Disclaimer: By reading past this disclaimer, you are releasing the author from any and all liability incurred from personal injury, death, vandalism, trespassing, or anything else unlawful you might do with the information provided by this site. This page's purpose is for informational and educational purposes only. The views expressed here do not represent those of Virginia Tech, its employees,and its affiliates. Tunneling is a very dangerous and illegal activity and the author does not encourage nor condone these actions.
Established: October 31, 1999
Re-Established: April 30th, 2000
Howdy strangers. The following document is top secret, highly classified, and for your eyes only. Tunneling is one of the most underground and highly unknown forms of having fun on college campuses worldwide. It's also the biggest fuckin'rush/high one can achieve on campus without substance abuse--although I'm quite sure some of the kids that have navigated steam tunnels have been on something when they did. So, I assume that you have found this page because of one of the following reasons: a) you are an experienced "vadder," "hacker," or "tunneler" searching for information on the Virginia Tech steam tunnels. b) you've already been down there in one of them and now you want to know where more are. c) know absolutely nothing about steam tunnels, but your friend(s) told you about it and now you're searching for more information on the subject--good job, kid, you've done your homework. d) you are an alumnus reveling in your past. e) you are an employee, affiliate, or some official of Virginia Tech looking to bust my chops because I made this page and you don't like the fact that I've been down there--tough cookies pal, I ran the gauntlet and lived to pass the word around.
So, here's the skinny: Virginia Tech has a nice little system (6 miles) of tunnels varying in size, running underground that carry steam (heating),phone lines, electricity, and network connections to all the buildings at Tech. Notice how you never see any power lines above ground--bingo! Give yourself 10 points and let's move on...Exploring these tunnels is like your every childhood "Indiana Jones" or "Goonies"fantasy come true...or if you want to get sappy about it, "getting in touch with your inner-child." And kids have been doing it for years now--I've seen graffiti down there ranging back to the '70s and there have been many (in)famous crews that have explored them throughout history. However, it is illegal and punishable by arrest, fines, suspension, expulsion, or all of the above. Obviously, the cops and Tech don't want you down there because there is too much shit you can fuck-up, you can hurt or kill yourself (and you or you parents can sue), and they care about your personal safety (can we say "asbestos?") and the regular flow of money they collect from you and your parents--wouldn't want to jeopardize that now would we? Furthermore, they keep any information about the tunnels pretty hush-hush so kids won't know about them and try it. Notice how there is nothing in the Hokie Handbook under "Offenses (or whatever they call that section)" about steam tunnels--bingo!...Wow, that's 20 points you're up to now...next topic please...
Folklore and Myths: The following are some legends I've heard about the Tech steam tunnels:
- Some kids were down there and one of the steam pipes broke and killed them all. Yes kids, that kind of extreme heat and pressure can melt the skin right off your body instantaneously if it is released (and I have seen steam discharge and it's scary as hell). Now, this could be true, because a cop who questioned my friends and I (see my story below) was telling pretty much the same story to us as my friend had told to me and said, "I was down there pickin'/scrapin' skin off the pipes after they exploded." However, we were unable to find any articles on this incident without a major research project. So, either this is true and they kept it hush-hush so kids wouldn't know about it, or it's a blatant lie made up to deter us from exploring the tunnels. Either way, it is still unconfirmed.
- There was a group of Nazis that used to hold meetings down there. Although there are a lot of swastikas spray-painted on the walls down there, I highly doubt it. The only living creatures I've ever seen down there were a stray cat, lots of cockroaches, and a dead rat.
- A patient at a mental hospital at Radford escaped and was hiding out down there. A frat and a sorority went down there to have a party and he killed a bunch of them. Nice theme for a slasher flick, but I highly doubt this one.
- Someone planted a bomb under the drillfield via the steam tunnels in the 60s. The tunnels don't run under the drill field, but drainage pipes do, so this may be true.
- There is an old locker room--remains of an old stadium--underneath the area where the New Resident Halls are located that are obtainable by the steam tunnels. This could be true considering the following is what I found on the College Steam Tunnels Resource site:
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 12:52:40 -0400
well, i don't go to VA Tech anymore nor do i have a map. but i just wanted to inform you that VA Tech has a fairly complex grid of tunnels. some of the tunnels lead to the old stadium as well as an old library [ i never found the library ] unfortunately after going down into the tunnels the second time, me and my cohort got apprehended by the campus police.[ long story ] so we never 90t to fully explore. the tunnels go down at least 4 floors and it can get rather wet in places. also whoever goes down in them pretty much has access to any building they would like to cut the lock to get into. there are a lot of sub tunnels as well.
