense from most of these photos but the machines in this place were huge. That claw for the coal loader was a few feet taller than either of us and about as wide as a car. The tower itself was probably five or six stories hight and the belts ran for miles. Now it just sits there, rusting away.
There was also a small shack with an engine in it that seemed to fascinate my engineer friend a great deal. Behind this small shack and hidden by a hill was a pair of very large silos that were submerged halfway in water. My friend suggested that this was part of the way they put out a fire the facility had way back when. Again, not sure. I’m hesitant to say much about the fires at this place because they’ve had many of them and the details from the articles make it unclear where exactly they happened.
We figured we had seen everything at this point and walked further on the path hoping to find access to the street. Instead we found a big gate and the fence. Interestingly, we could see from here that the stream we spotted earlier crossed the street and went into the other part of the facility. So all the runoff from that side was eventually making its way back into the river. I guess that explains the lack of living things in it.
We backtracked a bit and my friend wanted to try to jump the stream at one point and I didn’t want to risk getting exposed to that water. He has this thing about jumping over water I guess. We walked back and just followed the fence until we found our original way in.
There’s a video of the images with creepy music and a rough map of the route we took you can watch here.