If, like me, you’ve never visited Manitoba Hydro’s Electrical Museum at 680 Harrow St., let me tell you that you have a treat in store.
I drive past it every day on my way to work and had to chuckle this winter when its neon sign was malfunctioning and read "Electrical ...seum". I thought it a bit ironic that our electrical utility company has problems with electrical gadgets, too.
I’ve often wanted to visit but found its normal opening hours, Mondays to Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. a bit restrictive. It’s run mostly by retired hydro employees who volunteer their time and after a lifetime of serving our electrical needs who can blame them for wanting a reduced work week.
However, I was able to take advantage of extended weekend hours during Open Doors Winnipeg, when heritage buildings offered free public tours.
The building is a fine example of our architectural heritage, a solid brick structure that opened in 1931 as a terminal station to receive electricity from the Seven Sisters generating plant on the Winnipeg River.
With the addition of a modern glass entrance, the building now tells the story of hydro-electric power generation in Manitoba from its inception in 1870 to present day. The enormous yellow turbine from the Great Falls generating station that greets you gives you an idea of the scale of some of those dams.
One of the many volunteers there on the day I visited was Terry Silcox, a 30-year veteran of Hydro. Terry showed me the lower level where there is a discovery area that shows how electricity works and the "Hazard hamlet" graphically illustrates electrical safety.
A very informative exhibit features two light bulbs, a regular incandescent one and a compact fluorescent one that are both connected to a meter. When each is turned on independently you can see the big difference in energy used.
A collection of appliances from the past shows how a previous generation used the new-fangled marvel of electricity with labour-saving household devices.
Speaking of electrical appliances, over 50 of them have been joined together to form a giant robot that greets you on the main level, like a futuristic monster from an old sci-fi movie.
The main floor details how electricity is produced in Manitoba, where the dams are and how they were constructed.
Admission to the museum is free. Guided tours are available (by appointment) for the general public, school, and community groups. Maximum group size is 30. To schedule a tour, please call 204-360-7905.
Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.