Major Locales of the Titan I Complex

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Antenna Tunnel

The antenna tunnel is a steel structure connecting tunnel junction #10 (the main tunnel junction) to the antenna terminal.  A type 'B' tunnel, the antenna tunnel is constructed of 5 gauge corrugated steel liner with a 9-foot 6-inch inner diameter and a simple floor of poured, leveled concrete.  At approximately 553 feet in length (nearly one-tenth of a mile), it is the longest unbroken stretch of tunnel in the Titan I complex.


Drawing showing the rather simple architecture of the antenna tunnel.  There is a jog of about 30 degrees at the far end of the tunnel just before the antenna terminal.


For the Lowry sites, the tunnel sections were assembled, bolted and welded at a fabrication yard set up at nearby Buckley Air National Guard Base.  From there the sections were trucked to the construction site and emplaced with cranes and heavy equipment before being permanently welded together.


Construction photo showing a prefabricated section of the antenna tunnel being placed by crane


In addition to safely conveying missile crews under the Earth between the protected warrens of the main tunnel junction and the antenna silos, the antenna tunnels also carried vital services as well.


Power, water, communications, guidance circuits and other links to the control center as well as waste water and sewage all travel along the antenna tunnel in numerous pipes, cables and conduits arranged on both sides of the tunnel as well as the ceiling.


Construction photo showing the antenna tunnel looking toward the antenna terminal.  Plumbing and wiring conduit are partially installed but the cable trays have yet to be added on the right side of the tunnel.

Workers have added planks for better footing and easier movement of equipment and carts along the tunnel.  Concrete will be poured later to make a level floor along the tunnel.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler



Construction photo looking toward the antenna terminal.  The floor has been poured and set and the cable trays (right) have been installed.


Progressing well: Nearly complete antenna tunnel.

Plumbing work is still under way and the 2 pipes at left will be joined with a flexible connection and route sewage to the stabilization ponds at the surface.


A rare and beautiful color shot of the antenna tunnel.  An airman appears to be running down his maintenance checklist in this picture.

There's the sewage line again at left.  Notice how you can't really make out the end of this tunnel.  It's quite long!  The Titan complex is the sort of place where you don't want to forget to bring things with you or you may have a long walk ahead of you just to go back for it. 

Lacking any other means of fire suppression, the antenna tunnel had fire extinguishers placed at regular intervals for combating any incendiary incidents that might occur.  Admittedly, in a steel tube with a concrete floor there isn't much combustible material around.  Electrical fires were really about the only event that would require extinguishing in this area.


The cable trays connect the Control Center and the rest of the complex to the antennas and their equipment.  This tunnel is so long I'm surprised they didn't need signal boosters (repeaters) along its length!


A rather ghostly shot looking toward tunnel junction #10.  The apparition of Jacob Marley can be seen approaching in the distance.  There's that sewage line again at right-- I just can't say enough about it!


When I arrived at 724-C in 1999, this is how the entrance to the antenna tunnel looked.  It hasn't really changed much since then save for a few minor things.  During the site's operational period, there was a steel bulkhead and a nice wide door closing off the tunnel.


Salvagers cut away the bulkhead on the left of the doorway to remove the piping.  I guess they took the door with them as well.


August 2005: Looking into the antenna tunnel from tunnel junction #10.  I assisted the ACoE on a job at 724-C and took some more recent photos including this one.  Notice that there are working lights roughed into the antenna tunnel.


Sections of the antenna tunnel, despite their age, look quite well.  This is not one of them, but it does show some of the steel targets left behind by defense contractors.  These constructions were used for ballistics tests where weapons were fired down this long tunnel.  This sort of junk littered the main junction, Powerhouse and parts of the Control Center.


In the picture below, notice the apparent distortion of the tunnel as if it is oval in shape.  Its not an illusion!  The tunnel has actually been deformed out of round by the immense weight of earthen backfill resting on it.  This is not a new development however!


When backfill operations were performed, the inside of the tunnel was shored up with large timbers to help bear the sudden weight of thousands of tons of earth being replaced overhead.  The timbers splintered, compressed and some even broke as the tunnel was squashed.  The concrete in the bottom cracked and broke until eventually the settling and deformation slowed enough that engineers felt it was safe to remove the supports (and repair the damage).  


As you can see, the tunnel is very visibly deformed in this view near tunnel junction #10.  Further ahead, the distortion is very slight and the tunnel looks perfectly round.  There was a little water seepage here, but further up the the tunnel is bone dry and quite clean.  


The walls closing in.  The floor is somewhat buckled in this section and there's a fair bit of corrosion up ahead, but only for a short distance.


The construction method used at the Titan I sites was largely done by excavating the site to the desired depth and once the tunnels and structures were in place and complete, the entire area was filled back in with the displaced soil which was then tamped, compacted, vibrated and otherwise compressed over and around the newly buried complex.  


