Actual treasure map to the “beer train tunnel” under Albert Street

Today’s Citizen has a fun story * by Ian McLeod  on the fabled beer train tunnel under Albert Street (this section was formerly known as Wellington Street). Every time there is major work in the area, the rumours spread of vast underground caches of beer, chilled and ready to take home by the lucky workers who can find them.

This was a great motivation for the Perez workers who built the 1980’s townhouses on Walnut Court (the southwest end of the tunnel and former brewery site). Let’s just say there was lots of excavation superintendents at the time.

Ditto for the workers who tore down the old warehouse building on the north side of Albert, the reputed north end of the tunnel. The Carbide building was the longest / largest in the British Empire when built, extending from [what is now] City Centre Avenue to Broad Street.  This building was used, amongst other things, to construct trans-Atlantic telegraph cables and accessories.

When the Parkway (not yet the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, or John A Macdonald Parkway) was first used for express buses to Kanata and points west back in Andy Haydon’s day, half the building was demolished to permit the buses to get to the parkway via a new Preston Extension (its closing subject of a story here  just a few days ago…).

In the Citizen story, we are told  “officials with the City of Ottawa’s communications office [said]  there was nothing in municipal records about any tunnel, much less a lost train”.

Hmm. Just how much do the communications people know?

How about this engineering drawing. A City drawing, no less, coming to WSA via the Old Dalhousie Ward heritage committee:

(click to enlarge)

It shows the intersection of Preston (coming up from the bottom of the drawing) and meeting Wellington (now Albert) running across the width of the drawing. The tunnel itself is shown to the left with the dark dotted outline. Enlarging the drawing shows the tunnel is 352′ west of the Preston intersection.

Since each sidewalk square is about 5′ wide, simply walk 70 squares west of Preston and you get here:


Notice the cracks in the pavement!

Aren’t they about 9′ apart!

OMG, its the tunnel !

Isn’t this enough to get the gardeners in those houses excited?

But wait, the Old Dalhousie Ward heritage committee has more City info. Here’s a cross section of the tunnel, looking east along the former Wellington, now Albert Street.:

The tunnel had to squeeze under the 51″ water main on the left, incline up a bit to get over the 3′ sewer pipe, and then descend a bit to get under the second 51″ water main. The drawing clearly shows the tunnel is 7′ high by 9′ wide. About 66′ of the length is under the city street.

Now back to reality.

Albert is up for total reconstruction in 2013, and the old tunnel will be excavated and filled. At that point, rumours of a train in the tunnel, or a gizillion cases of beer (still miraculously fresh after all those decades) will be tested. Until then, the fumes, the rumours, may be enough to cause the contractors to work harder, and maybe stay a bit late into the dark of night.

* Read more at the Citizen story:

4 thoughts on “Actual treasure map to the “beer train tunnel” under Albert Street

  1. Quite interesting! There’s a lot of neat history buried under Ottawa’s roads. The old brick sewers and streetcar rail ties under Bank Street in the Glebe were neat to see.

  2. This is cool, even if the tunnel is completely devoid of treasure. I trust you’ll be taking lots of pictures when it’s dug up for good!

  3. The suspected tunnel with the train in it runs perpendicular to this one, parallel to Albert (Wellington) street, just north of the street, as shown in the graphic at the bottom of the Citizen’s photo.

  4. It’s always so wonderful to read Eric Darwin. He’s always full of surprises. Thanks Eric.
    BTW, dhk, were there any pictures taken of the old brick sewers? That in itself is worth an article.Original sewers were brick-walled open sewers that got topped-up and buried when the roads were improved upon and macadamized. JC

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