Exploring an Abandoned Power Plant – MASSIVE Turbine Hall!

Exploring an Abandoned Power Plant – MASSIVE Turbine Hall!

In today’s episode, we’re exploring one of the most incredible structures ever built for the purpose of power generation. The Port Richmond Generating Station. The plant was built by the Philadelphia Electric Company in 1925 along the bank of the Delaware river. It’s Neoclassical architecture was meant to signal permanence, but it would only operate for 60 years. Since 1984, it’s been sitting idle, and left at the mercy of metal thieves and vandals. Now, we’re venturing inside the rusting behemoth to discover what’s left. I’ve been trying to recover from a cold these past few days and the sponsor of this video, Trade Coffee, really helped me feel better. Trade is an online service to help you find the perfect cup of coffee for your taste and deliver it straight to your door. It’s roasted to order, fresh, premium coffee, so you know you’ll always be enjoying a great tasting cup. The website first asks you a couple questions to figure out what flavors you prefer, and then it will recommend a coffee based on that. Since I’m sick, it’s nice being able to know I’m going to have a great cup of coffee no matter how bad I feel. And you can enjoy a great cup of coffee too, with a great deal. Trade is giving the first 100 people who click the link in the description 30% off their first coffee. Just click the link in the description and use the code, PROPERPEOPLE2. We had previously attempted to access this plant 3 times over the years but every time, we were deterred by the presence of workers near the building. Today, we were determined to make it inside. He’s standing right there. You see him? Yeah I do. He’s right by the passenger door. We’re just gonna have to wait him out, we’re already this far. After a few minutes, the worker drove off, but we didn’t see where he went. They got like a hundred patches on the fence over here, you see that? There’s cameras everywhere. There are. We just gotta go for it. This way?
-Yea. [sigh of relief] It’s scary.
-I know. It’s not that bad once you do it. I know. Just get on this side of the railing. It’s just like that split second of not having your hands on anything. We should pull our cameras out. Is this an elevator car?
-Yes. Wow. Okay, now these were the boilers. Okay. Pretty big. This was pretty cool right here. A lot of water dripping down. Alright, main turbine hall. How should we get there? All I know is we need to keep moving in this direction. I hear stuff above us. Voices… You hear voices?
-Yea. Stick close together. We had heard stories of scrappers stalking and threatening people here, so we were a little uneasy in the dark and tight spaces of the boiler house where someone could be hiding around any corner. You could get some cool long exposures with a tripod in here. [distant bang] Jesus, alright I see the main turbine hall I think. Okay, let’s go.
-Yea. Safety bulletins. Oh crap, look straight up. There’s giant skylights up there. Have to go through. Oh my god. It’s beautiful. It’s full of turbines. It’s absolutely massive. The roof’s almost entirely gone now. It’s really… really decayed in the past few years. Richmond’s turbine hall is truly a sight to behold. Four massive turbines are aligned down the center of the room two of which date back to the plant’s original construction in 1925. Altogether, the plant was capable of producing 600 megawatts of power at it’s peak. The plant was designed by John T. Windrim, a famous Philadelphia architect who designed over 30 buildings for the Philadelphia Electric Company. Some of his other palatial plants include the Chester Waterside Station, and the Delaware Station but both of those have been gutted of their original generating equipment, making Port Richmond one of a kind. You definitely do not want to end up in that water down there. You’ll get some sepsis. There is a dangling chunk of ceiling right above us. Oh, I do see that. This place is extremely dangerous. Ooaah, a fricking huge spider web. Spider check! No, seriously. Do a 360. I did not see any spiders on you. Oh wait- You wanna know why? I walked through this web… Come look at this spider that’s just on the other side of this. It’s on that box. Yeah I see it. It’s huge. This turbine back here is the biggest one. Oh this pit has a lot more machinery in it than the other ones. It looks like they all would’ve been painted green too, but it’s all chipped away. The bare metal is just rusted. The scale of this place doesn’t even come across on camera. There’s a little control panel, just for this generator probably. Look at that giant valve. It’s almost like it’s nautical, where it just looks like a sunken ship. Good luck turning that…
