Boston: Attacked by Tunnel Monsters

by kfrego

One of the funniest experiences of my working career happened during the tunnel excavation in Boston. The drilling, blasting, and ground support all take place at the end of the tunnel excavation. All the production activities are supported by assorted operations on the other end of the tunnel. We had a 160′ deep shaft used to get in and out of the tunnels. At the base of the shaft were dewater pumps to pick up water coming out of the tunnels and pump it to the surface. A hoist and headframe on top of the shaft  allowed a cage to be lowered and raised in the shaft to get personnel and supplies in and out. The upper half of the cage was for supplies and people. The lower half of the cage was a muck skip to hoist out the excavated rock. All of the muck coming out of both tunnels had to be dumped out of the rail cars into the muck skip at the bottom of the shaft. A lot of co-ordination was required by a lot of people to keep things maintained and operating smoothly. If things went bad we blamed it on the tunnel monsters.

As the tunnels got further from the shaft we would periodically walk it and inspect everything in detail. Weak or loose rock which might present a safety problem were scaled down with a scaling bar. The scaling bars are made of high tensile steel five or six feet long. They have a hardened steel point on one end. The other end is a chisel point of hardened steel. The tunnel was out about two miles from the shaft. I was assigned to safety check the tunnel from the shaft to the working face. Most of the tunnel had lights, but some areas had bulbs out and lighting was poor. The mine light on my hardhat gave excellent light to a small area. Everything was inspected while walking along. My scaling bar was used to sound the crown of the tunnel for loose rock. Occasionally a train would pass going in and out of the tunnel.

About a mile from the shaft I was in an area that had poor lighting and a few loose rocks. One rock was keyed into the surrounding rock. I kept moving around trying to get a good bite with my scaling bar. Everything was quiet except a few drips of water and the air moving through the ventilation fanline. Just as I got a good bite there was a flash much like a small lightning bolt and a sharp snapping noise. The scaling bar was hotter than a two dollar pistol. The scaling bar flew one way and I went the other. After running a couple hundred feet up the tunnel it dawned on me that I had been shocked. An inspection, after my pulse returned to normal and the adrenalin stopped flowing, found a broken 220 volt light bulb with the filament exposed. The scaling bar came in contact with it while scaling the rock. It gave me the shock of my life.

I thought the tunnel monsters and my maker had called me……………………but they sent a light bulb to get my attention.