Exploring the Abandoned Industrial St Thomas Ford Assembly Plant
Inside the massive and vacant industrial St Thomas Ford Assembly Plant in St Thomas, Ontario, Canada. An adventurous Urban Explorer could spend days wandering this cavernous space of abandoned industrial awesomeness.
After closing, this abandoned industrial building was left to rot with the plans of selling the factory which failed so they prepped the buildings for demolition. Now, as of August 2016 the St Thomas Ford Assembly Plant is almost entirely demolished,
I was lucky to have two opportunities to explore and photograph this amazing building.
This massive industrial location was built in 1967 as a 2,600,000 square foot facility that produced many models of Ford vehicles from the Fold Falcon, the Lincoln Town Car, the Mercury and the Mercury Grand Marquis. The plant may be most well known for producing the Crown Victoria Police Vehicle between the years 1983 to 1990 for many different police forces across Ontario, Canada.
I had driven past this mammoth industrial beast many times, always noting the two or three security vehicles up front and fencing that wraps around the perimeter of the land. It looked impossible, it looked like a guaranteed fail and it looked like a challenge I was up for – when the time is right.
It was early summer in 2014, my exploring partner RiddimRyder and I had failed twice already, once at a psychiatric hospital and once at a small industrial building. We weren’t in the mood for abandoned houses, our plan for the day was big and risky – so we needed to find something good. I suggested we should try the Ford Plant, what do we have to lose?
The property was so huge that we had no idea where to even start, as far as we knew no one had yet attempted this building so we had no intel or any clue what the best plan of attack would be. We decided to park far to the rear of the property and take a long 3km hike through a farmer’s field and a rail line. As soon as we started walking, it started to rain – not a good start! We climbed over multiple fences, stumbled over hills and unpredictable terrain, crawled under fences while soaking wet and carrying all of our gear.
We finally arrived to the building at around 12:00 noon, fully aware that a security truck may come around the corner at any time, we ran across the lot for the first door, fully expecting nothing to happen. The very first door we tried opened, unlocked…we were baffled!
We made our way inside, cautiously, and immediately took cover and unpacked our gear and started shooting immediately. We both noted the golf cart tracks which told us there will definitely be a security patrol at some point, so we headed for someplace safe where we could shoot and stay out of sight. The power was still running and there were some lights on and a constant hum of electricity running, so there was no chance of us hearing the security patrol as they made their way through.
For nearly three hours RiddimRyder and I enjoyed shooting all of the industrial awesomeness that there was to see inside this huge automotive assembly plant. It was almost 3:00 and we had not yet seen any sight of security – but we knew they would come so we decided to find someplace dark and hidden and hunker down a while until we see the patrol. We turned around and started walking when it happened all in a split second, we spot a flashing red light and a golf-cart and the driver of the golf cart see’s us right away. “Who the Fuck Are You??” yells the man on the golf cart, we were caught and there was no way out of it. The man gets of the cart, shaking and nervous, Riddim and I try to keep our calm and play dumb, telling him we’re just a couple of curious photographers who wanted to get some photos before they demolish the place, we also tell him we just got there and hadn’t even taken a photo yet. He tells us to get in the golf cart, we’re going to the security shack to see his boss, we ask if we can pack our gear – as we pack Riddim and I both swap out our memory cards at the same time – we’re not losing these photos.
The golf cart ride was torture as he drove us all around the plant and we spotted all of the places we hadn’t seen yet, robots, paint booths, machines and equipment. We strike up a conversation and ask the guard how often he does this patrol, how many guards are there, what is the shift. We were surprised to get answers to all of our questions, we also learned that he had worked there when the factory was active, he also tells us they have never caught anyone else inside, other than a few ex workers on New Years Eve a few years back who decided to take a drive on the golf carts.
We finally make it to the shack and the men question us, we tell them we didn’t see any no trespassing signs, we ensure them we are not scrappers or thieves, simply curious photographers. They let us go with a warning and even drive us back to my car, we ask more questions and now have all the intel we need for a future visit, what time to get there, when the shift change happens, how often they patrol and more. Two weeks later, we return for a highly successful visit, we explore almost the entire facility and all outbuildings, all without incident.
It would be almost two years before the building is entirely demolished, now it is a large empty lot, gradually being cleaned and cleared and prepped for another use. This was one of the biggest and best explores I’ve done, it was high risk, it was a difficult entry and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had!