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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel


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Date: 01/16/17 15:45
The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: TAW

The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel

In In http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?4,4197217,4198785#msg-4198785 Date: 01/09/17 08:08 Re: Seattle King Street Station Author: TAW I made reference to the destruction of records by the new BN management of the 80s and the collapse of the Everett Tunnel.

I had mentioned earlier the Frisco three part approach
  • If it was done before BN, it is wrong
  • If it was done by BN, it is wrong
  • If we don't understand it (oh was there a lot of that!), it's wrong

I missed one.
  • If it takes longer than we want it too take, you're doing something that is unnecessary.
This incident occurred in the very early 80s, maybe 81 or 82. The track in the Everett Tunnel needed to be surfaced. A ballast train and a surfacing gang was sent to Everett and on day one, they started raising and surfacing. They worked all day. After they quit and the track was put back in service, trains started running. The trains were all DOFT (Dirty Ol' Freight Trains). Nothing in any of them exceeding Plate C (standard clearance for out west). All was fine. Late in the evening, No 21 (Birmingham - Seattle Intermodal, back when Intermodal = Trailer On Flat Car) showed up. (I usually add today's equivalent alphabet soup, but I can't remember Birmingham.)  

There was never a restriction on an intermodal train in the Everett Tunnel. They all fit. Well...smoking along at the 25 mph track speed, No 21 ground to a stop and couldn't move. They were stuck. It seems that the trailers were binding on the roof of the tunnel. Imagine that! If the track is higher than it was, the trains are closer to the top of the tunnel than it was. Later I found out that some of the local gandys asked about that and were told it was none of their business (that was such a popular theme through the 80s). It took all night to get 21 out of the tunnel, creating quite a mess in the evening hot train fleet leaving Seattle.

That apparently made front page news in the morning report. Someone determined that anyone knows that if you can't raise the track in the tunnel (not addressing that nobody checked), you undercut, THEN surface. An undercutter ( https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B8_wVf_IEAEAO0s.jpg ) was dispatched to Everett, chop chop.

The undercutter got started and immediately ran into a problem. There were some sort of big timbers under and perpendicular to the track. The undercutter couldn't get through them. They were holding up the job. Get some guys in there and dig/cut them out! They cut a bunch of them, but it turned out to be a big job. They went all the way across the track, one side of the tunnel to the other.

-------------

Here, I'm going to do a George Burns and step out of the scene to the front of the stage and talk to the audience. Anybody who lives in the Seattle area knows that the terrain along Puget Sound is dirt, not rock like Maine or something. If that doesn't give a clue, think of popular construction material in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. If that still isn't enough of a clue then...Remember the records that were trashed in the King Street Station purge? Well, a look through the dumpster would probably have produced drawings that indicated that the Everett Tunnel was a grouted timber tunnel. The tunnel liner was timber and the inside was coated with concrete. It looked like a typical concrete lined tunnel. The timbers under the track? Well...they were part of the tunnel structure...until they were removed.

------------

When enough of it was done for the undecutter to get started, it went back to work. It turns out that there was another problem. There wasn't really enough room for the undercutter blades. The bench wall on the bottom edge of the tunnel (like this one http://web.mta.info/nyct/service/7Line/images/Nov8_11_13/11_large.jpg ) was in the way.The engineer in charge promptly sent for a backhoe with a breaker ( http://r2.forconstructionpros.com/files/base/image/FCP/2008/07/16x9/640x360/backhoebreakers_10091707.jpg ).

The backhoe went to work chipping away the pesky blob of concrete. The first shift worked all day. Management called another machine operator from a local gang to relieve the first guy. Down in the tunnel, the day shift guy told the night shift guy that there were some sort of strange noises while he was working. He had never heard anything like it  before but couldn't figure out what they were.

The night guy went out of the tunnel to the manager on duty and told him that this wasn't a good idea and it sounded like something was wrong, but he couldn't identify what. He was given the I'm an engineer and you are merely a machine operator speech and told to go back to work.

As he was breaking concrete in the bench wall, he heard the strange unidentified noises. He realized that something was hitting the cab of the machine. He pointed one of the spotlights on the machine up on the tunnel wall. There was a longitudinal crack propagating along the wall in front of the work. The noises were chunks of concrete ricocheting off the cab and off the tunnel walls. It looked a lot less than good. He walked out to find the manager.

They walked back in and just as he was describing what was going on, an Everett police officer ran into the tunnel yelling at them to run, the land and buildings above the tunnel was sinking and was already down a couple of feet.

