If you’ve never visited Manitoba Hydro’s Electrical Museum before, you have a treat in store.
I drive past it every day on my way to work but until recently had never been inside. I had to chuckle this winter when its neon sign was malfunctioning and read “Electrical seum.” I thought it was 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, Monday to Thursday from 1- 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 recently when the heritage building offered free public tours. And this building is a fine example of some of our architectural heritage, a solid brick building that first 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 entranceway the building now functions as a museum and 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 outside the entrance gives you an idea of the scale of some of those dams.
One of the many volunteers there that day was Terry Silcox, a 30-year veteran of Manitoba Hydro who used to provide technical support for the Power Smart program.
Silcox showed me the lower level where there is a discovery area that shows how electricity works, along with the Hazard Hamlet, which 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 metered energy use.
There’s also a Van de Graaff generator, which I remember from some hair-raising experiments during my high school days. Unfortunately there were no volunteers willing to be zapped when I was there.
A collection of old electrical appliances shows how previous generations used the new-fangled marvel of electricity for 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 hydro-electricity is produced in Manitoba, where the dams are located and how they were constructed. There’s also an exhibit of an old street car as this was one of the first uses of electricity in our province.
The museum also has themed displays throughout the year; July and August feature Louie’s Family Fun Days (you remember Louie the Lightning Bug) and November to January will showcase All that Glows, a seasonal lighting display.
The Electrical Museum is located at 680 Harrow Street. Hours are Monday-Thursday from 1-4 p.m. and admission 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.
For more information on the Electrical Museum, click here.