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The Amazing CN Tower in Ontario
By Corey Grant
Throughout history, engineers have been engaging in an epic game of one-upmanship in trying to build staircases that reach the stars. The early Egyptians catapulted themselves to the top of the “tallest structure” heap with their elaborate Great Pyramid of Giza, which also launched them into the category of having a Wonder of the Ancient World. Not to be outdone, the early Greeks decided to raise the stakes, and built their Lighthouse of Alexandria around 285 BC, making themselves the holder of the tallest structure crown. In the 1930’s, America wanted to throw their hat into the proverbial ring as well, and constructed the Empire State Building, which gave America the distinction of the having the tallest building in the world.
Flash-forward to Canada 1976. America’s neighbor to the North entered the high-rise game with a flourish, producing the stunning and impressive CN Tower, the World’s Tallest Building, a Wonder of the Modern World, a huge telecommunications center, the center of tourism in Toronto, and a celebrated dining and event center. The CN Tower is one of the premier icons in Canada, and a visit to experience the Tower should be part of any trip to Ontario.
The 1960s brought about in Canada an unprecedented economic and population growth, which transformed Toronto into a booming city, dotted with high-rises and skyscrapers. However, with all the construction projects going on, there were many problems with the burgeoning communications technology as the construction began to block the existing transmission towers in the area. Radio and television signals were bouncing off all the new buildings in Toronto, causing poor reception for the inhabitants of the surrounding cities. To solve the problem, Canadian National, one of the largest railroad companies in the country, came up with the idea to construct the massive CN Tower, which would serve two purposes; one, to alleviate the communication problems by broadcasting a signal several hundred feet above the skyline of Toronto, and two, demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry and economy.
So, in 1973, construction crews moved on site, and began to build the largest structure in the world. They started by removing over 56 tons of earth and shale to pour the foundation. Once the strong foundation was laid, concrete was poured into a gigantic mold, or “slipform,” which was gradually shifted higher and higher as the concrete hardened, giving the Tower its sleek, tapered shape. Then, over 5,000 tons of reinforced steel was applied to the Tower, to give it strength and stability. The last piece added to the puzzle was the 335-foot steel broadcasting antenna, which came in 44 different pieces, the heaviest piece weighing in at 8 tons. To attach the antenna, Canadian National rented a Russian, ten-ton supply helicopter, named “Olga”, which flew the antenna pieces to the top of the Tower where construction crews would connect them. On her first trip to the top, Olga almost didn’t make it back. As the first piece was being attached, a crane lurched and caught onto antenna piece, which Olga was carrying. Flying at 1500 feet, the helicopter was now attached to the Tower. The crane could not be released, as the operator was inside, and to make matters worse, Olga only had fuel to last 50 minutes. Workers dashed up the Tower, and frantically removed the bolts from the crane, releasing the helicopter from its clutches. Olga landed on tirma firma with 14 minutes of fuel left. Thankfully, the other 43 pieces of antenna were attached without incident. Overall, it took 1,537 construction workers, working 24 hours a day, five days a week, over 40 months to complete the Tower. But the result was spectacular.
The main portion of the Tower is made of seven stories, which consists of a mass of elevators, staircases, power connections, and plumbing. On top of this sits the metal antennas, which broadcast the majority of television, both AM and FM radio, and wireless signals for the Toronto area and surrounding territories. Above the fray of broadcasting equipment lays The Glass Floor and Outdoor Observation Deck. At 1,220 feet, this observation deck is not for those squeamish about heights. The floor of this story is 256 square feet of solid glass, so that adventurous visitors can gaze down and try not to get vertigo. For those hesitant to walk out on glass a thousand feet in the air—have no fear; the floor is made from thermal glass, and is five times stronger than any commercial style floor. The Glass Floor is actually engineered to withstand the weight of 14 large hippos!
The Middle Level
Keep climbing up the Tower and you will soon come to one of the most famous tourist attractions in Canada; The 360 Restaurant. This unique, gourmet restaurant is not only located 1,151 feet above the ground, but also slowly revolves in circle, making a full rotation every 72 minutes. The view from the 360 restaurant is panoramic and gorgeous; so much so, visitors often forget to eat, so caught up in the breath-taking views that the spot offers. But it would be a disservice to ignore the excellent culinary dishes offered by the restaurant. 360 features a full list of regional cuisine, made from fresh, local ingredients. Along with your food, you can chose from over 550 international and Canadian wines, from the restaurant’s “cellar in the sky.” Combined with their unique views, and excellent culinary dishes, The 360 restaurant has won numerous awards every year, and is the ideal place for a romantic dinner or a beautiful wedding reception. Just make sure to make reservations, as 360 tends to book fast.
The Top Level
If you really feel energetic, you can take the staircase (exactly 2579 steps from the bottom) to the Sky Pod, the World’s highest observation deck. From this vantage point it is possible, on a clear day, to see over 75 miles away—across Lake Ontario into the United States, or all the way across to Niagara Falls. It takes the average person over 30 minutes to climb the stairs to the Sky Pod, but the fastest time was 7 minutes 52 seconds, by an Ontario Police Officer. Every year, the CN Tower holds a race for athletes to see who can make it to the top first. For many people, it is probably easier just to take the elevator.
The newest addition to the Tower is the “Himalamazon”; a motion picture ride, which takes guests through the future, where modern scientists have created ‘Super Trees’ to generate oxygen for the dying planet. It is a one-of-a-kind thrill that can only be provided by a destination like the CN Tower.
You might never get to experience the heights of the Egyptian Pyramids, or the Lighthouse of Alexandria; those ancient staircases to the stars. However, it is very possible to take a short trip to Toronto, and experience a Wonder of the Modern World. A visit to the CN Tower gives you the chance to eat at a gourmet restaurant, experience unique thrill rides, and be a part of Canadian history, all while walking among the clouds.