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Multi-cache

Thornton Tunnel

A cache by HuggyFamily
Hidden : 5/7/2009
In British Columbia, Canada
Difficulty:
1.5 out of 5
Terrain:
2 out of 5

Size: Size: small (small)

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Geocache Description:


 
   

The Thornton Tunnel, CN's longest at 3.4 km, runs under the Willingdon Heights and Vancouver Heights neighbourhoods, near the border between Vancouver and Burnaby. It was originally built as a diverging connection from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe route into downtown Vancouver to the north side of Burrard Inlet. CN has had trackage rights on BNSF line since 1915 when BNSF’s predecessor the Great Northern owned it. This tunnel route allows CN to access port facilities in North Vancouver.

Although first traversed by rail in 1925, the new bridge and tunnel allowed CN direct access to facilities in North Vancouver and the lumber-rich resources of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (now BC Rail), much of whose traffic flows south to American markets through the BNSF. Lumber also comes in by rail ferry to Tilbury from Vancouver Island's historic Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway.

The tunnel route was also used for interchange traffic between CN and BC Rail terminals in North Vancouver. This ceased when CN took over BC Rails operations in 2004.

The Thornton Tunnel continues to be a very busy route used by CN's heavy westbound trains having access to sulphur, coal and grain terminals along the north shore.

   

The tunnel was named for Sir Henry Thornton, an American who was CN's first President in 1922. Plans included for a southern entrance in the Still Creek area (now just off Dawson Street), and a northern entrance near the Second Narrows Bridge. This would connect to a rail bridge crossing Burrard Inlet and continuing along the north shore of Vancouver. At its deepest point, the Thornton Tunnel would pass some 50 metres below the surface.

As a footnote, long before the tunnel was built and named for him, Sir Henry was forced into resignation by a group of Conservative MPs who became known as the "Wrecking Brigade". Two years later, he would die broke, of cancer, in New York. In the next Federal election, every member of the Wrecking Brigade would go down to defeat as Prime Minister Richard Bennett's government were defeated by William Lyon Mackenzie King's Liberals.

   

The project scope included a new 6400 ton "lift-type" railway bridge to cross Burrard Inlet, replacing the existing fixed height bridge. This bridge would lift 30 metres to provide a 45 metre shipping clearance at low tide, the same clearance provided by the Second Narrows (now Ironworkers) bridge. The new bridge would be the largest of its type in Canada and fifth-largest in the world.

For a period, city council was quite opposed to the idea of a tunnel beneath their city, as its main purpose was not serving Burnaby, rather to allow trains a more easy route between neighbouring municipalities.

Construction of the tunnel took place between 1967 and took two years. However, prior to its opening in 1969, the project was not without controversy. Local residents had significant concerns regarding the drilling and blasting that would take place below them. Opportunistic realtors urged homeowners to list their properties to avoid potential loss of value. City Council limited the contractors to working hours that would protect the residents from excessive noise. These fears proved unfounded as construction proceeded without a hitch and the tunnel opened for rail traffic.


This multi-cache will take you on a journey from one entrance of the tunnel to the other (but not through it!) and will terminate at a ventilation building approximately halfway along the route. The cache container is small and there's only room for small trade items (pins etc.). There is an unactivated geo-coin for the lucky FTF.

Waypoint #1. The South Tunnel Entrance.  

This stage can be accessed off Dawson Street and is located behind some indescript commercial buildings. Once you retrieve the coordinates for stage 2, walk 50 metres east and you'll get a glimpse of the tunnel entrance through the security fencing. Note that trespassing on any railway property is a serious offence.

There are businesses that look towards the cache location so please use stealth in locating and replacing the container.

  The south entrance to the tunnel, surrounded by graffiti galore.
Waypoint #2. The North Tunnel Entrance.  

Access this stage from Fellowes Street in Vancouver. Once you have the cache, have a look to the northeast and you'll see the railway bridge in the distance. To get a closer look, there are a couple of trail access points that all lead down to a lookout spot that is right above the tunnel entrance. While there, take in the majesty of the view to the north shore and the rail and vehicular bridges that span the inlet.

Again, use stealth as there are residences along Fellowes that look towards the cache location.

  The north tunnel entrance, and its connection to the rail bridge.
Waypoint #3. The Ventilation Building.  

This is the jewel of this story. Many people know about the existence of the Thornton Tunnel but few know about this. During the design phase, it was decided that a ventilation/escape shaft was required due to the length of the tunnel. Rather than build an unsightly concrete box, CN had a corner lot rezoned and constructed a building that - to the casual bypasser - appears to be a residence (albeit one without windows). It does however have a lovely hipped roof, significant planting, and uses materials that fit the context of the neighbourhood. Unless you knew what it was (and now you do), you'd never figure that this is indeed the termination of the vent shaft. The final cache is located somewhere adjacent to this building.

Once again, use extreme stealth in retrieving and replacing the cache container.

  The ventilation building. You'd never know it unless you looked closely!

Credits, Downloads, and Folklore.  
Much of the information for this cache was taken from the BC Explorer Website. For cachers and adventurers looking to learn more about the Pacific Northwest, this site is an excellent resource.
Tunnel drawings, including cross-sections and entrance plans.

 
While you are in the area, take the opportunity to grab two caches that are close to Waypoint #2. "Two Bridges and a Tunnel" (GCHX4M) and "Second Narrows Park" (GC1EEXQ) both lie on the trails that lead downward to the north tunnel entrance.
Tunnel drawings, including overall route plan and a longitudinal section with grade elevations.

 
Legend has it that a certain two cachers, in their wilder and wigglier days, ventured over 1 km into the tunnel only to be faced by the deafening blast and frighteningly close passage of a train. I am glad to say that they survived and would never do something like that again..........
Bridge drawings.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Fgntr 1: zntargvp
Fgntr 2: orgjrra gjb bs znal
Fgntr 3: ybbx ybj

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

Attributes

No attributes available

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Inventory

There are no Trackables in this cache.

 

Find...

117 Logged Visits

Found it 105     Didn't find it 6     Write note 5     Publish Listing 1     

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 4/17/2014 3:57:26 PM Pacific Daylight Time (10:57 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum