By Adam Voge
MIDWEST, Wyo. (AP) – The plant sits in a valley near Ship Rock, empty, broken and forgotten.
Sixty years have not been kind to this building.
The walls were once a solid, concrete gray. Fifty-four high school classes have come through Midwest since the plant’s closure, and members of most of them left their names behind in white and red spray paint.
Of the 5,400 window panes once part of the plant, maybe 1,000 remain untouched. The rest have been shattered by shotgun blasts, well-aimed rocks and hunks of concrete. Wind constantly blows through, making the plant no better a wind shelter than a piece of cheesecloth. The hum of a still-active substation a few hundred feet down the hill is the only other noise present, aside from the glass that crunches underfoot.
This building once provided electricity for an oil field and as many as seven Natrona County towns and cities.
It supplied work for as many as 20, their families living in an array of houses constructed in the building’s shadow.
But for five decades, it’s been little more than a teenage hangout, a graffiti canvas and an occasional shelter for livestock.
The plant, shut down more than 50 years ago, burned natural gas to generate electricity, an increasingly popular generation technique these days.
The building serves as a window to the past, but could also be a glimpse into the future of power generation.
Midwest was an oil town long before the electric plant was built. The area was home to the Salt Creek Oil Field, a field that once contained 4,000 wells. With each oil well came natural gas, an unwelcome product most had no use for.
At one point, much of that gas was flared – burned through a tall stack rising from the ground. It projected a flame some say was 100 feet long and could be seen from Casper.
Stories vary on what happened to the flare. Some say it burned a woman to death. Others say a group of people were burnt near the tower. All stories end with it being taken down and replaced by a smaller unit designed to be safer.1 2 3 next >>