Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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July 5, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: The mystery of the mini Falls model

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It is that time of year again and tourist season is in full swing. Of the many visitors to Lockport, most have already been to or are on their way to Niagara Falls. Back in the 1920s a visit to the Falls included a visit to the Adams Power Plant on Buffalo Avenue. With electricity being so new, people were fascinated by how it worked. People came in cars and tourist buses to see this amazing feat of technology.

After touring the plant, visitors could take a short walk to an area behind the building. Here they could behold a miniature scale model of the upper rapids, all three waterfalls, Goat Island and the Niagara Gorge. Photographs of this model show that it was quite detailed and that it was a fully operating facsimile of the real Niagara Falls.

Why this model was constructed, where it actually was located and what happened to it are all questions that need to be answered. The answer to the first question was easily found on pages 26 and 27 of Niagara Power, Vol. 1 by Edward Dean Adams. The answers to the other questions are still unknown.

In 1926, John Lyell Harper wrote an article titled “The Suicide of the Horseshoe Falls,” about the erosion that had, and was, taking place on the Canadian side of the Falls. In it he noted that the crest of the Horseshoe Falls “is receding at the point of greatest erosion, at the rate of approximately 8 feet per year, while on the sides and heel almost no recession is noted.” The model of the Falls was built precisely to examine this phenomenon. 

In a 1924 report it is stated “during 1923 and 1924 there was built, under Mr. Harper’s direction, a scale model of the Niagara River including the upper rapids and the cataracts. Here experiments have been conducted in stream control. Remedial works of different types have been built upon the model to determine the increase that may be made in the economic utilization of Niagara while assuring the maintenance of its sublime scenery.”

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