Miles of History: The Pennsylvania Turnpike Chronicles Part Two
Posted 13 Sep 2011 by Steve Royer
As we walked toward Ray’s Tunnel we could tell it was a testament of mankind’s ability to conquer any obstacle. Cutting strait through the hill makes one wonder how such a task could be completed. The closer to the tunnel the more the atmosphere began to change. The air became heavy with the temperature slowly chilling. A breeze came from the entrance as if Mother Nature had decided to switch on the air conditioner. Colossal in length made the thought of walking completely through the tunnel hard to swallow. The entrance constructed of pearl white stone had faded to the power of age. Lively vines race past cracks to the crown where once shinny vents are now coated in dark red rust. At the base of the tunnel are doors to dark service areas are left unlocked, no longer strictly personnel.
Dark places have always been a calling card and the service area was black as midnight. The door was coating in an eggshell shell white with parts of paint chipped away. The door was composed of two parts with a solid bottom and a top no longer remaining. The top was large enough for people to fit through. Off to the side was the metal shell of a car seat which we used to climbed through the opening into the darkness.
Inside we fought the darkness with all the power our flashlights had. The room we were standing in was a large garage connecting to a small room and a staircase. I paused for a moment and allowed my mind to sketch the room in it’s glory days. Ghost of mechanics working on pipes and machinery fell silent to time. Where I stood parked a truck, maybe a fire engine with chrome bells and whistles. My mind slowly returning to reality by the sound of water dripped from broken pipes playing drums to the concrete floor. The walls were painted in two colors; the bottom burgundy and the top repeating eggshell white faded by dirt and dust. Sea green French doors missing panels leading outside were welded shut. From the ceiling broken lights and severed wires dropped down over deteriorating machinery, pipes, pieces of steel, and garbage scattered across the room.
The room was explored until we were satisfied enough to move onward towards the stairs. As for the small room it was only an access area to pipes which had filled with water. Journeying onward we climbed the staircase which had been home to a family of black and yellow spotted lizards. These lizards were fond of the remnants of an old rusted wrench. On the second floor we discovered another large room with the same paint style. The longest wall was filled with hinged windows no longer containing glass. In the center of the room pigeons cooed at our presence, perched on top of a shelf flipped on its side. This was all this room had to offer besides a rundown bathroom around the corner. We left the birds in peace and continued to the third floor.
Entering the third floor was equivalent to children walking into a candy shop for us. Huge machinery made an appearance around every twist and turn. Giant generators painted olive green positioned in the center or the area no longer produced energy. Huge gears were spray painted like a murder weapon covered in the victim’s blood. The ceiling was high with vents leading out providing an entrance to the tons of birds perched on hanging lights and rafters. For a second I thought this was a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
The last place to explore was the service line for the tunnel’s lights. This ran right above the tunnel, and was the complete length as well. The ceiling did not give very much clearance forcing us to crouch for most of our walk. This part of the expedition challenged the courage of anyone. As we walked down the line we could see exactly where most people turned around by the Graffiti lined wall evenly fading away into nothing. We follow the remains of an old trolley line, and every twenty five yards we would come across a hole where a light once was placed. Looking through the hole we could see the tunnel bellow and on the ceiling was a number for the light we were at. We continued to walk the dark path occasional checked the ceiling to see what light we had reached. Soon the scuffle of our feet echoed so loudly it sounded as if we were walking next to a railroad. Once we reached number fifty-six we decided to turn around leaving the rest of the service line behind to walk through the tunnel.
Part three coming soon!
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