A giant incinerator - sorry, 'energy from waste' plant - has opened at Allerton Park, to the west of York. It is touted as the answer to York and North Yorkshire's rubbish disposal problem for the next 25 years - and is also supposed to generate enough electricity to power up to 60,000 homes.

It only serves to remind us, however, that there is really nothing new under the sun. Because more than a century ago, York built its own incinerator, which generated electrical power from rubbish. The last remnant of the old power station is the tall chimney which still stands near Morrisons on Foss Islands Road.

According to John Ormerod, who wrote an informative letter to The Press on the subject in April 2010, the chimney was built in 1899, and for many years was shared by the city's refuse destructor and by its coal-fired electricity generating station.

But while the main power station burned coal, the destructor also generated electricity from the burning of rubbish.

"The destructor had its own boiler, which used heat from the refuse to produce steam to power a stone breaker and a mortar mill in the Corporation yard," Mr Ormerod wrote.

"As the power station expanded several additional chimneys were built and the use of the original chimney by the power station ended in the 1920s and it was from then used solely by the refuse destructor.

"The Foss Islands chimney was camouflaged at the start of the Second World War. There is a record in council minutes of a tender in June 1940 from Bellerby’s for £410 for 'camouflage works at the generating station'. Council minutes also record that the cooling tower was to be painted with tar in November 1942 to help make it less obvious. The cost was 9d per sq yard."

Mr Ormerod clearly knew his stuff. In October 1999, years before this letter was published, he wrote a long article for The Press about the power station itself, some of which we have quoted in previous Yesterday Once More articles.

The power station was built by the York Corporation in the late 1890s, and was opened in February 1900. For almost 50 years it was run by the York Corporation's own electricity department, but was taken over by the British Electricity Authority in the late 1940s, following nationalisation.

Shortly after 4.20am on Thursday, October 27, 1949, a massive explosion tore through it - many who were awakened by the noise may have been forgiven for thinking they'd somehow been transported back to the York Blitz.

Mr Ormerod gave a vivid account of the destruction.

"The instantaneous release of the stored steam energy broke the massive boiler into three main parts each weighing up to 25 tons, propelled them through the walls and roof of the boiler house and engine room and deposited them as far as 150 feet away," he wrote.

"Extraordinarily one piece of the super-heater had landed inside the cooling tower which was 120 feet high and some 300 feet distant on the opposite side of the river Foss. Two sections of the boiler wrecked the waste destructor building and the third brought down the overhead cranes."

One survivor, Geoffrey Shackleton, who had been on a gantry over the engine room at the time of the explosion, later described how he had been hit on the head by debris and briefly trapped, but managed to free himself and escape into the road.

He then made his way back into the devastated engine room, climbing over rubble to reach the control room from where he called the emergency services. Remarkably, he realised that the station was still producing power. "The 11,000 volt system was still in operation and feeding most of the city and the suburbs," Mr Ormerod wrote.

An official inquiry revealed that the joint on Boiler No 1 had failed because of a build-up of caustic soda which had made the steel crack.

Following repairs, the power station continued to generate electricity until the mid 1970s. It eventually closed in October 1976 and by January 1977 workmen were already putting up the scaffolding that would enable them to demolish the giant cooling tower. Demolition of the tower cost £100,000 and had to be done piece by piece, as the position of nearby buildings made it impossible to blow up.

In February 1981 a 60 foot electricity pylon - one of the last reminders of the power station other than the chimney - was pulled down.

Two readers using assumed names posted interesting comments online under an earlier Press article about the power station in 2016.

"I worked on the scaffolding as the cooling tower was being taken down," wrote one. "The power station was where Halfords is now. We used to fish down there when I was a kid as the water was warm."

That prompted another reader to write: "There used to be two small areas where the water from the cooling tower was warm enough to support guppies. My dad often took me there to show me. An amazing sight."

Guppies thriving in the warm water near a power station cooling tower. Now there's a great example of the power of nature to adapt...

Stephen Lewis