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Union Station Tunnels Intact

Metro Jacksonville has confirmed that the passenger tunnels at Union Station, thought to be filled in years ago, are still intact. These tunnels were built to bring passengers safely under the platforms to board trains on far tracks.

Published January 14, 2008 in History      44 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

JTA and the Florida Department of Transportation insist that these tunnels have been filled in, but they have not. The entrance points of the tunnels are blocked with debri, but the entire length of the tunnels remains intact.



The transportation center that is currently being planned by JTA and FDOT calls for pedestian overpasses to be built above the tracks. In order to be ADA compliant, these overpasses would likely need to include elevators for each platform. The tunnel system currently in place uses ramps to bring passengers up to each platform.

One end of the tunnel has been covered over with debri. A small backhoe could have this cleared and the tunnel reopened in minutes.

Inside the tunnel:

Each platform has its own ramp that connects with the main tunnel which then leads to the main building.

Currently, the tunnels are filled with four feet of water.

The platforms can still be seen to this day, complete with a yellow line to remain behind. The tall plants on the left are growing in dirt that was used to block a ramp entrance to the tunnel system.

Take advantage of what we already have. Are our paid professionals making plans without even bothering with a simple site visit?








44 Comments

thelakelander

January 14, 2008, 06:14:10 AM
Amazing work guys!  If plans are developed as they are currently drawn up, the tunnels would have to destroyed for new track that would have to be low enough to get trains under the new Park Street viaduct.

Charles Hunter

January 14, 2008, 06:41:12 AM
Won't the track still have to be lowered to get under the Park Street viaduct?
From the first picture, it looks like the tunnels are (at least the tops) are above the current track level.
I am confused.

second_pancake

January 14, 2008, 08:18:51 AM
This has to be one of the coolest things I've ever seen about our city.  I had absolutely no idea the magnitude of what is pre-existing when you guys talked about it earlier, but the pictures speak volumes.  This is absolutely amazing!  I certainly hope some convincing can be done to at least get somebody out there to look at what you've posted here.  Surely someone will see the potential that we do.

downtownparks

January 14, 2008, 09:14:33 AM
This is an actual news story. Awesome!!!

Ocklawaha

January 14, 2008, 11:13:46 AM
The Tunnels have been there since 1919. They are awesome, and just as I remember, although LARGER then I recalled. My sidekick Chris, and I got cleared to go in the area on Friday. Those who were at the FDOT TC meeting know that I locked horns with a NY planner who assured the crowd that "there are NO TUNNELS".

BULL SHIT!

So on a overcast Sunday, we went out with camera in hand, and tools, and parked in the Alley South of the Myrtle Avenue underpass. Terri our favorite homeless gal, and "Special" the dog, came along to help. When I had walked the ground with Folio's Ms: Stuart, we had discovered a tiny opening in the debris dumped in the tunnel entrance. Chris and I thought we COULD move enough "junk" and dirt to scoot inside. (sort of like trying to stuff Shamu in a phone booth x 2) My cave exploring hobby served me well.

We dropped in on one of the ramps, while it was cool, it wasn't the access I needed to prove we still have some VERY EXPENSIVE tunnels. BTW, the proper name for the tunnels in the old terminal was the JACKSONVILLE TERMINAL SUBWAY, or pedestrian Subway. We discovered that the ramp tunnel was full of crystal clear water, but couldn't tell how deep until the old hippie dove in, feet first. Not too deep, only about
3 feet on the deepest end. We were of course covered in mud by the time we got through the hole in the entry. We also followed the Cave Explorers motto, "Leave NOTHING but footprints, Take nothing but Photographs..."

The way the tunnel system worked, is from the glass doors at the South Entry to the Prime Osbourne Center, the center of that great iron covered patio once dropped down grade. Little walls surrounded the whole affair to make sure no one on the upper level fell into the pit. Sidewalks also went on either side of the down ramp. A stainless steel(?) railing ran down the center to direct the heavy foot traffic. It would have met current ADA standards for wheel chairs or bags with wheels. The ramp started with a few inches of those doors and ran SOUTH. The width was from about the middle of the second set of doors on the right, to the middle of the second set of doors on the left. So there was plenty of room to go left or right or down. From the main concourse, the arched gate-ramps went up to track platforms. Between every two tracks was a gate, ramp and platform.