The tunnels; however, don't seem to run under the New Resident Halls. So, the stadium must be somewhere else. I never found the stadium, but Lockel (the old library) is accessible. If you go in at the Chapel, there is a tunnel leading straight ahead and then cuts left and right. Hang a right, and on your left (and almost immediately after you turn), is a sub-tunnel that leads to the old library. Look hard or you'll miss it because I didn't even notice it the first time I was down there and walked right past it. I'm still kicking myself for that one because spray-painted on the wall right next to it is an arrow pointing to the tunnel labeled "Lockel Library". However, it's a real bitch to get through. So, I would only advise veteran tunnelers to try it.
Still want to do this? Ok, keep reading.
How to do it: Ok, first you need to wear some old clothes and old tennis shoes, maybe boots. I suggest pants or jeans and a long-sleeve shirt because of all the hot pipes down there, but nothing too loose. There is some water down there and occasionally a little dirt or mud. You're going to need a flashlight--preferably one that's fairly concealable and has a long range--and make sure the batteries are going to last. Also make sure to drink a lot of water before you go down--again, some parts will make you sweat like C + C Music Factory. And, if you're a bad ass and want to leave your mark for all to see, bring a nice fat marker, but let's stay away from those spray-paint cans ok? One more thing, a police scanner is highly recommended so you can know when to bail out.
I usually like to go down after midnight sometime and a group of two (always use the buddy system) or three is advisable. Four gets kind of unmanageable. Obviously, when you're trying to get people down into a grate out in the open, four people get noticed a lot more easily than two because of the amount of time it takes to get each person down in there. The best advice is to have one person be the first to open the grate and enter--usually someone who's been before and knows what they are doing--and have the last person be the lookout and close the grate behind them--also someone experienced. Think of this like a strategic tactical operation. Keep quiet, inconspicuous, and move fast. Some good places to go in without drawing too much attention to yourself are the left hand side of Cassell Coliseum facing Washington Street (because the grate is in a shaded corner between air conditioning units and a big pine tree to hide behind--just watch for pedestrians, cops, and cars), between Barringer and Miles (a grate in a little grassy area right on the other side of the wall by the bike racks and before the alley that runs behind the buildings), and Saunders/Agnew Hall (if you're standing facing the building, there is a grate on the right hand side of the building off to the side of the sidewalk and that area is pretty low-profile--not a lot of people walk through there at that time of night. Just beware of janitors or other people in the buildings). DO NOT GO TRY THE DOOR NEXT TO WAR MEMORIAL CHAPEL, THIS ENTRANCE HAS A MOTION DETECTOR.
Once you're inside, you will notice you're enclosed in a big square concrete tunnel with steam pipes running on one wall (and sometimes straight down the middle of the floor)and wires running on the opposite wall. DO NOT TOUCH THEM!!! Some of these tunnels are lit and some are not, and some of them are bigger than others. Also, graffiti of all kinds is the norm and quite interesting...take a moment to stop and smell the flowers. Prepare to spend the next thirty to ninety minutes being uncomfortably cramped, dirty, hot, sweaty, and scared shitless (Go Hokies!). By the way, those weird noises (hissing, clanging, and clicking) you hear are normal.
Some stuff to get you acquainted and help you out:
photo page 01 - Pamplin
photo page 02 - Agnew to academic side of campus
photo page 03 - Miles/Barringer to McBryde
photo page 04 - Upper Quad
Here's a wonderful map in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format with highlighted routes that I happened upon at the Office of the University Architect. Thanks guys, you saved me a lot of time and trouble with that one. If you walk it above ground, you'll notice that manholes withthe letter "H" marked on them in blue as well as grates are located either directly above or near the tunnels. You'll also notice that some routes seem a bit inaccurate or inaccessible once you get down there.
Here's another map (710 kb) that the conglomerate has compiled from our own personal experiences. This map is a lot easier to read than the school's .pdf and has the some decent entrances marked.
Collegiate Times Articles
Article 1 (217 kb)
- Tech's Steamy Underground pt. 1
Article 2 (140 kb) - Tech's Steamy Underground pt. 2
Article 3 (102 kb) - Two Tech Workers Killed in Steam Explosion pt. 1
Article 4 (121 kb) - Two Tech Workers Killed in Steam Explosion pt. 2
Article 5 (130 kb) - Power Plant Working; Probe Continues
My Steam Tunnel Story:
Alright, I want to start by saying that I felt it would be important to add my stories here so you can learn from my mistakes. I look back and realize how naive I was when I first started and since I can't be there with you, I'm trying to arm you with as much information as possible to make it easier on you and to keep you from getting caught.
