World's largest tunnel boring machine lands in Seattle


48 Responses to “World's largest tunnel boring machine lands in Seattle”

  1. Jonathan Badger says:

    So, in other words, it isn’t a boring machine?

  2. dave3 says:

    What if you just point it straight down and let it go?

    • GawainLavers says:


    • Nash Rambler says:

      Throwing out the non-dramatic elements like Mole-People, Morlocks, Sleestaks and CHUDS; disregarding dull engineering questions such as retrofitting all the earth removing equipment for pulling loose earth straight up and providing energy and support to the boring machine, I’m guessing it would get between 5 or 10 miles down before important stuff starting melting and/or catching on fire.  Stupid upper mantle.

      I like the China answer better though.

      • petz79 says:

        Shouldn’t it stop at the center of the Earth, which is also the gravitational center? Going further would require going up again.

        • Nash Rambler says:

          I think the center of the earth is tough to tack down; it’s all sort of fantastically hot and molten iron in the outer core, with a solid heavy-metal crunchy inner core.  Delicious!

  3. theophrastvs says:

    typing of boring, there’s a “# 3″: this amazing machine will cut a tunnel to carry car/automotive traffic under downtown Seattle (for a toll); so those that want to get us all out of cars, onto bicycles, and public transit understandably hate this whole thing (comparing it to Boston’s “big dig” etc).  And to their credit, they’ve done a pretty impressive job of delaying it.  although it’s in the default nature of Seattle that everything is bogged in endless nattering politics; we call it “the Seattle process”.

    (for me) i just wish “Bertha” was going to stay in operation to give Seattle a proper subway system – but (see above) there’s fat chance of that.

    • bpratt says:

      Unfortunately it will most likely actually *increase* in-city street traffic due to cars avoiding the toll, further annoying those of us who are already out of cars onto bicycles and public transit.  It’s boondoggle, IMHO.

      • d4l3d says:

         Meanwhile, Seattle’s Metro cut back support in extremis for the most needy a coupla yrs ago and recently announced the proposed death of 65 routes and new limits on many others.

  4. Mark Dow says:

    3) Cool Tool for supervillain.

  5. John Frazier says:

    Am I the only one thinking Boneshaker?

  6. V says:

    Why do they have to name every big machine Bertha!?!?

    yeahyeahyeah – I know it’s in honor of a former Seattle mayor, but please people…

    (Just grumpy that his nomination for ‘Boneshaker’ was not considered in the naming contest…)

  7. I met this machine at a party once and it just rambled on and on about its cat.  I couldn’t wait to get away.

  8. Ilya Naydov says:

    I guess, working on that machine is super-boring…
    I love the stupid wordplay… :)

  9. Wordguy says:

    Couldn’t they just drive it across from Japan? You know, under the Pacific.

    • Nash Rambler says:

      *starts mentally toting up the costs to run boring machine, set roof bolts, hire folks, machine itself, fuel, insurance, variances caused by hardness types of rock and soil. . .brain breaker box flips to prevent overload, resets to default, starts thinking about sex*

      So, in conclusion, they couldn’t drive it across from Japan under the Pacific because they were thinking about sex.

      The end.

  10. semiotix says:

    Wow, Seattle hasn’t seen a boring Machine like this since the Wu-Tang Clan dropped out of their scheduled joint concert at the Gorge in 1997!

  11. awjt says:

    Why is it painted? Won’t all the paint just rub off while it chews the rock?

    • bpratt says:

      Just for show, and yes it will.  (I asked the same question when I visited the plant where they were building the machines to dig Seattle’s light rail tunnel.) 

      I just watched the new machine sail past my office window which looks out over Elliot Bay – days like this it reminds of a Richard Scarry book, all ferries and tugs and fireboats and helicopters and fishing boats and jets from two different airports.

  12. RadioSilence says:

    A big machine called Bertha? Surely it can’t be a coincidence!

  13. Frode Helland says:

    Looks like Lego.

  14. G3 says:

    I bet if they let me drive it I could come up inside a bank vault on the first try.

    • Nash Rambler says:

      With a 57 foot diameter, you wouldn’t so much come up inside the bank vault as make some real nice green confetti.  Fort Knox, on the other hand. . .

      • G3 says:

        YES! Fort Knox. Brilliant. Your criminal brain is my kind of criminal brain. Plus the Nash Rambler was a great car, my uncle used to collect them.

  15. MB44 says:

    Ahhhh, I see you guys like my new Bitcoin mining machine…

  16. Symbiote says:

    Until it disappeared underground I travelled past one of the machines used for Crossrail (tunnel east-west under London).  The whole machine was 150m long!  It’s as long as a train, and includes it’s own small railway on the inside to deliver concrete tunnel sections to the cutting face.

    It also has a much better name: Ada, after computer scientist Ada Lovelace.  (See here).

  17. Erik Nilsson says:

    Trivia: named “Bertha” after Bertha Knight Landes, the first female mayor of a major American city. Because when you think of the world’s biggest tunnel robot, it naturally brings to mind ground-breaking women politicians. Or something.

  18. chgoliz says:

    I’d love to see the machine that made that machine.

  19. zaz_cag says:

    More like egantic.

  20. Douglas Robb says:

    I used to work for Lovat tunnel, a TBM manufacturer in Toronto. It was my first “real” job out of school and I was the go-between bitch between engineering and the guys in the field. When we did a subway job in Toronto, I got to work a few days in the tunnel….AWESOME!!!!!

    Water, mud, rock, giant machinery, heat and NOISE…I still remember the noise.

    I felt like a 6 year old kid

  21. tonymaas says:

    ‘Er mate, have you got a 17,526mm drill bit?’

  22. George B. Robb III says:

    What no “wool” references?

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