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.
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.
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 out
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
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
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 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.