Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Under the City

Above, path of the 8th Street Tunnel.... built in 1887-1888 and closed in 1956. It was a cable car route from the middle of Eighth Street down to Union Depot in the beginning. Below the entrance on Eighth Street. Close to where the Needle Sculpture is now. (Top image courtesy of Wikimapia)
UPDATE: There were actually two tunnels. The original tunnel which is shown in the pictures below was too steep a grade and the railway cars kept breaking away... (not good)... so a second tunnel with a lesser grade was bored through the rock. 1st tunnel entrance/exit was about where the needle sculpture is now... second tunnel entrance/exit was approximately where the fountain is now... both on Eighth street.
Below.... looking east on Eighth.... tunnel entrance in lower center. The tunnel had two tracks for going and coming.
There is an awesome post on the Underground Ozarks blog about the discovery and building of the tunnel.... http://www.undergroundozarks.com/8thstreetkcs.html
The west entrance into the bluffs.... 250,000 pounds of dynamite had to be used to blast through the solid rock
Above.... the trestle heading into the West entrance. Below... same trestle from above... this would be the approximate view from Case Park today.
A portion of the tunnel was preserved by the thoughtful folks at State Street... who realized a need to preserve a part of KC history. My Nephew Johnathan, who is a manager at State Street, let me know about a tour of the remaining tunnel and I was only too happy to head over there. Above is the modern entry to the tunnel.... most of the brickwork of which the tunnel is constructed is still there.... note the tunnel arch around the doorway in the pix below.

Above.... looking through the entrance to the tunnel. State Street built a walkway out into the tunnel to make for a safe trip... they also illuminated the tunnel with modern lights....
Just inside the doorway our guide talked about the construction and showed pamphlets and STAR articles about the re-discovery.
Concrete supported the double tracks... above.... below... a lot of the old wiring is still there.

Above.... rusted brackets..... below... the tunnel was 800 feet long and 23 feet tall.

Above.... looking back toward the entrance State Street installed. This is located in their parking garage but there is no entry allowed unless it's part of a tour.. The entrance is totally blocked off with fencing and doors the rest of the time.
Golden oldie light bulb.

Most of the original wooden components have rotted away...
Above, the ceiling... brick all-round.

Occasionally workmen had to enter the tunnel for routine maintenance. If, while they were working, a car was coming up or down the tracks the worker could duck into one of many recesses in the wall until the car was safely passed.
Concrete has filled much of the tunnel.... don't know why.

Above....another safety recess....
Looking back to the entrance.

It was a cool visit... literally... dank and humid describes it... with a musty odor... Thank heavens a bit of the 8th Street Tunnel has been preserved.

P.S. Anonymous commenter is correct.... if you go to the end of the smooth concrete there is drop off. Down from there (ladder required... wasn't on our tour)... there is another tunnel.... part of the same complex...


  1. awesome.
    with a camera in hand,
    you sure do get around,
    one day you climb up a bridge,
    next day you are undergound.

  2. Cool stuff! I have a group of people who would love to check it out!

    Who could I contact for a tour?

  3. I don't know if they are still doing it.... but I would contact State Street Public Relations Department......

  4. You didn't mention the other tunnel.....

    There may be a few tours in the early afternoon on Thursday, 4/22. The tours are open to the public, but not publicized, and only happen a few times a year. Contact me if you want to know more... joneser005 at yah0o dot c0m

  5. Thanks joneser005... for the infor.... a lot of folks will be interested to know that!!!

  6. What a nice documentary series.

  7. Thanks, David, for such an informative blog. I loved it and am going to contact Joneser005 to join Thursday's tour!

  8. Fascinating! My grandpa was hit by a streetcar in the mid 40s and died a week later(he was a firefighter riding on the the side of the firetruck and was hit near 9th and Harrison) Whenever I tell folks this bit, they are always like "Streetcars? Kansas City had streetcars?". Sigh.

  9. You're right Cagey. KC had extensive light rail back in the day... many of the tracks are still under the asphalt. There really is not much new under the sun :)

  10. As a life ling Kansas City resident I have wondered for years if the tunnel was still accessible, it looks like I have just found the answer.

    If you have a name of someone I might contact for information on availability to join a tour (State Street security tells me it is for employees only, and wasn't willing to offer anything beyond that), I would truly appreciate a private message with details.

  11. Simply restore usage mass transit,city forgotten tunnel? Highly unlikely another ghost tunnel and stations aware Cincinnati has subway which never open and torn down early St.Louis elevated system interesting. Make DVDS of tunnel and book soon,great job finding lost tunnel.