On reaching the Subway level, the ceiling was high, every little while there was a huge, raised part in the ceiling. Little metal signs advertising the various trains hung on the wall, and special sign hangers stuck out from the walls at each gate - ramp to show which train was above. Oddly, those old hooks are still on the wall and so are at least one of the hangers. We had to exit our first hole, and create another on a different ramp, to reach the main tunnels. No problem... at least nothing a box of Tide and bottle of Clorox won't fix. The main Subway is flooded with about four feet of water. Otherwise, the walls are clean, even many of the light fixtures are in place and the ceiling still sparkles in places.

So there we were, feeling our way about in the deep underground pool, taking photos with my 35 mm, and finally reached the end of our access. We made our way back to the "Hobbit Hole" and clawed our way up and out with the aid of a good climbers rope. As we pop out of the ground your trusty MetroJacksonville reporter was standing at the fence taking photos of the old platforms... WTF??? WTF??? Who are you? What are..??? Holy Shit! Bob? Chris?

Yeah, it's us...

About that time the security guards reached the Terminal side of the fence, "What are YOU doing here," he wanted to know of the MetroJacksonville Camera man. Through my dirt smeared eyes, on the other side of the fence, I said, "He's with me..." The guard looked at me like I was crazy and said, "WHO ARE YOU?" Then he thought a minute and said... Mr. XXXX?  Yes, that's me. Oh I didn't know he was with you. Well it was all okay, the guard joined the party and let our reporter through the gate and even took a few looks into the holes.

About dark, we broke it up, The kind hearted guard took us to a hose to clean up... It was COLD! Then he want and gathered trash bags to cover our car seats, and next gave us a ride to a distant gate. When we crossed the tracks, Terri was walking out with Special to check on us. She ran up giving us a hug and saying she hadn't seen us come out and was scared that something happened to us. We bid her farewell, and promised to check on her in a few days.

Thanks to:

TERRI (that needs a job and a home)
SPECIAL (the wonder dog)
SECURITY (the kind Prime Osbourne Security crew)
MJ (for being brave enough to dive into the hobbit hole)
CHRIS (for digging a couple of nice holes in the ground... and seeing the gators, boogie men, giant spiders, snakes and mutant humans...{give him a break, he's from Valdosta})

Could the tunnels be used again? Could they be rebuilt to serve Amtrak and Commuter rail? How long would it take to work out a solution?

YES
YES
and about
5 Minutes...


Ocklawaha

lynnegh

January 14, 2008, 12:04:16 PM
Greetings from a newbie - will post CV later.

I will not be the least bit surprised if JTA/some other body doesn't quick like a bunny rabbit get out there with a truckload or two of fill-dirt, so those beautiful and potentially very useful tunnels will BE filled in.  It would be typical of the backwards-thinking moronic behavior of our local government.  They will no doubt cite "safety concerns" as the reason for doing so.  Odd how they've not been a hazard all these years, isn't it?  Or did you come across a collection of skeletal remains that you didn't happen to mention?  ;)

Webini

January 14, 2008, 12:06:07 PM
Wow.  Why can't MetroJacksonville's staff go work for the city? ;D

downtownparks

January 14, 2008, 02:00:49 PM
Im telling you The Urban Core for mayor!!! Come on Tony, you know you want to do it!!!

thelakelander

January 14, 2008, 02:18:57 PM
Won't the track still have to be lowered to get under the Park Street viaduct?
From the first picture, it looks like the tunnels are (at least the tops) are above the current track level.
I am confused.



With the current plan, I believe either the old tunnels will have to be removed or the Park Street viaduct will need to be rebuilt to allow trains to pass under it like the old one did.

