Building the Tunnel
Thurman Conley interview

Larry Bradley interview

Steve Clark interview

Bridge that spans Laurel Creek leading to the tunnel.
This is an excerpt from an interview of Steve Clark by his nephew, Kevin DeHart(1995).

KEVIN:Describe for me a typical day while building the tunnel?

STEVE:Well, can I tell you about my first day up there. When I went in there I was used to hard work because I had worked in the timber and stuff.We went in and we had a change house where you
went in and got youold clothes on, you work clothes you know and drove the truck in.We went in there and I guess we went in at four and we didn't do anything till about 8:00. I thought this was going to be a good job. Then all of the sudden you hear all the concrete trucks coming up to the tunnel and after that you really had to get ready. You were just pouring concrete one right after got pretty tough ... anytime you mess with concrete it's pretty tough.

KEVIN:Were there any accidents or deaths while working on the tunnel,and if there were, did this cause any apprehension in the people of the surrounding towns?

STEVE: The only death that I remember was outside the tunnel. The guy was bringing dirt from the tunnel for the back fill and he went over the hill. That's the only one I can remember. As far as accidents there was a few small ones. In fact, I was involved in one with a guy who was working with me. We was setting the arch forms and he falls off what we call the jumbo. He falls off and hits about twenty foot and bounces like a rubber ball in the road. Now that got right scary.

Thurman Conley is interviewed by his youngest daughter Nancy(1996).

NANCY: Do you remember any interesting or funny things that happened while you were working on the tunnel.

THURMAN: "One time when a six inch air line blowed apart. It hit the portable johnny and the labor foreman was in the inside -which he was in bad shape to be frank with you."

NANCY: Is there anything else you would like to tell me that you thinks of any importance?

THURMAN: "Well, there's a lot of things if I just had the time to think about them. Before they started building the tunnel they put some infa-red lines to show where to dig the tunnel to keep it on a straight arrow, but in the mean time up on top of the East River Mountain Tunnel they had stakes up there where they could zero on with their apparatus they had to do it with, but the deer kept tearing it down, so what they done was they sent off and got some lion manure and spread it out there to keep the deer from tearing the stakes down."

NANCY: Is there anything else you have you would like to tell me?

THURMAN: "Yes, about putting the grout in the caves for thirty days and nights twenty-four hours a day and after you get in there in the winter time going back in there with salamanders and keeping the heat inside was a pretty good job. A lot of times it would get pretty scary back in there just by myself."

NANCY:Thank you, Mr. Conley for your time.

Larry Bradley was interviewed by Lisa Payne. (rghs 1995)

Lisa: Did you work on the building of the East River Mountain Tunnel?

Mr. Bradley: Yes I did.

Lisa: What did you do there?

Mr. Bradley: I started there as a chuck tender, then went to a carpenter and then worked in the batch plant batching concrete.

Lisa: What is chuck tender?

Mr. Bradley: A chuck tender then was when you started (the seven hundred feet was nothing but mud and rock and everything had to be put in liner plates.)

Lisa: Where there many difficult tasks to carry out while you worked there?

Mr. Bradley: Oh, yea! There was a lot of them. Everybody had to do everything starting out.

Lisa: Like what?

Mr. Bradley: You carried liner plates, iron workers would bend the steel beams. They'd only drill half of the tunnel at a time.

Lisa: Did you use dynamite?

Mr. Bradley: Not at first you didn't use dynamite because you had to go through mud and rock to get to solid rock.

Lisa: How was it when you used the dynamite?

Mr. Bradley: After you got in to where the solid rock was you had to drill it and everything, then they started using dynamite.

Lisa: What kind of equipment did you use?

Mr. Bradley: Oh, throughout the job there was athy wagons; they turned in the middle, tons at a time. Then you had heavy equipment like loaders; they turned in the middle. Everything had to turn inside the tunnel.

Lisa: What were the conditions down there that you worked in?

Mr. Bradley: Very muddy, water all the time. The East Mountain has a tremendous amount of water mud and dirt and water, that's what you had wore rubber suits all the time and rubber boots.

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