It all started my freshman year with a friend of mine, NoComply, telling me about the tunnels. I had never heard of anything like this before. I never knew the tunnels even existed until he told me. This is probably the case with all the thousands of people on campus that don't know either. Tunnelers are really an elite group. We're part of something--it's an underground sport. We know about something that not many people know about (or would have the guts to do if they did know...or stupidity depending on how you look at it) and we have seen things your average student hasn't--and it's a great feeling to be one of the few. Anyway, NoComply showed me all these sites on the internet about tunneling and I was immediately hooked. However, NoComply also told me some of the legends listed above and made it sound so dangerous and horrific, I highly considered passing it up.
After much deliberation, we finally decided to go. NoComply had only been once or twice and I figure he probably didn't get very far either. Nevertheless, there we were walking around campus after midnight on April xx, xxxx, looking for the easiest possible entrance. After about a half an hour of this, we decided to go in in front of Pamplin. This would be our first mistake as we would come to find out later on. We inched slowly through the run. We kept hearing all sorts of noises and were basically scared shitless the whole way. Luckily, NoComply was in front, so I just kept urging the kid to go on. I figured, "hey, he's in front so if anything bad happens, I'll be ok." We saw all kinds of wonderful graffiti from past travelers. We tried going up towards Buruss and back towards Cowgill, but there was water and loose wires, so we turned back and headed towards Agnew. We finally ended up at Agnew. There is a real tight spot where you have to cross a plank and squeeze around this big pipe (you might be able to notice this from the pictures) in order to get to the gate that guards the basement door of Agnew. We decided it was best not to try it and to call it a night. We hopped out and booked it over to my dorm. Now it's important to note that after your first time, you will be on the biggest rush/high for about a half hour and will be wanting to try another one as soonas possible. Our first plan of action was to try a different run, so we headed up to Cassell. We popped in and started the run,but after figuring out that it was incredibly long and it was already pretty late, we decided to turn back. At this point, we were really cautious about everything and didn't like to chance anything like crossing water on the ground, etc. This would soon change...
The following night, April xx, xxxx, we recruited Poppa and FoulShot to go with us. Again, we went after midnight. We tried Cassell first, but Poppa started getting claustrophobic, so we abandoned the run. We returned to Pamplin and popped down into the same grate and took another run from Pamplin to Agnew. Poppa brought his digital camera with him and shot the pictures on photo page 1. When we reached Agnew, I decided to chance it and try to make it to the basement door. We all squeezed through and left our mark. Then, we decided to show Poppa and FoulShot where we went above ground. On this particular night, I was mapping everything because I hadn't found the map online that I have on this page. So, we began to retrace our steps above ground. This would prove to be our second mistake. Never ever retrace your steps above ground after you have been tunneling. Always go home and retrace them the next day. As we neared Pamplin, we saw two campus policemen walking towards us. NoComply started to get paranoid and wanted to make a break for it. I told him to just cool it and act like we were coming back from a party. The campus police stopped at Pamplin and started examining the grate we had dropped into. I knew at this point we were fucked. So, another lesson learned: never ever go into a grate like the one in front of Pamplin that is so out in the open that it would be easy for people to spot you.
Well, the campus policemen approached us and asked us to accompany them because there were some cops who wanted to talk to us. "Aw, fuck me," I thought. We were screwed for sure. The first cop approached us and asked to see Poppa's backpack. He rummaged through it and, by some miracle, didn't notice the digital camera at the bottom (that would have been enough evidence to do us in for sure). So, we were taken over to Davidson's parking lot where we were told that a witness had seen us snooping around grates and called the police on us. Then the cop proceeded to tell us that some kids had been killed down there after a pipe broke and he was down there cleaning skin off the pipes after it happened. Since the witness hadn't actually seen us go into the tunnels, we were let off with a trespassing warrant. However, FoulShot said he was pretty sure that while the cops were marking us up, he heard the witness tell one of the campus policemen he had seen our hands sticking out of the grate (or something like that). So, although I was extremely pissed at the guy for calling the cops on us, I was grateful he didn't tell them he had seen us go into the tunnels.
After this little incident, our confidence was crushed and Poppa and NoComply vowed never to go again. However, FoulShot and I were still debating whether or not to give it another try. When I finally made up my mind to try again, it was the following semester.
Sometime in October of xxxx, I had been discussing the tunnels with two friends of mine, DynamoJoe and RiotGirl, and both wanted to go. To celebrate NoComply being back in town (he had dropped out after last semester to pursue his dream of making the move to California), DynamoJoe and I tried urging him to go tunneling. He stood by his decision not to go, but accompanied us to play lookout. It was classic, NoComply sitting at the bustop in front of Litton Reeves, sipping on a forty, while DynamoJoe and I dropped into a grate. This run was short and very quick. I didn't want to get caught and was very paranoid at this point. Like Pamplin, we came to another puddle of water and turned back. We walked away without getting caught and started to plan another run.
