Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by mbtambta
 
Hey all,

I'm studying civil engineering at Northeastern in Boston and I've been reading a lot about the currently disused light rail freight tunnels that the Chicago Tunnel Company built. I was curious if anyone has gotten a tour (or worked in them) and might be able to answer a few questions? I'm mostly interested in how these tunnels are maintained after they are taken out of service. I've gotten a tour of the Tremont Street tunnel in Boston and would love to see these in person, but Chicago is a bit too far for me to travel to right now. If you think you can answer any questions or point me in the direction of someone who could please contact me at the following address or send me a PM.

Thanks!

[email protected]
  by EricL
 
Check out this web site if you haven't already... it suggests that accessing the tunnels is much more difficult than in the past, and that some segments of the tunnel system have found a second life as a conduit for utility lines.
  by SlowFreight
 
The short answer is that they are not really maintained. Apparently for many year the city would send inspectors to look at the condition of the tunnels where they crossed under the river, and this is how the damage that lead to the great flood of 1991 was found. A city inspector photographed damage where a river piling had been driven through the tunnel ceiling and blown out a large chunk of concrete...but he didn't make any effort to rush and tell anyone and it failed before the issue was addressed. At the time, most of the buildings that had connections to the tunnel still hadn't blocked them off and many basements flooded. Since then, all of the river crossings have been walled off at both ends and many buildings have walled off their tunnel connections. Otherwise, AFAIK it's not at a high risk for damage or failure and just doesn't get dealt with.
  by GWoodle
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Flood

You may find other articles about the '92 Chicago Flood or Big Leak. You should find some video material on the old subway. There are a few books on the subject.
  by dinwitty
 
Pretty much where they are as is condition, track in place frozen in time, there might be still some equipment in them. Fellow who built a 2 foot gauge line next to the NKP 765 restoration site had a few dump cars from it, thats when I learned about them years ago during the 765 restoration. I think the movie Blues Brothers had a few scenes in them, maybe a few other movies did too.

The tunnels got built as the builder was promising he was just making communication tunnel lines instead was making full freight transportation tunnels, delivered all kinds of anything you could haul, coal, products, used coal out, I'm surprised they don't try to make a re-use of them like that, help take some traffic off the streets..
  by neroden
 
dinwitty wrote:The tunnels got built as the builder was promising he was just making communication tunnel lines instead was making full freight transportation tunnels, delivered all kinds of anything you could haul, coal, products, used coal out, I'm surprised they don't try to make a re-use of them like that, help take some traffic off the streets..
Just to correct the history, the builder always claimed he was building tunnels for a small freight delivery railroad system, and actually used some of them for this for a while.

The funny thing is that he got authorization to build a certain collection of tunnels. When he went bankrupt and the city looked underground, they discovered that he'd built something like twice the length of tunnels he was actually authorized to, running under streets he wasn't supposed to go under. Hmm. Guy really liked digging tunnels.
  by FMFan
 
Actually, the original charter was to build a tunnel system to install a phone system, not a freight tunnel system. When the City inspected it they did find a freight system. Typical of Chicago/Illinois, lots of politics and intrigue. I had the opportunity to visit the system in the late 1980s was escorted by the gentleman who later took the fall for the "leaking river" fiasco. Very interesting. For a detailed account of the tunnels I highly recommend Moffat's book "4o feet Below". the original soft cover book is out of print, was subsequently re-issued and expanned on by a CERA? pubicaiton. Good read, lots of detail.

Mike