Voices From The Niagara Tunnel - A Living History







Last updated on March 20, 2013








Throughout the past century, Niagara Falls has had a rich and colourful history in the building and development of hydro-electric power. Generations of workers since the late 1890s have shared their blood, sweat and tears to make Niagara power generation the success it is today for the benefit of our citizens.

The Niagara Tunnel project continues to build upon this tapestry. Unprecedented in size and scope, using the most modern engineering techniques and equipment, the Niagara Tunnel Project is a project of your generation. When completed, this tunnel will allow Ontario Power Generation the ability produce much more hydro-electric power well into the next century.

Today and every day, you are making history. Every worker on the Niagara Tunnel Project is contributing to the building success of this new tunnel. Everyone has an experience, reminiscence or a story. This project has involved hundreds of workers with numerous job descriptions from many companies.


This is your story and your history. Your help and contribution is essential to ensure the success of this
non-profit historical collection. This is YOUR project.

VOICES from the Niagara Tunnel A Living History is open to all current and/or past employees having worked on the Niagara Tunnel Project from any of the principal companies and/or associated companies (subcontractors)




Send your submissions to niagaratunnel@gmail.com












I have been working at the tunnel for over 6 years I have dodged rocks on the TBM and poured concrete on the invert bridge I just wanted to say that over the time I have been here I have worked with and for some great people and even when all hell was breaking loose and things are getting dangerous you just had to look around and someone was there ready to help.
Even on late nights when you and your guys are beaten up, sore and tired you didn't have to look far to see a smile or hear a joke. I remember one time on a very snowy and very cold night when the belts went down and my foreman Dale sent Gary and electrician and myself out to fix it, when we got outside and to the top of the belt is was snowing so hard you couldn't see and was so cold you couldn't even talk but somehow all we could do was laugh and we did so the whole time until we fixed the problem there has been so many times like that and I think that's why I love coming to work and I will miss that the most when I leave . It has been an honour to work here and an absolute privilege to work with the guys down here everyday and I would like to wish everyone luck in the future and for us still down here keep it safe and see you at the end! Thanks

Mike McKenzie





 As the TBM machine would mine forward, provisions had to be made to allow the fresh water supply to be continuously maintained, as well as greywater disposal in a similar manner, but on the opposite side of the tunnel.  For freshwater, a large reel uncoiled a 6 inch diameter hose for a distance of about 30 metres before mining would halt and the hose would be wound back onto the reel.  In anticipation of this, a crew would also be placing pipe on the wall to take the place of the now coiled hose.  Slide the connected sections of pipe back, connect to the freshwater supply line, and away we go again for the next 30 odd meters.  Also, the now coiled hose had to be connected again to the supply pipe, so the pipe could supply water to the coiled hose, which would slowly be played out as mining continued.  That was always a challenging task, as the 6 inch hose with metal end was quite heavy.  The style of connection also mandated that a perfect alignment was necessary for a correct connection.  Two or three fellows would be hanging off the machine, or actually lying on the curved tunnel wall just to get the hose skewed into the proper alignment so one of the guys could attach and tighten the clamp.  When it came time for a water pipe extension, it was always "all available hands on deck", and tunnelers and maintenance guys would pitch in together to get this task done. 

 One night shift, I pitched in to help Carmen (shift foreman) and Nick (tunneler) to hook up the hose.  Carm and I were on the first true deck of the TBM machine, about 1 storey up from the bottom of the tunnel.  Nick found it better to brace himself on the tunnel wall, he held his position by standing on one of the stubs of rebar that were placed along the tunnel wall in holes drilled to accommodate the rebar.  They were designed to support the freshwater pipes that I spoke of earlier.  As we struggled, all of a sudden Nick disappeared...in the blink of an eye, the hole in the tunnel wall broke out, the rebar fell, chased merrily downward by Nick.  As it was night shift, early in the morning, and sleep deprived minds may have not been 100%, Carm looked at me and asked "Where did he go?!"  Sleep deprived myself, I could not help but laugh like an idiot and reply "Down!...where the devil do you think he went?!"  Dirty and with a few new tears in his clothes, Nick climbed back up onto the deck we were situated on.  Just another normal night for the tunnelers.

On another night with another crew, I gave a hand with the lengthening of the greywater pipe on the opposite wall.  Here we just hung long 6 inch flexible hoses that were suspended from chainfalls and beam trolleys, and as we mined forward, we would alter the chainfalls to allow the machine to go forward without overstretching these hoses.  Eventually, the rear hose was disconnected from the wastewater pipes, a new length of pipe added, and the hose reconnected.  Often times, when the hose was disconnected, the pipe would drain back with a good deal of water pressure, and the crew would get a bath.  After being soaked one night, I realized I had stood to the side, but still managed to get soaked as the hose / pipe was disconnected.  Reasoning it was harder to hit a moving target, I had my plan of action for the next time in place.

