A stretch of tunnel in on of the main tunnel systems.Like many universities, McGill has an extensive network of steam tunnels. More accurately referred to as utility tunnels, these underground passageways link various buildings around campus and contain pipes transporting steam, network, telephone, and electrical cabling, and quite possibly a number of other things too.

These tunnels are often human-passable, though we've come across some that barely fit this definition. They are usually very hot, and it is quite easy to burn oneself by touching a steam pipe. They are always dirty and full of valves, bolts, and pipes to strike one's body on. And don't forget that they're totally off-limits.

That said, let the games begin!

It was Infiltration that originally sparked UEM's interest in McGill and the possibility of steam tunnels. We eventually found the same section of tunnel that Ninj and Liz had found in the MacDonald Engineering building. We've only realized now that what we found was actually MacDonald's own cramped utility corridors and not part of the university's tunnel network.

The MacDonald "steam tunnels" are an interesting tour, but nothing compared to the real steam tunnel system.We thought that the MacDonald corridors were a huge find, and they are, in their own right, but this was not the same kind of mythical labyrinth we had heard stories about from other universities.

So, after enough persistance(particularly on the part of Wotan) we located what we knew had to be an entrance to the McGill steam tunnels. And after many tries, on the right day at the right time, we happened to find our presumed entrance left wide open (it was lunch hour). It looked as though we'd hit the jackpot.

And indeed it was an entrance to the tunnels. We were in awe. We looked around frantically, and hesitated for quite some time. We wondered if there was someone deeper inside the tunnel and if perhaps we shouldn't proceed. But we also realized this could be our only chance at ever seeing the tunnels... And so the urban explorer in us prevailed. The air was stale and it got hot fast, but it didn't really matter; we had made it into the tunnels. Our first trip ended up being mosly clear sailing. It's just too bad that we were so timid.

The beginning of the end of our first trip came when we turned at a threeway junction to where we now know goes into the Ferrier physical plant. We were heading toward the end of the tunnel when we heard some kind of beeping/ringing sound. We thought it was a motion detector and we ran like crazy all the way back where we came from. But from our entrance came voices... the people that had left for lunch had returned. Our only choice was to go back to the junction, but take the other path this time. So many unknowns, it was exhilerating and terrifying at the same time.

Thankfully enough we came across an open manhole not too far down that way; turns ouThe Manhole in Question, with daylight shining down.t it had been opened to lay networking cable, but they hadn't gotten to it yet. Three cheers for lunch hour! For all we knew some member of McGill personel was right behind us so we picked the relative safety of the manhole and got the heck out of there.

We got a few funny looks from students passing by, as we climbed out of the manhole, trying to look casual and even bored, but no one said a thing. And that was the first of our many trips to the McGill steam tunnels.

That trip was actually in what we call the central tunnels. It's an extremely utilized stretch of tunnels, connecting many important buildings and transporting all sorts of utilities. This stretch is the one that we've by far visited the most, and it seems to be the oldest part of the McGill steam tunnels. In short, it's a classic.

The southern tunnels are mostly long, straight, and comfortable, with a little stub of nastiness at the end. We actually thought we heard voices once in this tunnel and lunged into the darkess of the stub at the end, only to find ourselves inches from a broken pipe with a jet of steam shooting from it, which is where we stayed for about ten minutes. No one has hurt, but we had a nice sweat. We never actually saw anyone either.

"Heaven and Hell" is what one could call the mid-north tunnels. They connect to cool Hell, thy name is steam tunnel: This particular stretch of tunnel, which we nicknamed "the road to hell" truly lives up to its name. machine rooms and have notable landmarks, a great set of ladders, and very unique exit opportunities. They also have the most arduous, boiling hot, body-cramping, hazardous, literally hellish stetch of tunnel that no living thing should ever have to go through. (We did it twice.)

The north tunnels are fairly cramped, but not as utilized as others. It's a big trip downward mostly, be it by a gentle slope or a 30 foot ladder. It's a shame we only got to visit this stretch once.

The reservoir tunnels almost speak for themselves. Their greatest asset? Why, they lead to the reservoir, of course! If you can manage to find them, that is. Hee hee! They are squishy, gooey, and wet. But hey, so's the reservoir. When you're in these tunnels you feel truly safe and on your own; nobody ever comes here.

Update, Spring 2004: We made a return trip to the central and mid-north tunnels with N-Rock, an explorer from Michigan. It hasn't even been a year, but we had much better cameras and got some good shots and better video of the tunnels. Not much had changed, but it was definitely worth the trip.

Update, Spring 2004: We broke new tunnel ground at McGill and got ourselves into the mountain residence tunnels! Multiple elevations, tunnels, and buildings. An extraordinarily unique system.