-Yea. This looks like a sunken ship. I mean even if it wasn’t rusted it’d probably take a huge amount of force to turn. Oh this is a really cool panel right here. Reminds me of like a bug-eye or something. Even though Richmond Station is massive, the original plans called for it to be triple the size of what it is today. A lack of anticipated demand is what kept the plant from expanding further. It’s pretty windy out too… which isn’t a good thing when you have pieces of ceiling hanging above your head. Every time I hear a gust of wind I’m ready to look up and dart out of the way. The longer we hung out in the turbine hall, the greater our chance was of getting hit with a giant piece of concrete so we decided it was time to head to the next main attraction, the control room. At Port Richmond the main control room is located inside a building known as the switch house. This area of the plant was responsible for connecting the power plant to the rest of the grid. The switch house itself is an uncommon feature, usually only found in the oldest of power plants. It turns out, just putting the equipment outside in a switchyard was a cheaper and easier solution. Okay here’s stairs, that’ll take us up. And that was an elevator. There’s a car down there too. Gosh, look at this detail. That’s fantastic. Do you wanna go upstairs? Yea I just wanted to take a quick peek at what all this is down here. Main switch- switches, okay. Oh this was like the switch house.
-Yea. Yea. All emptied out though. Up we go. I wonder if this is gonna have intermediate floors or if it’s just gonna go right up to the control room level. Might just go right up, or at least somewhere near it. Well, here’s an intermediate floor. Oh wait, we might be at the control room already. This looks like the back of a control panel. I don’t think this was a control panel, but it’s something related to it.
-It was a fuse board. These are all fuses.
-There’s a chalkboard over there too. I think the control room is just right above us.
-Yea these are all fuses. And look, all the pipes go up one floor, so this is like a sub-floor of the control room. I think so. Wiring diagram.
-Wow, yea. Here there’s stairs back here. Here it is! Wow. Imagine the graffiti’s not there, and it’s amazing. All the dials are missing too. People probably stole them as souvenirs.
-I’m sure. Look how many there were. It’s pretty scrapped.
-Yea. What is this material? Is that like some kind of marble too? Yea it’s rock. They built a control panel out of marble, or some kind of rock. That is crazy.
-Yea. This is rock.
-Holy cow.
-They built the controls right through it. You can see just how thick it is too. And this newer unit you can see they replaced it just with metal. Yup. Do you see that teal thing on the wall there? Yea. That looks exactly like the ones we saw at the 50s Art Deco power plant. They probably added that one. And that one probably went with the turbine that looks newer too. And these metal things over here are newer too.
-Yea. You can see the gauges are completely different. Watch your step here. Now this is a view. Oh wow that’s interesting. They didn’t call it the control room, they called it the operating room. We’re looking for the part of the building right now that was used as the set for the movie 12 Monkeys. They made part of this look like an asylum. I think there’s even a stretcher left. Come on, find the window, it’s lower. Wanna just go down one of these? Sure. What if it’s one hallway over… These doors really look like asylum doors though. That’s why they chose them.
-Yea. Wanna just cut across? Yea. This has to be it. Psychotherapy. Is that really all there is to it? There’s just a bed and psychotherapy on the wall, or is there more parts to the set still here?
-That’s it I guess. But like the bed is barely even… a thing anymore, it’s falling apart.
-Yea. And it’s funny because literally anyone can just spray paint psychotherapy on there.
-Yea. It’s just a stencil. This looks like it was a set piece in here.
