Some small candles light one of the few surviving tunnels that once linked buildings on the campus with the steam plant. In winter, it was common for patients to be transported through these to avoid the cold, and during the Cold War these served as nuclear fallout shelters.
I loved to spend time in the Hamm’s caves in my teen years. It was cold, wet, but it felt familiar and had its share of surprises.
Ava near the Memorial Building. The block glass embedded in the sidewalk here is actually a skylight for the tunnel below, which connects the Memorial Building to the steam and supply systems of the hospital.
One of the many exposed steam tunnels, unearthed by erosion and broken into by farm tractors and bored kids.
At the bottom of the stairs to the caves is this collection of brick arches. I wonder what this area looks like now that a new tenant has taken over this building.
Note the really old carvings in the mineral-stained sandstone on the walls and ceiling. This little cave was walled-off on one end, making me wonder what the area was for. Lighting is a set of three candles and two LED flashlights and a cigarette.
One thing that made the Eagle Mine unique is the underground mill, left of this picture. As the rocks moved down the mill, they would be turned into finer and finer powder.
Miller Creek, in one of the wider sections that features a trout (as in the fish) canal in the middle of the drain. Even though it is underground, the fish are able to visit their breeding ponds upstream by swimming through the specially designed tunnel.
Tunnels interconnected all of the complex, carrying power, steam, laundry and food throughout the hospital. This is a typical causeway that would have been very busy when the hospital was operating. In some places, signs still point to defunct areas of the hospital.
Freezing groundwater in the drain has created this ice wall in Buckingham Creek Drain, which is nearly all blasted natural stone. Lit with several LED panels. It was a cold night.
In the far back of the cellars there are some old bottles. This arch shows an old entrance to the cellars, now collapsed.
Sarah in Miller Creek Drain.
This is an elevator to move mine car loads of sand to the surface for cleaning and eventually glass production. Below is a flooded equipment vault. In front and behind is a loop through the larger tunnels in the mine. The horizontal braces supported electric cables for the mine carts.
Where the drain changes shape from round concrete to arched brick.
The orange bars were secured to the tunnel walls to support electric lines for the mine carts. Lower parts of the sand mines were allowed to flood. The water was perfectly still, and made for a mud so thick it could suck off your boots.
I did not take the escape ladder to the surface, but I am told it pops up in the middle of a hill next to the missile silo doors.
Look at the floor–do you see the hole? That goes down a lonnnnnng ways.
Check that waterfall!
This tunnel goes to the adit over the Eagle River Mills. I bet those carts go fast down here!
The newer tunnels were fitted with these fluorescent lights, although some skylights (block glass embedded in skywalks) let in some natural light during the day.
A snapshot to show what the tunnels look like at the end of a flashlight beam–no candles, no colored flashlights.
A light-painted portrait of one of the few remaining carts that moved everything from fresh eggs to soiled laundry through the tunnels.
A lime auger and massive feet of the lime hopper.
The portal facing Taconite Harbor (at a healthy distance) is mostly closed. Some kids put bullet holes in it. Shooting down a long tunnel is extremely dangerous, and you should not do it, obviously. Mamiya 6/Portra 160
Heavy steel doors to isolate the underground magnetic separation mill from Eagle Mine’s main tunnel.
Below the factory floor is a network of hallways and tunnels, all flooded with water.
A ruined culvert near Oregon Creek, behind Old Main, the predecessor of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
A natural stone floor in Brewery Creek’s upper path has been worn smooth.
Looking out of the Brewery Creek Drain outfall at night, after a storm had pushed piles of rocks up onto the shore.
Chester Creek’s lower sections change, demarking decades of change for Superior Street.
At this junction where Brewery Creek gets a breath of fresh air stands a kid holding a paintbrush: a Banksy (famous graffiti artist) ripoff.
300 tea lights illuminate what Greg Brick calls the Rotunda, under the brew house proper, which was part of Christopher Stahlmann’s natural cave.
A long tunnel stretches toward the Mississippi. Was this the route Model Ts took on their way to waiting barges?
A typical large mine tunnel. You can just make out the narrow gauge rail.
The upper sections of Brewery Creek have stone floors and brick ceilings. It’s beautiful–for a sewer.
The Comm Room’s portals once supported many more conduits.