Ocklawaha

January 14, 2008, 04:51:22 PM
Plan "B" is always in the wings. The lower tracks out by and including the current FEC are at the tunnel mouth (one they created when they cut into it) add platform and one or two more tracks South of FEC and there is room for Amtrak now.

Then stub the upper level tracks, Skyway etc. at the viaduct. They'd still have room for commuter rail, light rail, Skyway, or for shorter Amtrak Trains or "Sections" of trains and the tunnels COULD BE USED again.


Ocklawaha

lindab

January 14, 2008, 04:56:22 PM
You guys are fantastic! The sense of adventure still is burning for you. It would be the greatest thing for this city to see the old train station come back. I was always thrilled to go through those tunnels out to the tracks to see the Silver Meteor bringing my grandmother. If that station is restored, it will be a blowout party for the whole town.

JeffreyS

January 14, 2008, 05:01:40 PM
The tunnels look great but I like the Idea of bringing the skyway around back for the cross platform transfer.

thelakelander

January 14, 2008, 05:06:58 PM
Plan "B" is always in the wings. The lower tracks out by and including the current FEC are at the tunnel mouth (one they created when they cut into it) add platform and one or two more tracks South of FEC and there is room for Amtrak now.

Then stub the upper level tracks, Skyway etc. at the viaduct. They'd still have room for commuter rail, light rail, Skyway, or for shorter Amtrak Trains or "Sections" of trains and the tunnels COULD BE USED again.


Ocklawaha

Plan B sounds doable and would be cheaper than adding a series of elevated walkways and elevators to make them ADA compliant.

Ocklawaha

January 14, 2008, 07:26:25 PM
Tunnels, Rebuilt... A concept of Plan B



Ocklawaha

JeffreyS

January 14, 2008, 07:40:00 PM
It really is just to cool not to do.  If you can bring the skyway right up to the platforms. Where do the Greyhounds and city buses fit in.  Even if we still have to battle for commuter rail putting everything we do have  in conjunction would give us something that finally makes some sense.

Charles Hunter

January 14, 2008, 09:53:55 PM
Ahh, I see, thanks, Ock.
You gonna share this at the Transportation meeting with Councilwoman Johnson?

9a is my backyard

January 15, 2008, 03:18:18 PM
Quote
Currently, the tunnels are filled with four feet of water.

Any idea on how long the tunnels have been blocked?  I agree, it makes way more sense to use what's already there (Budget cuts? What budget cuts??) but four feet of water over time could do some damage.  Or at least provide enough of an excuse for JTA and FDOT to avoid using them.  At least they look like they're still in good shape.

thelakelander

January 15, 2008, 03:31:46 PM
At least 20, probably 30 years?

Jason

January 16, 2008, 09:15:45 AM
What sort of effects would dead-heading the commuter tracks do to the travel times of these trains?  I would think having to pass the station to transfer to a platform track and then backing up for loading and unloading would add a good bit of time.

Ocklawaha

January 16, 2008, 11:19:26 AM
Jason, the Commuter Tracks being Stub won't effect a thing. The Amtrak side being through tracks, won't either. Amtrak trains bound for Orlando, New Orleans or New York will still have to run the rebuilt WYE at the "A" line. Then they will back into the terminal as they did in the old days. Total time, maybe 5 minutes.

Commuter trains based on RDC cars or double ended DMU's, have a cab in either end, thus, they CAN simply head in to a stub track, walk to the other end of the train and head out. No switching needed.

Trains such as the Palmetto, New York-Savannah (which SHOULD be terminating in Jax) could wye out and back in or just head in and after it's unloaded, go out to the wye and back it in to ready it for leaving the following morning for New York.

Hope this helps with your questions.

BTW "Deadhead" is a universal transportation term that means a crew member is off the clock and rides to work or home in a spare seat. For example you could live in St. Augustine, and deadhead with Skybus to your home base in Columbus, Ohio, where you start your work day. Railroad and Bus crews often deadhead to various terminals or home to get to and from work.


Ocklawaha

Jason

January 16, 2008, 01:40:52 PM
Thanks for the info, Ock.

