SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read my first article about popular myths at Weber State, check it out here.
I grabbed three of my friends to go with me, I needed them as independent verification (plus they couldn’t believe I actually got somebody to show me around down there). And we had three tour guides Jake, Jake and Dustin (and no that’s not a typo, evidently Jake is a popular name among tunnel dwellers).
We met up with our guides at the facilities management building and they escorted us to the designated tunnel entrance. And although I can’t disclose where the entry was exactly, I can say that I’ve walked past the spot everyday, multiple times a day in fact. It’s literally hidden in plain sight. So we walked down a flight of cement stairs which took us to the tunnel portal and once Jake opened the door we stepped down a few more metal stairs. Then we reached a landing, which was filled with pipes, levers, buttons, gauges, switches, wheels, handles, and every sort of gadget you could possibly imagine. It looked like the secret laboratory from some steampunk mad scientist. From this staging area we started down a narrow hallway to begin our journey through the underground tunnels of Weber State.
No ghouls or ghosts, but lots places to get lost
Before our arrival, I had pictured that the tunnels were massive enough to fit an elephant, and creepy enough to host a séance. But as I walked through the corridors, they were the size of a normal hallway and instead of the spider webs and mold I had expected, they were surprisingly quaint (well, as quaint as underground tunnels can be). The tunnels are mostly cement and the hallways are lined with pipes on both sides. There were puddles of water and mud around from recent storms and I wished I had galoshes instead of my useless flip-flops.
What I was not prepared for was how expansive it was. We walked for about 30 minutes and were still only under one building. I started to see how easy it would be to get lost down there, and overwhelmed by the idea that these tunnels run throughout the entire campus. But I was not the only one who had concerns while we were down there. “I felt claustraphobic the whole time,” said my friend. “I just kept picturing what would happen if a pipe broke, or if there was an earthquake. Or what if there really were little people living down there.”
So. . . what are the tunnels for?
The tunnels are filled with a vast amount of pipes that circulate super heated steam to heat every building on campus. “Steam goes up, then goes through a heat exchanger, heats water and the water circulates through the buildings” explained Jake, the Building and Sustainability Manager. “We don’t have any boilers or furnaces in the buildings, it’s all done through central steam.” So basically the tunnels and vast network of steam pipes act as a central heating unit for all the buildings on campus. It’s way more efficient than having separate boilers for each individual building.
- The tunnel network is 1.5 miles long.
- The tunnels are connected to every building on campus.
- The tunnel workers (Jake and Dustin) spend about five hours a day in the tunnels fixing leaks and increasing the efficiency of the system.
- No, they do not pull awesome pranks on each other while they’re down there (I had to ask).
- The pipes can expand 2 inches for every 100 feet because of the heat.
- Some pipes are not only 330 degrees, but also run about 100 PSI. Which is pretty high pressure (about the same as a large air compressor).
- The steam in the pipes move at about 70 mph.
We asked our guides if they would be worried to be in the tunnels alone. “We don’t ever come down here alone,” said Jake. “We have a rule of two. No one is down here alone. Ever.”
“Ever,” the other two added.
“If something happens down here no one comes down to look for you,” said Dustin. Hmm. Well that’s kind of frightening, and at the same time I more fully appreciate my above ground desk job.
Conclusion: The underground tunnels are real and we have got the photos to prove it.