-They built a room out of this doorway. They quite literally have built a room out of the doorway. That’s a nice view. I think this might be the one shot that like actually makes the scale of this place come across. You look like an ant. This part is all reinforced concrete so I don’t think it’s in danger of collapse. Well, those metal grates aren’t. Yea I know. But I don’t see any portions of this walkway that have collapse.
-The center point is right in front of that metal grate which you’re at.
-Yea. It’s pretty crazy to imagine how something like this even got built, but… back then I guess it could happen. But can you just imagine getting a bunch of- Well back when this was built, electricity was pretty much new.
-Mhmm. And it was a marvel, and everyone was like, amazed by it. So of course, the thing that makes this amazing electricity, they’d make it look beautiful, that way people like looked up to it like this great thing. Yea. And that leads to buildings that look like this, which nowadays… a power plant’s a warehouse with some generators in it.
-Mhmm. Now this, this is art. But it’s still kind of crazy, because it’s not like a public accessible building. Y’know the public can see it from the outside, but no one’s really gonna see it from the inside, but… back then they could justify it. I mean they didn’t really know how to build buildings any differently back then, they only knew how to go all out. This was from the 20s so… Yea. right at like the peak of like modern, ornate buildings. But like the actual style of architecture goes all the way back to ancient Roman…
-Yea, mhmm. architecture, I think they said they modeled it after an ancient Roman bathhouse. Which is kind of funny too, cause, the idea of using that classical kind of architecture is to create something that, y’know, gives a vibe that it’s gonna be there forever, like this style of architecture has been around forever so this is a permanent building that’s gonna last forever and, Well physically it lasted.
-It didn’t even last a century. Physically it lasted. Debatably
-Except the ceiling.
-Yea. But yea.
-If it was kept up it could’ve lasted much longer. These look like pretty old-fashioned crane controls. All mechanical. How do I fire this bad boy up? Oh sheet. This has like a very satisfying mechanical feel to it. There’s a lot of barricaded doors which makes getting around here kind of annoying.
-It is. A lot of natural light comes in up here though where these skylights are. The floor here is different. It’s all grate, that’s what it is. And the grate doesn’t look too good. The grate doesn’t look great? No. This looks kind of cool though. You wanna go on this? Um…
-I mean it feels okay.
-I’m just gonna peek in. This is pretty cool. These tubes… While we were at the top of the boiler house, a light rainstorm came through. Let’s take a moment to enjoy the ambiance. One reason I love this power plant is because there’s no reason it HAD to be built with all these intricate details and grandiose architecture. It’s just a power plant after all. All it had to do was create electricity. I think that demonstrates a fundamental change in philosophy of the way we construct the world around us. To me, the world is feeling more and more disposable. Everything is created as cheaply as possible and is simply a means to an end. But, when Port Richmond Station was built, the builders thought they were constructing something that would serve future generations for centuries. And when we’re creating something permanent, it’s only natural for us to want to inject art, creativity, and craftsmanship into it. It’s what makes us human, and that’s what’s lacking from so much of what we build today. Am I saying we should start building giant palatial power plants again? No, obviously it’s better to put that money towards creating cleaner and more environmentally friendly energy. But, I do think there’s something we can learn from this building. The architecture around us has the power to control how we feel. When you stand in that turbine hall, you don’t just see the artistry and craftsmanship, you feel it. You feel the pride of the hundreds of designers, builders, and engineers involved in it’s making. You feel the message, that this is a shrine to electricity and the promises of the future it brings with it. I think I’d wanna live in a world with more of these types of buildings, not less. Trade Coffee, the sponsor of today’s video, is giving the first 100 people who click the link the description 30% off their first coffee. Just click the link in the description and use the code ‘PROPERPEOPLE2’.