So much for breaking out the bench walls that were helping the now gone timbers to support the tunnel.

Well, were it only a debacle, it would have been an improvement. The sinking land and buildings broke a water main, unleashing a pressurized flood in the dirt (not rock) around the tunnel. When the smoke cleared, the east end of the tunnel was a free-standing box inside of an abyss. A city block of so of Everett that was above the tunnel was substantially lower than it used to be.

The fix wasn't easy. All of that used to be dirt around the tunnel had to be replaced and the land above brought back up to where it used to be. The fix would be that they would use a gigantic form of mudjacking.

Mudjacking is a construction technique used to raise and level concrete slab buildings that had sunk. It involves drilling through the slab in appropriate places and pumping in pressurized concrete until the pressure raises the building to the desired level. This job was a little different. They would drill an opening in the tunnel liner and pump in concrete until all of the voids were filled and the land above was restored to level. Of course, nobody had any way of knowing how big or where the voids were.

The tunnel was out of service and work went on 16 hours a day. Trainloads of concrete were brought and pumped quite freely behind the tunnel liner. There was no back pressure. It was just pouring in and going somewhere. This went on for months. Dispatching was miserable. The six minute single track through the tunnel became 45 minutes of single track between Everett Jct and Lowell via Delta Jct with no meeting points. There was additional work for the dispatchers in keeping the gandys outside the tunnel and the work train fixed up with authority so that the work wouldn't stop. One morning, the day foreman came to work and called me for a new Track and Time for the day. I asked him how they were doing. He told me that he didn't have a clue; they keep on pouring in concrete but the cavern never fills. We joked about some poor soul in Marysville (10 miles away) finding concrete bubbling up in his crawl space.

Eventually, the gap was filled. After the concrete cured, long holes were drilled through the repaired tunnel liner into the new concrete hill behind the tunnel liner. Long rock bolts were put in to hold it all together.

Over the years at BN, I got lots of little pro forma, the employees should feel good and be loyal now, awards that were passed out to various groups of employees for this and that: hats, pens, pins, and thermometers with the company logo. I was typically not impressed (but twice in the late 80s and early 90s, the dispatching office reward for attendance was a nice winter jacket - wore one out and still use the other), but this job generated a reward that I really appreciated. Someone in the track department had a jacket, a lightweight windbreaker, embroidered with something about surviving the Everett Tunnel debacle and presented to each of the four of us who worked Seattle East district through the debacle. A badge of honor from someone who really cared. I wore it all the time until it wore out.

TAW



Date: 01/16/17 17:29
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: spnudge

TAW:
Sir, that takes the cake.  The saying, "You just can't make this sh#+ up, ....." just doesn't cover it.
 I started to laugh when I saw where this was going. Thank the powers to be nobody was hurt. (except the feelers of the poor engineers)
Very well told my friend. I never heard of this "problem"  but I am sure everyone will now.

Thanks Again,

Nudge



Date: 01/16/17 17:59
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: Englewood

Well they proved that the original builders did it wrong and it took the Frisco to fix it !!!



Date: 01/16/17 20:02
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: tomstp

Another "goodie".  Thanks TAW,  can't wait for the next one.



Date: 01/16/17 21:11
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: dbinterlock

Can't.....stop......laughing......
After a particularly family drama filled day this story provided soooooo much relief. Thanks again TAW!  



Date: 01/16/17 22:42
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: cewherry

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
  • The six minute single
    > track through the tunnel became 45 minutes of
    > single track between Everett Jct and Lowell via
    > Delta Jct with no meeting points.
​Ah, yes I remember it well. Loved sitting in the clear at Bayside or on the long siding between Bayside and Delta Jct. waiting
for a stack train to scorch the ballast at a whopping 10MPH on their yard limit, non-block route to bypass the tunnel.
​Thanks, Tom for the reminder of how it really was. Makes me really appreciate my monthly RRB deposit.

Charlie



Date: 01/17/17 17:57
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: AndyBrown

It's always a treat reading your stories and this one is no exception!

Andy



Date: 01/17/17 18:02
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: dan

frisco helped the BN with their mgmt and mopac helped UP



Date: 01/18/17 03:41
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: dpudave

My wife gets mad watching Marx Brother's movies because the guys are "so stupid." Reading your account, first one gets mad, but by the end you can't help laughing. Truly a comedy of errors. Unless, of course, you're living it. Thanks for shining a light on this whole mess. d



Date: 01/18/17 11:27
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: TAW

rantoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Both posts should be required reading for all
> railroad managers.  Annually.
>
> How did the train get extracted?

