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York University Steam Tunnels
York University

Daily, thousands of students walk overhead, blissfully unaware of the concrete gem that lies below their feet. Weaving across the university campus and separated into a north and south system rumoured to be linked, the York University tunnels sit, waiting for a bold explorer to come and run them.

Location attributes for York University Steam Tunnels
Location   Toronto, Ontario
Built :: Closed   Unknown :: N/A
Status   Active
Difficulty   ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Hazards Risk   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Security Risk   ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
AUE Rating   ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The York steam tunnels were quite a surprise for me, having cut my teeth underground in the University of Toronto tunnels. There, the tunnels range from old and crumbling to brand new, spacious to cramped and backbreaking, and well lit to pitch black. The York tunnels, other than sharing the lighting characteristics, generally are the same throughout... tall with a fair amount of walking room in them. There are some deviations from this, of course, but nothing like U of T where the tunnels seem to change every 50 feet.

In most of the tunnels, one wall carries racks of steam pipes while the other side carries trays of cables, with a walkway in between. Every so often there are emergency escape ladders, and there are junctions where the floor suddenly turns to a metal grate suspended above sump pits. It's something I've never seen in a tunnel before.

During the exploration, I was shown the pools at the Tait McKenzie Centre, complete with windows from the mechanical room connected to the tunnels looking out into the pool... underwater. Some experimentation proved that the windows were unidirectional, so it was determined that no one in the Centre could see us down there. It was quite unique and something I doubt I'll see again... random underwater viewing windows.

On the way back out from the Centre, though, disaster struck. My guide and I turned a corner, to see the light of a flashlight bouncing off the tunnel further ahead, then a silhouette rounding the corner with the light. I don't know if it was security or someone else, but we took no chances and bailed. Let that be a warning for others exploring this system... they may be monitored and patrolled.

Further attempts to re-enter the system and continue exploring elsewhere were met with failure, and so the point was conceded and we finished for the day, but rest assured... I'll be back, York.

Head Towards The Light? - March 2010 (Non-Public Content)

Only if you're 100% sure that the light is safe and not a flashlight, followed by a silhouette, coming your direction. I didn't stick around to find out whether the person was another explorer... or security.

Don't Eat The Blue Ones - April 2011 (Non-Public Content)

Two brave soldiers sacrificed themselves for these photos - the EW-83H hood is gonna pull through surgery with battle scars, but the 190XPRO tripod sustained fatal injuries in her tour of duty.

Replacing the tripod won't be fun for the wallet, but it was worth it for the photos.

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