Earth-eating titan heads to Toronto to drill the largest subway tunnel ever

The largest subway tunnel in Toronto’s 67 years of underground transit is coming as early preparatory work sets the stage for the 7.8-kilometer Scarborough Subway Extension.

Taking the TTC’s Line 2 east into the heart of Scarborough has brought the line not without controversy, panned for its outrageous $5.5 billion price tag and offering only half the number of stations as the overground Scarborough RT that he will replace.

But despite its shortcomings, there’s still plenty about the new line extension for transit nerds to get excited about.

Unlike the twin tunnels that carry trains along most Toronto subway lines, Scarborough will have one large tunnel, wide enough for two sets of tracks. Both eastbound and westbound tracks will be incorporated into a single 10.7m diameter tunnel, much wider than your average transit tunnel.

Building a tunnel of this magnitude is no small feat, and Metrolinx had to look all the way to the small town of Schwanau, Germany, near the French border, to find the giant tunnel boring machine (TBM) that will pave a path for Toronto’s next subway line. .

Metrolinx has been tracking the testing of this massive TBM since day one, sharing photos of the assembly and the maple leaf-decorated cutting head.

Now tested and disassembled, the TBM is ready for its transatlantic journey to the line’s launch shaft, which is currently being excavated at McCowan and Sheppard.

In recent weeks, the dismantled TBM has been loaded into containers and shipped via inland vessels along the Rhine to the Dutch port of Westdorpe. From here, it departs on Friday, November 26, crossing the Atlantic Ocean as part of a 6,300-mile trek to Toronto.

A container full of TBM parts in the Dutch port of Westdorpe, awaiting its journey across the ocean. Photo by Strabag via Metrolinx.

But what kind of ship do you need to get a 2,000-ton behemoth across an ocean?

A Dutch heavy-duty container ship, aptly named Jumbo Vision, is the perfect vessel for the job, with an impressive cargo capacity of nearly 7,000 tons. That’s the weight of nearly 4,000 average-sized cars.

Scarborough subway extension

Jumbo Vision is loaded with containers full of TBM parts in the Dutch port of Westdorpe. Photo by Strabag via Metrolinx.

Jumbo Vision’s roughly two-week voyage departs from the Dutch coasts on Friday, but more updates will follow as the giant TBM progresses further.

The next major update will take place when Jumbo Vision passes through the St. Lawrence Seaway in mid-December and arrives at the Port of Oshawa. From there, the shipping containers containing the goods are trucked to the launch site, assembled and lowered into the ground for a spring launch.

Scarborough subway extension

Jumbo Vision is waiting for departure from the Dutch port of Westdorpe. Photo by Strabag via Metrolinx.

The Scarborough RT is expected to close in 2023, and residents of Scarborough will have to ride replacement buses for years before the new metro extension opens, currently slated for 2029-2030.


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