100 thoughts on “Exploring an Abandoned Power Plant – MASSIVE Turbine Hall!

  1. I understand the sentiments a cathedral like this inspires…but really, we may say we want more beautiful structures, but our actions say that we don't. Ask any modern utility company what their customers' biggest complaint is and they will say "the rates." Ask about their second biggest complaint, and it's that ugly utility pole stuck in the yard near the front gate. Everyone in modern times wants their electricity to work, they want it as cheap as possible, and they want it cleanly tucked out of the way. Offer your customers a $10/month rate hike in order to convert overhead infrastructure to underground, and you might get a lukewarm buy-in. Tell them you want that same hike because you think the company needs a new building modeled after a Roman bathhouse, and they will hang YOU from that utility pole before nightfall.

    This station was built, as noted, in an age when electricity was Exotic Future Magic. Part of it reflects the excesses of the 1920s and part of it reflects common building materials of the time. One example of that is the slate control panels, which were often employed in very old old power plants because of their useful fire resistance and electrical insulating properties. The station also reflects the building methods of the time, which relied on cheap labor worked for long hours with minimal safety equipment. Fatalities were considered an unavoidable cost of doing business. For comparison, take a look at the well-documented working conditions and casualty statistics for the Hoover Dam, which was built a few years later.

    If the area had the economy to support it, this could be a spectacular museum conversion or a retail redevelopment project. But it would likely cost some 8 or 9-figure sum to do, given the present structural disrepair and modern building code problems, and that's probably why the city (correctly, IMO) refrained from forcing that cost onto Exelon's captive customers by designating it a historic landmark.

  2. Oh the iron and steel beam work in this is a Industrial marvel, this is the BEST you guys..make's me wonder how on 9/11 200.000 thousand tons of the very same kind of steel turned to dust as seen on T.V. and (jet fuel) was the cause?…why cant every american do that same trick on there BBQ grill!

  3. Damnnnnnn! You guys are getting really good at your cinematography! This is better than those hacks on TV. Keep up the great work gents!

  4. A cool item to look for is the log books, every operator had to make entry during his watch. Those power plants were built that way to last more than a 100 years. I have worked in power substations for more than 30 years and now retired .I enjoy your videos and thanks

  5. the control panel was made out of bakelite its a plastic that feels like rock they don't last all that well hence the switch over to metal

  6. You guys have definitely earned a sub. This was one of the most intelligent and informative urban exploration videos I've seen. Thanks for your efforts!

  7. That building is amazing. That interior… I kept thinking it would make an amazing lobby for a hotel So spectacular. They don't build grand spaces like that anymore.

  8. This by far is your best video to date. The passion and emotion you guys put into these videos takes us, the audience, along with you!

  9. I grew up in the same neighborhood power Station and most of where it was at was in horrible shape old boats half in the water tord down buildings and no real danerous to be around at night since the casino went up its gotten better

  10. I am also afraid we've lost many of those skills…that beautiful craftsmanship you see in the walls and the ceiling…so much of what buildings are made of today is produced in machine run factories…which stamp out identical mouldings or tiles as fast as possible…we just don't have the skills…and…most don't care…bigger, faster, cheaper…sigh…

  11. It’s a shame; I got a tour of the place ten years ago and it was in a much better state. (Still had to wear a hard hat, though). This building is RAPIDLY disintegrating. One thing that amused me in this video: that β€œdetail” he admired in the tile at 11:55 was actually put there by the 12 Monkeys set designers. Not original to the plant in operation.

  12. Great video. I'm sure like everything else we made that was great and lost this was also done in by government. Just like all the other massive industry we lost all due to our own sell out Federal Government. Nothing like this will ever be built again nor so beautifully. Thanks for filming and sharing this it's nice to see what we once had and never will again. Great video.

  13. i found this place in utah called west portal, not sure if completely alone……
    location link

  14. zoomed out view

  15. This is the most beautiful video you've made to date. The cinematography, the location, the music was all perfect. Even your thoughts at the end of the video summed up exactly what I was thinking throughout.

  16. Ahh, wow Proper People! If I had known that you were exploring in Philadelphia,
    I would have been honored to meet you guys. I am about a 25 minute car drive from Port Richmond area.
    Great video and I always look forward to the excellent content that you produce.
    Thank you to you.

  17. I really like how you guys are respectful to the places you go in, and don't vandalize anything. You just document them. Outstanding!

  18. Omg guys this was one of the best videios that ive ever seen, it was really well made and the mood that it has is amazing. i have no words to describe how i fell lol. Great work guys!

  19. I have to ask what song is it playing at the 6:20–8:15 marker on this video. I have been trying to find it soo badly I haven't been able to locate it on any of the listed artists sites.

  20. The beauty of this building is simply incredible and the effort you put behind the editing of this video just shows how much of an impression the plant left on you!

  21. The turbine halls of the dams of Hydro Quebec are not as decorated, but they are definitely rather impressive. You should try and see if you can get permission to get into one of them. They do offer tours at several of their facilities, so who knows, they might be open to something like this.

  22. I love your exit speech – it basically sums up what I'm working towards with my Architectural Thesis. In the US we've gone from Form "Follows Function" to just "Function". Everything is cost engineered to the point there is no value left. Everything we're taught in school is "you can't do that because nobody will pay for it". It's quite depressing, especially as someone who has seen the incredible architecture that still gets built in other countries.

