"There is little precedent for such a Brobdingnagian burial."

Deep Below Park Avenue, a Monster at Rest

It is a gargantuan drill that has been hollowing out tunnels for a train station under Grand Central Terminal. As tall as four men and with the weight of two whales, the so-called cutter head -- the spinning, sharp-edged business end of a tunnel boring machine -- is usually extracted, dismantled and sold for scrap when the work is done.

But the Spanish contractor overseeing the project is taking a different approach. It believes it can save time and money by simply leaving it behind, dormant and decayed, within the rocky depths of Midtown Manhattan. The drill's final resting place: 14 stories beneath the well-tended sidewalks of Park Avenue.

There is little precedent for such a Brobdingnagian burial. No one at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which plans to officially entomb the machine sometime this week, can recall such an interment. "It's like a Jules Verne story," Michael Horodniceanu, the authority's chief of construction, said.

A recent visit to the cutter's future crypt revealed a machine that evokes an alien life form that crashed to earth a millennia ago. Its steel gears, bolts and pistons, already oxidizing, appeared lifeless and fatigued. A wormlike fan, its exhaust pipe disappearing into the cutter's maw, was still spinning, its drone not unlike a slumbering creature's breath.

In an official ceremony this week, the cutter will be sealed off by a concrete wall; the chamber will then be filled with concrete, encasing the cutter in a solid cast, Han Solo-style, so that it can serve as a support structure for the tunnel. A plaque will commemorate the site.

Previously, previously, previously.


11 Responses:

  1. Very little precedent indeed.

    Except, um. The british TBMs used for the channel tunnel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Tunnel#Tunnelling
    The TBM used for the airport link in Brisbane, Australia: http://www.tunneltalk.com/Brisbane-Jan11-Buried-end-for-Airport-Link-TBMs.php
    This photo from 2006 refers to a buried TBM at Mariachi Plaza Station http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrolibraryarchive/3388681737/

    Apart from a few high profile precedents on the first page of results for 'Buried TBM', this is highly unprecedented :P

  2. Jasper says:

    The TBM used in the channel tunnel from the UK side were buried in the middle of the channel.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      The article eventually alludes to this saying that it's more normal to leave the TBM (it seems in this case they're leaving only part of it?) behind in "international projects". So there's little precedent for burying a TBM in New York, New York. Probably none at all for Amherst, Texas.

  3. pavel_lishin says:

    To: Future Archeologists
    From: some hairless apes.

  4. Phil says:

    They really just needed an excuse to use the word "brobdingnagian" in an NYT article. After all, why should the actors on "Big Bang Theory" have all the fun?

  5. asan102 says:

    I curse ye, for encasing it in concrete to spite the urban explorers of the future. Oh well, there's likely an explorer far more intrepid than I who will chisel all that concrete out sometime before I die...

  6. 205guy says:

    As noted by Stephen, that language is rather over the top. I'm surprised it's the NYT, must be the bored summer interns.

    You need a Subsequently link for future events. A TBM under your own backyard/loft:


    If SF is buying the TBMs, instead of just renting them, the speculation is that they get left underground. It makes sense in a dense urban environment. However, they should not wall them off, they should sell tickets and recoup some of the cost.

  7. DFB says:

    The Searsville Dam above Stanford needs the same kind of upgrade into the Hetch Hetchy system to keep the Sun^WOracle^WFacebook campus from flooding. Who knows whether they will build it in time.

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