Boring?! Name that Crenshaw Tunnel Boring Machine

Rendering of Crenshaw Tunnel Boring Machine courtesy of Metro and Herrenknecht AG, Germany.
Rendering of Tunnel Boring Machine courtesy of Metro and Herrenknecht AG, Germany.

Do you have a student in your home who loves engineering, excavation, or heavy machinery? Or perhaps sees the poetry and beauty of  a huge industrial digger that will soon be boring deep beneath Crenshaw Blvd?  Metro has opened a contest for students in Los Angeles to help name the giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) that will be tunneling the Crenshaw/LAX line, eventually linking the Metro system to LAX.

Naming of a TBM is a mining tradition that dates back to early times. Since the 14th Century, Saint Barbara has been the patron of miners protecting them when they are working underground. This homage to saints evolved into the commemorative naming of tunneling machines with a female name before the digging begins.

Metro is inviting students from kindergarten through 12th grade to participate in a naming and illustration contest for the new TBM that will dig twin tunnels to connect three underground stations of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

The contest has two categories:
• Students from K through 5th grade will compete to illustrate the TBM. Click here to enter.
• Students from 6th through 12th grade will compete to choose a name. Click here to enter.

To participate in the illustration contest, students need only submit their drawings. For the naming contest, students must submit a 200-word essay or a two-minute video. The prizes for both categories will be TAP cards loaded with fare value of $300, $200 or $100.

The winning TBM name and illustration will be displayed on the side of the huge TBM machine during the lowering ceremony in late 2015. At that time L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who then will be the Metro Board Chair, will recognize the students and award prizes to the winners. A special commemorative TAP card will be personalized with the winning illustration and name.

For all those engineering geeks and geologists out there, Metro also gives us a 13 minute movie that explains exactly how the Tunnel Boring Machine manufactured in Germany  actually works. Get your geek on and watch the movie (below) to more fully understand how Metro can bore a tunnel deep beneath the surface without damage to buildings and life above ground.

The TBM weighs 950 tons, is 400 feet long and is 21 1/2 feet in diameter. It will dig 60 feet per day and take 1 year to excavate a 1-mile tunnel equaling 10,500 feet or nearly 30 football fields. The giant rotating cutting wheel uses hydraulic pressure to bore into the earth, moving the soil out of the way via conveyor belts, and simultaneously installing reinforced concrete lining segments which become the actual walls of the tunnel.

The 400 foot long steel train it pulls along behind it contains such things as hydraulic power units, pumps, ventilations systems, laser instrumentation, conveyor belts and soil removal containers – all built into the TBM’s tail. Also included: a central control unit with a human machine operator who captures the tunneling data continuously and keeps eyes on the automated process.

This may be more than most people want to know, but we found fascinating none the less, and particularly helpful if one is going to enter the boring contest!

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About Julie Grist

Julie co-founded the Larchmont Buzz with fellow buzzer Mary Hawley in 2011 and served as Editor, Publisher and writer for the hive for many years until the sale of the Buzz in August 2015. She is still circling the hive as an occasional writer.

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