Do you think adding 5 minutes to each commuter trip would be palatable by the riders?

Ocklawaha

January 16, 2008, 05:41:11 PM
Well it would be if they were on the Amtrak trains, otherwise, they would just pull straight in and straight out of the stub tracks without need to turn the train around. RDC cars are DOUBLE-ENDED and have a control cab at each end.

Sorry for the delay in the answer Jason, I was playing "Meet the press" down at Union Terminal. Folio says this is a story of mystery and intrigue, wonder and why? I'm glad to have them aboard, hope JTA doesn't poison their punch, because this little gal KNOWS the truth, and won't be fooled...

Ocklawaha

Lunican

January 16, 2008, 05:43:52 PM
Amtrak trains are currently refueled in Jacksonville so they are in the station for about 30 minutes.

thelakelander

January 16, 2008, 06:33:11 PM
Well it would be if they were on the Amtrak trains, otherwise, they would just pull straight in and straight out of the stub tracks without need to turn the train around. RDC cars are DOUBLE-ENDED and have a control cab at each end.

Sorry for the delay in the answer Jason, I was playing "Meet the press" down at Union Terminal. Folio says this is a story of mystery and intrigue, wonder and why? I'm glad to have them aboard, hope JTA doesn't poison their punch, because this little gal KNOWS the truth, and won't be fooled...

Ocklawaha

She's definately doing her homework.  I spoke with her today for about an hour and tomorrow I'm going to meet them at the Union Terminal and supply them with the JTA RTS/BRT reports I have.

Coolyfett

January 23, 2008, 11:20:56 PM
WOOOOOWWW!!! I thought I was one of the only people interested in this sort of thing. I LOVE GOOGLE!!! Man how long has this site been up???? Anyhow I have jump the fences of the convention center a few months ago to see if tracks were still there, after learning the POCC was once a train terminal. I saw 2 set of tracks, the same tracks in your photo. I can see I am going to be a regular on this site due to my addiction to the history and progression of Jax....WOW

Im Cooly by the way nice to meet everyone.

Timkin

January 26, 2008, 02:20:51 PM


These tunnels are so cool.  I cant understand why they were buried in the first place. Were they ever used??

Charles Hunter

January 26, 2008, 03:53:27 PM
Ocklawaha can give more info (and I think does in his story on the main MJ page), but they were used extensively when Union Terminal was an active train station.  They allowed passengers to get to remote platforms without having to cross train tracks.

Timkin

January 26, 2008, 09:47:12 PM
I never knew they existed.  They should be put into use.

leahfu

August 31, 2008, 05:27:04 PM
The amazing past of our City. It makes me think of reasons why this isnt such a great tourist town but how it COULD be. Historical things like this shouldnt be forgotten and just filled up. I'm really happy to have been able to view your pictures. I wish I could do this.

Coolyfett

August 31, 2008, 09:58:49 PM
WOOOOOWWW!!! I thought I was one of the only people interested in this sort of thing. I LOVE GOOGLE!!! Man how long has this site been up???? Anyhow I have jump the fences of the convention center a few months ago to see if tracks were still there, after learning the POCC was once a train terminal. I saw 2 set of tracks, the same tracks in your photo. I can see I am going to be a regular on this site due to my addiction to the history and progression of Jax....WOW

Im Cooly by the way nice to meet everyone.


aww 1 of my very first post on here! Thanks for the bump!

Ocklawaha

August 31, 2008, 10:32:47 PM
The Tunnels called the "Pedestrian Subway's" were open as a part of the new and larger Head House Station, (the one with the 14 pillars), in 1919.

They served all of the railroad of Florida and the citizens of the City until Amtrak pulled out in 1974 for the AMSHACK in the NW side... You know, the station known nationally as "under a highway overpass, next door to a junk yard and no where near downtown."

The tunnel system sat empty slowly filling with rain water, running down the concourse ramps, until construction started on the convention center. Then they filled the entrys with debris and paved over them on the Convention Center Side. On the Railroad side, access was still possible until the great idea of the new Park/Lee Viaduct..."This would center our downtown view on the grand entry of our convention center-former railroad station."