 A few nights later, the same tunneler crew and I again were altering the greywater pipe set up.  As the connection was broken, I took off down the wall of the tunnel, and running back toward the front of the machine...and promptly got a continuous soaking as the connection slowly released its pressure this time, the arc of water perfectly following my path.  It was as if someone was chasing me with a god awfully big garden hose.  So much for the scientific method.  The guys DID get a good laugh out of it.

Name withheld by request




I don't think there has been another project that held such a delicate balance of ingenuity and insanity . It was a hell ride but I wouldn't have had it any other way.






The "7 Pin Pickup" incident.

As the TBM entered the area of rock that was most unstable, the overbreak was bad, but so too was the cascading of rock when the TBM would begin a push.  No matter how deftly or gently an operator would ease the TBM into the rock face, the large rocks falling onto the conveyor belt were out of control for the first few moments.  Small rocks on a conveyor belt are steered and guided by gravity and skirting, large falling rocks on a conveyor belt do what they darn well please until they settle down.  Also, any time a material transfers from one belt to another, there is a repeated period of turbulence as the material settles down again.  There were two such points on the TBM.  The trailing point was at the backup belt / tunnel belt transition, where crews would add framework to the ever lengthening tunnel belt as the machine mined forward.  With the large rock problem noted, tunnelers and maintenance staff would station themselves at trouble points during a mining start up to monitor and stop the belts if damage or uncontrolled material occurred.  Once the "push" had begun and material flow settled down, only a few tunnelers were needed to keep watch at strategic points, the rest of us would return to other tasks that were always in need of doing.

I was at the backup belt / tunnel belt area one night shift as the next push began, so I stationed myself about 20 metres along the tunnel belt, right at the point where crews would add the steel channels, frames and rollers as the belt required lengthening.  This point was also two full decks up on the machine, a point about midway between the floor and ceiling of the tunnel, close to the left wall.  Terry, a member of that crew was also in the area, he took up watch as well.  As the push began, the expected rock surge began, and a good number of bushel basket sized rocks were tumbling along the belt along with smaller material.  As the still tumbling rocks passed Terry and I, they were in a rebellious mood and no amount of my yelling at them did a bit of good.  Come to think of it, neither does yelling at your teenager.

One of these tumblers was the size of a 20 lb. turkey, and it took a roll right up the wall as it corkscrewed off the belt, as the belt had worked its way up to full mining speed.  Momentum kept it flying along horizontally for a few feet, then gravity took over as it skittered down the curved wall of the tunnel.  Picture a tumbling rock, now with added "english" on it from the curved wall...the trajectory was now something to be seen.

Meanwhile, below on the tunnel floor, George the tunneler was walking in the same direction as the conveyor belt carried the mined rock.  He was making his way along when the rock came careening down the wall, arced along the floor, and took George's feet out from under him from behind.  He never saw it coming.  The spin and speed on the rock as I watched it was something close to what you see in ten pin bowling, when a really good bowler throws one of those arcing balls that cuts down the 7 pin for a spare.  George was that 7 pin.  Happened so damn quick I didn't have time to say anything but "HEY!" just as he got clipped.

Well, for the most part we were a lucky bunch, and this time George got up, shook his head, and continued on walking.  "You OK?" I yelled down.  A wave and his continued walking told me he was.  Seeing he was OK, I started to play back in my mind what I just saw...and got into a laughing jag over it.   Gary the electrician came by, found me there laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks over a scene I thought could only happen in a Warner Brothers cartoon.  It took a full 20 minutes of me trying to tell Gary the story until the laughing stopped.

Name withheld by request






Christopher "Chris" Campbell

February 1st 2013


CAMPBELL, Christopher "Chris" - With broken hearts Charlie and Gloria announce the passing of their dear son Chris to pancreatic cancer at the Greater Niagara General Hospital on Friday February 1, 2013 at the age of 40. He leaves behind to cherish his memory, many, many aunts, uncles and cousins and his best friends Chris Cunningham and Jodi, Gary Tays and Nancy, Kim and Bruin. Stepbrother to Wayne and Ann Campbell. Chris was a past owner of the Sunset Bar and Grill and had worked as a supervisor for ten years at Casino Niagara. For the past six years he had worked on the Big Becky hydro project. He loved travelling, was an avid reader and enjoyed watching sports on television. He will be remembered by all who knew him for his sense of humour which never faltered. Cremation has taken place with interment at a later date in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Snyder.




The Niagara Tunnel Project lost a good fellow, tunneler and co-worker to pancreatic cancer this past February 1st.  Chris Campbell was a hell of a good guy, always there to help a fellow tunneler.  He was often up on top of L4 (hanging the airbag or trolley rail sections) or posted out on belt duty at the outside where the tunnel belt dropped onto the overland belt.




























Date last updated: March 20, 2013