Backfill and soil compaction at 724-A

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Compaction of the soil was crucial to minimize settling not only of the soil but of the underground tunnels and structures themselves.  Of course some settling was inevitable and was a problem at all the Titan I sites to some degree as you can see in the following construction photos of 725-A.


This photo shows a large support timber perhaps 6" x 8" that has been absolutely crushed to splinters by the sheer weight of soil bearing down on the tunnel following backfill and compaction at 725-A.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Not only were the tunnel sections deformed by settling and the enormous weight of soil and compaction, but different sections of the complex would move in relation to each other where they were supposed to connect.  These problems caused numerous headaches for the steel workers, engineers and Martin Co., the prime contractor, as many additional work hours, design modifications and physical changes to the structure were required as a result of uneven settling.


Fractured concrete floor in the antenna tunnel caused by pressure from back-filled soil

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler



Circa 2000: the entrance to the antenna tunnel, dark and spooky with no working lights



2005: The first section of the tunnel showing water seepage and corrosion



Salvage crews removed piping and conduit which once ran along the tunnels.  Yes, that's me in the bunny suit.


When I first entered 724-C in 1999, the prospective buyer (not me) and myself were both very concerned about asbestos and other possible (and unknown) environmental hazards present in the site.


To protect ourselves, we each donned a Tyvek suit with a hood and built in booties, a full-face respirator with filters rated for asbestos and other hazards and double layers of rubber gloves.  


A bit overkill perhaps?  Probably.  Hot, uncomfortable and restrictive to move around in?  Very much.


Tunnel floor near the entrance of the antenna tunnel with retreating feet clad in a protective Dupont Tyvek suit.

Tyvek.  Not just for vapor barriers anymore!


We also carried at least 2 flashlights and multiple sets of replacement batteries as well as 2 or more emergency chemical light sticks.


As you can see in the photos, not everyone shared our fears.


I confess that over time, even I became a bit lax in my precautions, not wearing a full suit or gloves and at times even foregoing the respirator-- something I really wouldn't recommend unless the air quality has been tested and shown to be safe.


"Who goes there?"

Morlocks approaching from the antenna terminal?

Nope, false alarm.



2005: The recently-added lighting allowed me to get a few nice slow exposures which turned out rather well even in the low light.



A nice B&W test print taken by someone infinitely more skilled and knowledgeable with photography than myself.

Photo by Harry Weddington



Photographed in "Drunk-O-Vision", this skewed shot shows some nasty seepage, but directly past this spot, the tunnel is almost immaculate.  Notice how the tunnel is looking more and more round as we go further in.



Circa 2000: Looking back toward the main tunnel junction



2005: Looking back toward the main tunnel junction with a long exposure


As you get past the first 40 feet or so, the tunnel clears up very nicely and is quite pristine.  There was some junk left behind-- an old chair, some soda cans and broken glass, but that's about it.


NOTICE: It is an important fact that eating, drinking or smoking in contaminated areas is the best way to expose yourself to any harmful substances present, so avoid doing so at all costs.


Silo Gnome and pal try to see light at the end of the tunnel.  No luck yet...  This is about 1/3 to 1/2 the way down toward the terminal.  Here one cannot discern any deformation of the tunnel liner.  The elevation of the tunnel is gently sloping upwards as one approaches the silos, so perhaps the reduced weight of backfill could possibly be attributed to this.



Looking back toward T.J. #10:  A high-intensity work light is barely visible off in the distance


I'm still surprised by the tidiness of this area.  The only corrosion is around the weld joins in the corrugated liner.


Continuing toward the antenna terminal, the dark tunnel offers no hint of just how much further it is to the end.



More remarkably clean and dry tunnel.  Surely there is an end to this somewhere ahead.


It is fortunate really that the sides of the tunnel are different.  It is not hard to imagine getting turned around while looking at small details and then forgetting which direction is the way out and which is the way in.  If you pick the wrong direction you've got a long walk once you discover your mistake.


A little dust, a little rust, and a smattering of broken glass



2005: Suddenly, up ahead something finally comes into view!


After a long walk accompanied by the odd muffled reverberations of our footsteps along the tunnel, the end becomes visible at last!


Ahead, the tunnel takes a jog to the right just before the antenna terminal.  Almost there!



Looking from inside the Antenna Terminal down toward the main junction (T.J. #10).  At the terminal end, there is about a 30 degree bend in the tunnel just before it joins the terminal.  That's what you're seeing here.  Notice how the corrosion is becoming more visible again at this end.  There's water nearby and the increased humidity is working on any exposed metal.



Circa 2000: Looking into the antenna terminal from the tunnel


Now it's time to take a look around the Antenna Terminal itself.  Click the link below to continue or you can go to the map to look around elsewhere.



Antenna Terminal


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