So we tore down the old viaduct, as it partly blocked the entry view, something that by itself was not a bad idea for cosmetic reasons. The STUPID entered the picture when the new viaduct was built too low to clear any but FEC's two access tracks. Thus a bridge that should vault over 10 tracks, suddenly got short!

Have no fear, Jacksonville leadership is at work, they have calculated that since they had to lower the FEC about 10' to clear the new bridge, when we open the station as a train station again, we'll just lower all 10 tracks... STUPID? YOU BET! No one bothered to check the historical record of this land, which was once McCoys Creek MARSH! In a tropical storm of about 1900, the older depot (the one that burned and a slight piece remains on Bay Street) suffered terrible damage. Water covered the yards, entered the building and rail cars up to two feet deep in the car floors... It also blew down all of the great train shed that once covered all tracks.

When I tried to explain this to our Lords and Ladies, they said, "Oh don't worry, we'll put the new tracks in a waterproof tub - with FLOOD GATES!"  Do the math, 10 tracks in a concrete tub, which includes tearing out all of the tunnels + floodgates... or, we simply re-rebuild the damn little bridge - miaybe this time WITH streetcar tracks in it.

REopen the old tunnels, and extend them under the great vestibule between the station and the convention space, under Bay street and come up at the new Transit Center. Other ramps take folks into the depot itself.
How easy is that? Cut and cover...

AAAARRRRUGH! BOHICA JACKSONVILLE!


OCKLAWAHA

Charles Hunter

September 01, 2008, 01:07:51 PM
Quote
we simply re-rebuild the damn little bridge - miaybe this time WITH streetcar tracks in it.

But, Ock ... that will mess up the view of the front of the Terminal from .... somewhere!  We can't have something that makes transportation sense if it messes up The View.  With the ramps from the Acosta at Broad and Jefferson - the view of the columns is unobstructed from the Federal Reserve - just a couple blocks from the CC/UT

Ocklawaha

September 01, 2008, 01:23:46 PM
Sorry Charles, got carried away with myself... you understand, a momentary minute of thought. A phenomenon unknown in Jacksonville City Hall and Planning Departments. I bet if they would have asked Amtrak, USDOT or even JTA about the future impact of the dumb new bridge it would have been done very differently. Oh my bad! They probably did ask, but then it was just going to be a convention center so how could JTA or Amtrak have answered THAT question correctly?

I hope someone at FDOT looks up the tropical storm that wrecked the old station and forces the State and City to come to their senses, as if?


OCKLAWAHA

Ocklawaha

September 01, 2008, 01:34:27 PM
WHY I AM THROWING A FIT OVER REMOVAL OF THE TUNNELS AND FILL OVER THEM....

Meet Jacksonville Terminal POST TROPICAL STORM, and Pre-tunnels or landfill, circa 1895.


A rare, rare view of the 1890's terminal, after a MINOR tropical storm. In the distance you can see the great train shed over the passenger tracks, so this view is from about Riverside Avenue looking West. The next big one flooded all of it again and blew away the great shed. Don't worry, FDOT wants to remove the land fill, put the tracks at water level, and build a big elevated walkway to the trains... WHY? History they say, we don't want to mess with the stations history. Uh hu?


All tracks closed by water hyacinths over the yard. Would you want to board Amtrak here? FDOT thinks so!

Now read the article on Amtrak expansion in the http://jacksonvilletransit.blogspot.com/ and see how we are being shafted, and you'll REALLY get your panties in a bunch.


OCKLAWAHA

Timkin

July 29, 2010, 11:33:44 PM
Lake... I am reading what you state, and I think I understand the message....

To me, Ock knows the most about all of this ......If they refuse to listen to him...Why would they listen to me?

TRUST ME.....I want to help.. I want to see the Train Terminal put back in use, and by all means these tunnels utilized....

