Long-Buried Tunnel Revealed

 

Tunnel entrance looking back toward Madame Brett trail

MetroNorth has wasted no time in  unearthing an old passage under the Beacon Line railroad tracks. As reported here not long ago, railroad engineers, city officials, and representatives from Scenic Hudson went to reconfirm the tunnel’s existence in December of 2011. Long-time Beacon resident David Miller, 84, led the expedition. Over ten years earlier, Miller had been building the Madame Brett trail when a Cornell engineer working on the project looked at an aerial map and surmised there must have been such a passage. David confirmed that he would use the tunnel as a short-cut from his house on Tioranda Avenue to the swimming spots on Denning’s Point. According to David, the passage was originally built for small mining cars hauling clay from the claypits (now a sealed-over city dump south of the water treatment plant) to the brickworks on the other side of the Beacon Line tracks.

Now that the tunnel has been partially revealed, it’s apparent it will need further buttressing . Years ago, General Motors had the railroad and the State raise a number of bridges along the Hudson Line in order to expand freight capacity at its Tarrytown Plant from two layers of vehicles to three. In order to do that, tracks had to be regraded from quite a distance back–you can see the extra height and support added to a similar tunnel leading into Madam Brett Park a half mile or so down the line.  There were at least two tunnels, however, that were no longer serving any purpose, and these were apparently simply packed with fill rather than built up to meet the new track grade. The engineering involved with filling in the gap at the unearthed tunnel is fairly straightforward, but cost may be an issue. The last time around, MetroNorth said it would take a half a million dollars to dig through and rebuttress the passage.

 

*Note that we have not determined if the work mentioned in this NYT article was ever actually completed. However, the article, without mentioning specifics, says various bridges were raised in the past, also at the behest of General Motors. We hope to soon have a clearer timeline of when the work on the Beacon Line was done. Meanwhile, the old plant site is now creating trouble in Sleepy Hollow, a town formerly known as North Tarrytown until it changed names after the plant closed in an effort to reinvent itself.

 

 

 

The tunnel under the Beacon Line. In the background is the Beacon Line's bridge over the MetroNorth Tracks, and further to the right (north) is the pedestrian/vehicle bridge to Denning's Point.

 

A view from the track, looking back toward the Madame Brett trail. The tunnel would allow the trail to go under the Beacon Line, skirt the old landfill, then cross the Denning's Point bridge to link up with the Klara Sauer Trail.

 

A close-up of the digging so far.

 

 

4 Responses to Long-Buried Tunnel Revealed
  1. Ben Royce
    February 4, 2012 | 6:10 pm

    Thank you David Miller and your childhood memories and thank you Mark for getting this amazing news out!

  2. John Fasulo
    February 5, 2012 | 11:57 am

    Now that this “tunnel” has been revealed, I have some fear for its future. Why? Well, as far as bridges and tunnels go, the cities history at there preservation isn’t stellar. Exhibit #1 The Tioronda Bow String Truss Bridge. Being on the National Register of Historic Places didn’t stop the city from tearing it down. The present “find” has great potential
    for linking Dennings Point with trails on the east side of the Metro North right-of-way.
    There is another structure long forgotten by most. I hesitate to bring it up for obvious reasons. It is the bridge crossing the creek from Beacon to what was Groveille Mills. Last year I brought the brdge to the attention of Scenic Hudson. With long-term plans for creek side access, this small,neglected bridge is a gem in the rough and needs to be protected and restored. Maybe what we need to think about is a comittee of residents made up of individuals from the historical society, the sloop club, Mt Beacon incline group and the fire tower restoration group; who would be “watchdogs” over our historic treasures; some possibly still waiting to be uearthed.
    (I have some photos of the Bridge Street crssing and will post a few shortly.

    • admin
      February 5, 2012 | 9:22 pm

      You’re right about the Tioronda Bridge. Every time I pass by its rusting hulk, 50 feet from the metal scrap dumpster at the recycling plant, I cringe. I think the tunnel in question is less problematic, and just needs some straightforward shoring up to be operational again.

  3. Steve Knowles
    March 8, 2012 | 7:09 pm

    I was walking the tracks on Tuesday and came across Metro North workers in the area of the “mystery tunnel”. They were completing repairs to the damage caused by attempting to excavate the old tunnel. I spoke with one of the people and the tunnel had no roof, so when they excavated the tunnel, the tracks almost collapsed. So that tunnel appears to be of no use in linking the Madam Brett trail to the road leading back to the recycling center, which would allow connection to the riverfront trail (on the other side of the bridge). I also spoke with a worker about the condition of the tracks, and when they were last actually used by a train. He said the rails are in good shape, but the ties are really bad. The ties on the bridge are rotting with huge voids. He thought it had been 20 years since a train had used the tracks. Unless Metro North is getting some kind of tax break for keeping the tracks, it seems a rail trail would be the best, and cheapest, option for future use.

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