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Main Tunnel Junction Part IV (TJ #10)

Nooks and Crannies

Even though I tried to see every inch of the site during my time there, it always turned out that on my next visit I would find a few places I had overlooked.  Whether it was simply a matter of inadvertently passing some things by or that they were missed because I was distracted by something else I'd found, there was always something new to discover.


724-C, 2002: This is a shot peeking out from between one of the raw water tanks and the short tunnel section surrounding it.  That's the tank on the left blocking a large part of the view.  Portable work lights were absolutely essential for shedding light on the vast darkness down in the missile complex.  They were particularly useful in the power house.


Time and again I would find some crawlspace, some narrow opening or some physically inaccessible place that I hadn't had a close look at.  Despite the rather mundane nature of some areas, you never knew what you might find on closer inspection:

- Underneath a pile of trash and fiberglass pipe insulation there were thousands of pages of illustrated technical manuals on the Titan 1 complex, the guidance system, maintenance, equipment and much more.


- Inside a water treatment control panel as large as a walk-in closet, I found stacks of service logs with crew members' names and a list of work performed.


- Humorous and even "naughty" drawings and writings were scrawled in odd places on beams, air ducts and steelwork.

Everywhere it seemed, little bits of history were hidden throughout the complex, offering clues to its past and revealing tidbits about the people who had constructed the site and who worked there during its operation.


724-C, 2002: looking toward the top of the raw water tank.  That's is a level meter on top, undoubtedly connected to a float assembly rather like the sort found in a toilet tank-- only larger.


Lowry 724-C, 2002: This time peering out from the other side of the raw water tank.  Notice the meeting of 3 yoke beams at the ceiling in a giant "Y" shape.


So I started peering into all sorts of nooks and crannies to see what I might find.  Mostly I found mud or one of it's component parts, or junk or shell casings and beer cans.


Lowry 724-C, 2002: There were standard issue heavy duty carts in each Titan I underground complex for hauling equipment and supplies around the site.  These heavy steel casters appear to be all that's left of the sturdy carts that once roamed the tunnels delivering stuff where needed.  I have no idea what happened to the rest of the cart.  


Larson 568-A: Near the raw water tanks, the doors to the power house can bee seen on the right a short distance away.

Photo courtesy of Walter Silva


Lowry 724-C, 1999: The entrance to the power house, both sides of which once had large piles of junk and stacks of acoustical tiles taken from the mezzanine level of the power house.  It appears that the tiles were used to help trap projectiles being fired at targets in the antenna tunnel.  During the site's operation, the tiles used to hang in circular rows around the periphery of the dome to arrest the deafening din caused by the generators.


Lowry 724-C, 1999: Looking through the doors into the Power House which has essentially been laid to waste.  Partially visible is the black diamond on yellow marking the doors which can be seen on the door on the right.  This site was occupied after it's closure and a large amount of junk shown in this photo can be attributed to the last residents.


Lowry 724-C, 1999: Looking through the doors into the Power House at some of the junk that once partially blocked the entrance.  A big pile of acoustic tiles and other refuse prevent ready access to the latrine.  


Over the several years I visited this Titan site, it became a bit unnerving to note that there were no signs of life inside.  Not one living creature did I see down there.  Of course the site is rather nasty environmentally with asbestos and lead-based paint everywhere, and the residue of multifarious solvents, lubricants and decomposing electronic equipment (a good source of PCBs and dioxin and a part of any complete breakfast!).  Given all this, it is not surprising perhaps that a thriving ecology has not established itself in the site.  I suspect this is due more to the fact that not much can live off of rust and paint chips-- the chief fauna found in the site.


I did however find numerous dead animals throughout the site: desiccated rabbit corpses populated the upper area of the entry portal (there was a crack near the added stairwell large enough for them to get in) as well as at the bottom where some unfortunates had fallen.


Similar ingress was available at the antenna silo doors and poor departed rats and rabbits were noted there as well.  A garter snake had found his way all the way into the Control Center only to perish at the bottom of one of the numerous sump wells next to another rabbit.


Coyote feces were found on narrow beams in the entry portal-- a rather acrobatic feat, but no coyotes were ever found (dead or alive).  Lastly, considerable numbers of rats bob like apples (all dead) in the flooded missile silos suggesting that they fell from the doors above.


For years, departed critters were all I saw... until 2002.


Lowry 724-C, 2002: Peering underneath the floor of the main tunnel junction right in front of one of the raw water tanks.  Here, facing the water tank, you can see the flexible connections for the 12" outlet line and the considerably smaller inlet line, both of which have been been disconnected.


The Ephemeral Appearance of Tad

As the site was up for sale and it appeared as though my role as caretaker/tour guide/watchman for 724-C was nearing its end, I became acutely aware of all the places I had not seen nor been throughout the underground missile complex.  There was the distinct possibility of never having the chance to see or photograph a Titan I from the inside ever again, and so I set out to try and to boldly go where I had never gone before (very boldly it would turn out).  Some trips to the more out-of-the-way places were clearly in order.


This meant delving into areas both dangerous and tantalizing as well as difficult to access.  It also included some out-of-the-way places that, while not as interesting as a missile silo perhaps, were just as mysterious, and in some instances held even greater unknowns.