 I certainly hope no one gets the lame-brain idea to demolish these tunnels, just to prevent them from ever being put back into use.. What a huge waste that would be!

ricker

December 29, 2010, 04:30:05 AM
OWOW I've only recently heard of any of this! Ped subways etc
I have read other threads regarding transit plans but where do these magnificent tunnels fit into the latest plan to restore service to Jacksonville Terminal?

I have a meeting in January and would love to not seem  a fool.

input

five alive
input

BackinJax05

May 23, 2012, 03:11:40 AM
Back in 83, long before the convention center opened, and Jacksonville Terminal was still abandoned, my dad & I walked around & saw the tunnels. At that time they were still "open". I wanted to go down the ramp for a better look, but there was a homeless camp in the tunnel. Common sense told me to stay away.

Ocklawaha

May 30, 2012, 10:27:22 PM
Back in 83, long before the convention center opened, and Jacksonville Terminal was still abandoned, my dad & I walked around & saw the tunnels. At that time they were still "open". I wanted to go down the ramp for a better look, but there was a homeless camp in the tunnel. Common sense told me to stay away.

Kind of funny really, because the day that Sasquatch and I broke back into these tunnels, the folks that assisted us in the deed were the Bo's from the nearby 'Hobo Jungle.' After the fact they even invited us over to their 'house' under the I-95 bridge. The Railroad Bull's knew these folks were on the property but left them alone because they served as unofficial guardians of the site, contesting anyone that wanted to get into the danger zones around the track. Terri and her dog 'Special' went along on our tour. Lunican walked up to the fence on the Convention Center side just as my head popped out of the ground, wet and pretty muddy...  "Is that you Bob?" "Yep, come on down!"

Of course some at FDOT still claim the tunnels are 'gone'. Someone else at FDOT told a story that somehow caught press that 'the old BAGGAGE tunnels' were still in place. What happened next is a typical cluster F**K! JTA'S senior planner apparently sat down with Amtrak and they designed the station with 'functional BAGGAGE tunnels.' Guess that means they would have to move the columns for their overhead concourse a few feet to the east. Hey, this way we can pay for TWO complete sets of concourses! JTA? FDOT? Everyone has a right to be stupid; some people just abuse the privilege.

BackinJax05

May 31, 2012, 12:18:55 AM
Yeah, the hobos probably would have been cool. The reason we didnt enter the tunnels was mainly because that was "their" property. I wouldnt want someone trespassing at my house. Common courtesy & respect, you know.
Still, those tunnels were awesome. Removing them would destroy a great part of that old station. When I "found" them at 16 I thought I'd made a great discovery, like finding Atlantis or something.

OldBikerTom

August 17, 2012, 11:37:20 AM
  I'm a retired Jacksonville police officer. I'm estimating around 1976 we used to explore the old station, still completely intact. The tunnels were about half full of water at this time. You could walk about 30 feet down the ramp before reaching the water. At this point you were below ground level. We would toss anything that would float in the water and target practice would begin. What a great place, perfectly safe and no sound escaped.

BackinJax05

August 18, 2012, 12:30:17 AM
^Hope you wore ear protection  :o

JaxJag

August 18, 2012, 01:17:49 AM
You guys need your own tv show! not like the news but an actual show..(probably already thought of but)updating jax on bills, meetings, elections, polls, historical findings like this etc. and getting things this important to a wider audience therefore getting a larger uprise for the better of the city. i think if people werent so ill informed there would be a much different city.  Idk just a thought.;D

jtwestside

August 18, 2012, 11:48:49 AM
^Hope you wore ear protection  :o

HUH?

SPEAK UP FOR CHRIST SAKES!

BackinJax05

August 18, 2012, 02:01:06 PM
^Hope you wore ear protection  :o

HUH?

SPEAK UP FOR CHRIST SAKES!

ROFLMAO!
When I go to the range I use ear muffs and the little foam inserts. Even with all that my ears still ring afterward. I know this forum is about the Jacksonville Terminal tunnels, but I will give up my gun when they take it from my dead body.

Perhaps we could shoot the water out of the tunnels :D
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