  23. It would be really awesome if you could find somebody that used to work at the abandoned places that you explore to talk about how it was back in the day. I know it would be so much more work, but it would be really cool!! Great videos and I am always interested in the next exploration that you post. You do a great job with all of your videos, Almost as if i am watching a Documentary series on HBO. Keep up the good work!

  24. In all honesty, it kinda saddens me such a nice place is just all the sudden left to rot and be vandalized like this πŸ™

  25. One amazing thing to consider is this was made back in the 1920. That’s around 100 years ago (give or take) and the people that made and worked there are long gone

  26. Very cool building ! Build when people took pride in their craftsmanship.
    Slate was used a lot on electric panels. That may have been the stone you saw.
    There should have been data plates on the old electric motors and generators. If some scum did not take them.
    Would be nice if some of the old workers could explain how things worked to you.
    Love what you guys do !! I was a poor kid years ago. I would go into old barns and buildings. Did not have a camera and only rich people had video recorders. Saw a lot of cool and neat things. All I have are some fading memories. At least you have it on film to preserve history ! Plus share with others. Some of us enjoy the art and history buildings have to offer. While others find it necessary break, damage and steal things.

  27. So annoyed that I’ve been subscribed for years and thought your channel just disappeared but no, YouTube just decided to stop showing me your videos even though I have the bell onπŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ nice one YouTube, now time to binge

  28. New sub here.😁😁😁😁😁😁
    It's a shame to leave that place to
    rot.All that metal could probably
    be recycled.😞

  29. You guys kicked it up a few notches with this one!!!! Everything about this video was great. Now just think of walking into that turbine room or seeing the panels of meters and controls on your first day at work there. Probably awe inspiring and at the same time intimidating. Oh, the control panels are made of slate to provide electrical insulation and physical support of the equipment.

  30. Absolutely amazing structure and your video captures it so well! Thank you so very much for documenting these incredible structures. It is too bad they did not convert it from Coal to Diesel or to Natural gas like other plants but I guess such a change was not worth the price tag. Hopefully the structure can be preserved for future generations to enjoy where it all began

  31. Very nice closing statement. I definitely agree. I admire old style architecture and absorbing the emotion and pride thats comes from them. Truly can be invigorating!

  32. Such a missed opportunity for a one-of-a-kind tourist destination! We have adapted-reused a prison (Eastern State), a massive high school (Bok), and even a rail viaduct for recreation; why can't we do the same here? In Lisbon, they renovated a power station for tourism and now it is one of the city’s most popular sites. Come on Philly, seize your potential!

  33. Spectacular. But consider that the architecture is much more form-follows-function than assumed. Those arches look neat. They serve a function. And there are some neoclassical details, as usual. I think those machines look as cool as the architecture. It's strictly functional. I hear too much reactionary commentary on modern expression. From the gut and melancholic. But also a false perception. And I'm pretty sure that those factories provoked a doomsday sensation in many people, in those days. The perspectives change. We get goosebumps looking over the pile of rust. Time. You love it or you hate it.

  34. Have been a fan of the channel since the summer of '14 and it has been incredible to see your growth. You guys do more than just explore abandoned places; you try to bring us back to a time when the building was teeming with life and you do your research on what caused the abandonment. This episode really resonated with me because I work as a home inspector in real estate and see first hand the same concept you mentioned in the end of the video. Nowadays, things are built for profit, not to last. By far the best urbex channel, keep it up fellas!

  35. Giga-dug that video content. It's amazing to see the industrial boom captured in a capture in your video. The great narration and the time spent on the little things make it really cool. Bummer to see the disrespect with looters and gangs not seeing the beauty. Would they spray paint the pyramids.

  36. The music is really nice. Very much like Mark Isham's soundtrack in "The Beast". The eery, spooky sounds are done by gliding a rubber tipped object along a huge Paiste gong.

  37. Another cinematic masterpiece by the Proper People. BTW, those control panels were made from slate, common for electrical panels and fuse boards back in the day.

  38. I have loved your videos for years, shot so well, with high production values. I never get chance to say how much I enjoy them, or to like them on here. So this is my shout to you both if you see my comment. πŸ˜‰ Much love. Matt. Xx

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