Rocket propellant and coolant were stored underground adjacent to the missile silo. This is the hallway that connects the missile area to the propellant area. Walking in this area was nice because the floor was dry.
A tunnel connecting the two larger caves in the hill; those that Jacob vented in the rear. The vents are still extant!
The elevator works on gravity… this is where a conveyor belt was to move the grain toward the main elevator to be loaded into ships.
Approaching the tunnel I heard about for so long…
A high-voltage tunnel sheathed in concrete dips below ground near a shell packing building that now stores fireworks.
Hand-shooting 4×5 underground. Must be Kate Hunter.
Past the underground repair shop is this cliffside adit.
The right portal used to go straight into the basement of the hotel, judging from the ruins.
Sarah below Cascade Park. This space was destroyed when the park flooded.
An outfall for 43rd Avenue Creek. Let’s rename it Substreet Creek; isn’t that a better name?
The left tunnel goes to the opposite side of the car elevator seen on the right. There was a time when Fords were shipped by barge on the Mississippi. This freight elevator brought them from the assembly floor to river level. A separate elevator was for moving men and silica up and down.
Looking into the tunnel system from below the Women’s Ward. The tunnels were used mostly by staff to move food and laundry.
The east portal, looking toward Nopeming Junction and away from the US Steel ruins and Duluth’s ore docks.
Looking into the Argo Tunnel at its Idaho Springs portal. I was hoping to see tracks and a steel door, but found a busy crew of environmental workers installing a pipe between the bulkhead and new water plant.
In front of the mine building the ground has opened up, showing a one-subterranean hallway. Locals seem to be using the dangerous hole as a trash dump.
Chester Creek, where it was forced to dip below the circa-1970s I-35 tunnels.
The first 800 or so feet of the tunnel is finished with reinforced concrete. The test is raw stone. This is the spot where it switches. Side note: nailing this shot on film is one of my proudest light-painted moments.
A tunnel that brought heat from the power plant to the Hart House. Since that building was demolished, this only served as a fallout shelter. To my knowledge, this was never used to move bodies to the incinerator. That was probably done with a vehicle and the lower entrance to the power station, which did dispose of TB victims for some time.
Part of the Pillsbury tunnel that brought water back to the Mississippi River.
This picture shows the challenges of moving around underground in the base.
A tunnel between the outside gate and the courtyard shared by the barracks.
The mill was powered, in part, by water flowing through turbines under it. After the flow worked the industrial heart of the flour mill, it was exit to the Mississippi here.
Below the historic National Guard Armory.
I’ve been in a lot of different mines. Some on tours, some not. If you pass through Howardsville, Colorado without going on the Old Hundred Mine Tour, you’re missing out. This is what Santiago Tunnel looked like in the 1940s when it was near the end of its life.
One of the underground creeks in Duluth, somewhere under the East Hillside neighborhood.
Pointing a light at my camera from down Miller Creek Drain. Do you see the scale of it? It’s huge!
This heavy door opens directly into the missile vault and was used to load and unload the missile erector.
In what used to be a hallway under what used to be a skyway, each with what had conveyor belts for the grain that once was stored here. The fog doesn’t change.
Roughly below the parking lot for the Rose Garden.
One of my favorite pictures of the tunnel. I am holding a bike rim and wearing a headlamp. My friend triggered the flash just behind my lower back. The fog is a temperature inversion at the entrance of the tunnel; it was 102 degrees outside of the tunnel and about 50 degrees inside, and humid.
Because there’s no Port-a-John underground.
Holes were cut into the floor to extract equipment from the basements. it was interesting to see the I-beams extending through all the levels of Studebaker.
The Harrison flour mill, completed in 1897 and expanded in 1901 and 1902. The tunnel that I am standing on probably transported grain from the elevator to the mill. Medium Format.
A strange sight: Part of the drain here seems to have had a skylight of glass, which has since been filled over. However, the collapsing ceiling began to create natural skylights of its own.
Standing on the fence barricade that used to keep squatters out of the tunnel, the size of the space is impressive. What you see here is the current length of the tunnel; I set up a flashlight at the end to illuminate the concrete wall that is the lower portal.
Grain is taken from the bottom of the silos through a conveyor in a tunnel. These blowers keep the air in the tunnel fresh.