The Cassell run was settled on and I explained to DynamoJoe and RiotGirl how I wanted to go about doing it since I was in danger of being arrested, suspended, or expelled if I was caught this time. So very cautiously, we entered the Cassell run after midnight. On this particular run, we noticed some graffiti on a wall that spoke of Lockel Library, but were unable to actually find the library. We ended up spending ninety minutes traveling from Cassell to McBryde. We didn't go any further because there was a lot of noise ahead of us and we didn't really care to find out what it was, so we turned back and exited at the Chapel. On this run I found myself doing things I would have never even contemplated before like crossing water (sometimes as much as three inches deep) and moving over or crawling under pipes.
After that run, RiotGirl basically told us she had seen enough, but was stoked she had gotten to experience what she had. So, DynamoJoe and I decided to go on without her into the Litton Reeves run again. The run is actually very short compared to the others and we had to turn back at one end because the tunnel got too small to explore. However, we did find a little sub tunnel on the opposite end where a wall had been knocked out to make it. We found evidence that people had been there before and I climbed in and walked the length of it (which was only about twenty feet or so).
For the next run I wanted to try to tackle the Agnew run again and explore the part up near Buruss where we had turned back the first time. I recruited XriotX and Yellowfellow to go on November xx, xxxx. The conditions were perfect--it was so foggy outside no one would be able to spot us. We entered at Agnew and walked all the way to the other end. I think it stops somewhere near Cowgill. At the end, you climb down a ladder because it drops about a good ten feet or so. As we walked back to Agnew, we explored a little sub tunnel that you climb down into. It runs to Derring's basement I think. Actually, there are a lot of doors along the Agnew run, but most are locked. I'm sure if you opened them, you would enter the basements in each of the buildings in that area. But I have a policy about leaving everything the way I found it and not cutting locks or fucking with anything in the tunnels.
This was to be my last run. I was retiring. I had basically seen it all and done it all. To keep tunneling would be like waiting to get caught. It was pointless to walk around in the same tunnels that I had already seen. The only way someone would get me to go again was if it was something I hadn't done before.
On February xx, xxxx, Cheese, XriotX, and RockJock brought me out of retirement with the idea of going in at Miles and exploring past McBryde. Since I hadn't gone past McBryde, I went with them. Almost immediately after getting into the tunnel, we heard a series of loud and frightening noises that scared the shit out of us. We decided to press on despite our fear and investigate the noise. We encountered a steam discharge right in the middle of the tunnel. At first, we all wanted to turn back, but we noticed that it was discharging in intervals. We timed the intervals and found that we had about thirty seconds between discharges to make it past the pipe before it would scorch the skin off our bodies. It would start clicking before it went off, so you could tell if you were about to be in trouble and could evacuate in time. It took a few minutes, but we all made it past safely.
As we neared Chapel, I noticed something I had never seen before. There, on the wall next to me, was spray-painted "Lockel Library" with an arrow pointing to a sub tunnel with pipes covering the entrance. "Holy fuckin' shit!" I exclaimed, "you guys, this is the way to the Library!!!" I tried sliding under some of the pipes to get near the entrance. As I got close, I noticed how tightly packed someone would be if they tried to shuffle through the tunnel to the library. We decided to abandon the idea of trying it because we were already tired and the tunnels were very hot that night. I am still kicking myself for walking right past it the first time I did this run.
We continued on towards McBryde. The lights were on in the tunnel tonight and we walked all the way to where a sub tunnel (which is pretty much impossible to explore due to its size and the amount of pipes running in it) split off from the tunnel we were in. This sub tunnel runs behind McBryde and Buruss and probably runs into the Agnew run. Maybe it runs to one of those locked doors we had seen. We had to squeeze around an enormous pipe that was blocking our path. We continued and, as I rounded one corner, I almost walked right into the steam factory. I pushed everyone back and explained that I had just seen a cage-like door that basically was the entrance to the steam factory. Everyone peeked around the corner to check it out, but we dared not go any further because there are workers in the factory at night and we didn't need to get busted. We walked back to the Chapel and exited the tunnels.
This was the last run I did and I plan to only make two more runs--one to Lockel Library and one in a tunnel I found near Engel. I have yet to find the "hidden locker room" thing. All the tunnels I've mentioned are the only ones I know of. I think I've pretty much done all the tunnels that exist, but if you find anything else, let me know. Especially if you find the locker room.
Well, that's about all. Please don't do anything stupid and don't get caught. Don't fuck it up for the rest of us. Take care and have fun.
[The original author of this page, BIG TEX, took it down.
We just put up the files we had saved previously.]