Don't remember for sure. Fortunately that particular debacle happened while I was at home (there were plenty of debacles to go around, so there could be equal participation). Dim memory tells me that they had to pull off the head end and rear end, then pull the stuck part of the train back out the way it came in, or maybe pull and shove at the same time. Several trailers had a drastically reduced service life and value as a result.

TAW



Date: 01/18/17 13:38
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: lynnpowell

<How did the train get extracted?>

If it was a TOFC train stuck against the ceiling of the tunnel, why didn't they just let the air out of the trailer tires and lower the car mounted kingpin hitches a few inches?



Date: 01/18/17 13:43
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: TAW

lynnpowell Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> >
> If it was a TOFC train stuck against the ceiling
> of the tunnel, why didn't they just let the air
> out of the trailer tires and lower the car mounted
> kingpin hitches a few inches?

That's the part I don't know. I remember hearing about pulling/pushing out the way it went in, but didn't hear any details.

TAW



Date: 01/18/17 15:09
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: jst3751

lynnpowell Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> >
> If it was a TOFC train stuck against the ceiling
> of the tunnel, why didn't they just let the air
> out of the trailer tires and lower the car mounted
> kingpin hitches a few inches?

I believe that the kingpin hitch can only be adjusted when there is no trailer attached to it, as the weight of a trailer on it would prevent it from being moved.



Date: 01/18/17 15:36
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: ns2557

jst3751 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> lynnpowell Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > >
> > If it was a TOFC train stuck against the
> ceiling
> > of the tunnel, why didn't they just let the air
> > out of the trailer tires and lower the car
> mounted
> > kingpin hitches a few inches?
>
> I believe that the kingpin hitch can only be
> adjusted when there is no trailer attached to it,
> as the weight of a trailer on it would prevent it
> from being moved.

On a Truck mounted hitch, the only way one can adjust is fwd/bckwd as far as King Pin Hitch is concerned. Other than "dumping" the air out of the suspension, one cannot adjust height. Lettin air out of tires on trlr would most certainly help tho.. I would imagine the same holds true with a RR Car King Pin Hitch.
'



Date: 01/18/17 21:09
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: cewherry

The culprit train involved was one carrying double-stack equipment and it was one of these that became wedged. 'Standard' TOFC equipment
​had been routinely handled through that tunnel for years without incident.

See TAW's reply to mine here: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,1881769,1882331#msg-1882331

​As to how it was extricated, a yard engine from BN's Delta yard coupled to the rear and with help of the road power they were able
to un-cork the double stack. At some point later BN 'notched' out the top/sidewalls to allow clearance for the 'stacks'. This procedure
​was done on most if not all tunnels but interestingly, when I left BNSF at the end of 2013 trains handling doublestack equipment between
​Bow and Blaine on the Bellingham subdivision still had to have containers in the bottom well only. Containers were restricted to single level only.
​This was/is due to clearance problems on some tunnels along the Chuckanut. I don't know if that is true today but loaded double stack's
destined to or from Canada had to travel over the Sumas Subdivision only which connects at Burlington and runs to the border at Sumas where
​it interchanges with CP.


Charlie

 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/17 21:15 by cewherry.



Date: 01/19/17 09:00
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: TAW

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The culprit train involved was one carrying
> double-stack equipment and it was one of these
> that became wedged. 'Standard' TOFC equipment
> ​had been routinely handled through that tunnel
> for years without incident.

Thanks Charlie. As I was remembering it, it didn't make sense that they could get the track high enough for a pig to get stuck unless they really screwed up the cross level. I often figure out roughly when things happened by where the dispatching office was and what job I was working. Stacks were relatively new at the time. I never gave a thought to stacks on 21.


TAW



Date: 01/22/17 18:02
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: mococomike

Very interesting read.



Date: 01/23/17 04:20
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: Rainier_Rails

Thanks for posting this, Tom.

Ted Brumberg
Seattle, WA



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/17 04:21 by Rainier_Rails.



Date: 01/24/17 09:51
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: ProAmtrak

dan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> frisco helped the BN with their mgmt and mopac
> helped UP

And that's what arrogance does, 'I know what I'm doing' and the result after numerous warnings is always disaster!

Posted from Android



Date: 01/24/17 23:02
Re: The Collapse of the Everett (WA) Tunnel
Author: OPRJPM

Had this happen a couple times. easiest solution  "let the air out of the tires on the tofcs" .  it will get you about 4".  



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