In the dangerous, tantalizing and difficult to access category there were such places as:

  • The catwalk level of the missile silos - insane climb required

  • The fuel cribwork in launcher silo #2 - mildly insane climbing required

  • The catwalk level of the antenna silos - rickety ladder scaling required

  • The flooded propellant terminals - ladder needed, crossing water of unknown depth involved

  • The launcher air filtration facility - very tight squeeze required to enter

  • The LOX Tunnel and loading vent - flooded propellant terminal must first be crossed

In the less-dangerous-but-still-mildly-interesting category there were:

  • The exhaust tunnel upper level-- where the mufflers reside - simple ladder climb

  • The exhaust stack - access blocked by potentially hazardous blast valves

  • The air intake lower level (dust collectors-- this turned out to be flooded with NASTY muck)

  • Launcher Silo #3 - blocked by a partially flooded tunnel

Lowry 724-C, 2002: A closer look at the 12" braided stainless steel reinforced flexible connection to the raw water tank.  This gap in the floor has become somewhat of a waste disposal area for visitors over the decades.  You can see an empty can of Coleman's lamp oil at the lower right, no doubt used to light someone's way many years ago.


I set about trying to cover every location on my list, observing and photographing (however poorly) as I went.  It was while I was poking about in a fairly mundane area that I discovered something rather surprising.


Lowry 724-C, 2002:  Looking closer at the tank itself, all the valuable valves have been removed.  I can tell you with confidence that a 12" valve is indeed an expensive piece of plumbing hardware.  Even used it probably fetched a good price.


I was peering underneath the deck plating in TJ #10 near the large raw water conduit leading to the tank and spied the only living thing I would ever find in the site.  A lone salamander.


I don't know if it was a recent arrival, having crept in somewhere, or if it had been born there, but I couldn't help wondering what it had been eating if the latter was the case.  Perhaps algae or insects in the water...


Though difficult to see in this photo, there is the yellow-spotted black body of a salamander next to the old shoe near the center of the frame.  I was sure he must be dead, but the next time I looked the little bugger* was gone!


* For the benefit of those in the UK and elsewhere in the world where the words "little bugger" would suggest a naughty sexual act, let me clarify that its usage in the USA suggests in stark contrast, a cute or endearing quality to its referent, and is not at all obscene.  It is very much like saying "cute little fellow" in the American context.


An amusing and embarrassing anecdote was related to me by my cousin who was in the USAF and stationed in Great Britain where he later married, made the UK his home and raised a family.


It was early on during his stint in the country when despite the similarities between our two nations, he became the victim of cultural diversity in an unwitting faux pas.


It happened when he was courting his wife to be and struggling to ingratiate himself to her disapproving relatives who were unimpressed with the prospect of her marrying a "Yank".  They were at a park on a warm sunny day, perhaps celebrating a birthday or some other family function.  Everyone was cheerful and enjoying the pleasant afternoon as the children were running about and playing on the lawn when he casually remarked (To his deep regret he would find) that one of her young nephews was "a cute little bugger".  


A silence followed during which the eyebrows of all within earshot seemed to elevate as if by mechanical means to a height about 1m above their heads.  Confused and mortified by the shocked glares suddenly falling upon him, he had no idea what  transgression he was guilty of until it was quietly explained to him by his girlfriend.  He meekly did his best to explain that what he really had intended to convey was a offhand compliment and not an offensive and obscene insult.  He must have redeemed himself at some point as her parents later gave their blessing for the marriage.  


Lowry 724-C, 2002: There amongst the rust and contaminants, Tad goes about his day 65 feet below ground in total darkness.  I cannot imagine how such an animal could survive in such an environment, much less grow to adulthood, but regardless THERE HE IS.  


He was gone in a flash but I will never forget the little critter, so unexpected was his appearance.  Henceforth and ever after he shall be known to me as Tad* (and arbitrarily assigned male pronouns by myself).  Long live Tad and may he sire many silo-dwelling offspring to carry out his good name!


*Full name: Sir Tad Nubbins of Moistershire


Lowry 724-C, 2002:  More of the underworld just below the surface revealing a tangle of pipes and beams.  There's a lot of space down there but moving around down there would be uncomfortable and difficult at best.


The great surprises of the main tunnel junction appear to have been largely exhausted, but who knows what else may be hiding down there beneath the steel floors?


Lowry 724-C, 2002:  The 12" outlet line (Aka: Firewater, since it provided fire suppression to the launcher silos) heading off in the direction of the launcher tunnels.


This concludes this first look into the veritable foyer to the underground Titan I complex.  The entire site stretches out from here in all directions and where to go next is completely up to you.


From here you can go back to the Portal, to the Power House, the Control Center, the Antenna Tunnels or the Launcher tunnels or choose a different location from the handy regional map below.


Current Location: Main Tunnel Junction (TJ #10) Part IV

Power House Control Center Fuel Entry Portal Power House Air Intake Power House Air Exhaust Main Tunnel Jucntion Main Map To Antenna Tunnel To Blast Lock #2

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