As all of our friends were splintering off to go to various parties or other social events, about 5 of us were giving looks of mild disinterest to all who would ask our company to go out. We wanted some adventure. We wanted to find the steam tunnels.
Case Western Reserve University is in the small bubble of University Circle in East Cleveland, an island of culture in a sea of ghetto-ness. Someone had told us of steam tunnels that connected all of the major buildings together with the University Hospitals. They were rumored to be long and hot, and very exciting.
Walking around the main quad, we tried every door. One random opening took us to the large auditorium, and where we found out how to operate the lights of the stage. In the 500 seat auditorium with the spotlights centered on the stage, we all agreed we had found the perfect place to do a chick. Taking some popcorn from the concession stand, we continued on our search.
Wandering outside of the chemistry lab, I was looking into the large pits that house the air conditioning units when I noticed the open door. It was a little crack of light that let us in, the result of a power cord left in the door frame. Once in we found a vast network of power generators and loud water pipes. We looked for an offshoot, and found the main steam tunnel. The tunnel went as far as the small flashlight we had could show, so we started to follow it.
We made a few turns, and an Indiana Jones move over a pit later we found ourselves in a passage no more than 5’x4’ large, with blistering hot pipes on one side. We shuffled down the passage, the central person shining the light at the ceiling so we could all see. Suddenly Derek shushed us to quiet. He had heard a sound. We heard it again. It was a chain. Wait, no, it was a pipe rattling. Once our hearts started again we followed the tunnel to its conclusion. It ended in a small boiler room with “BRB” labeled on the wall. We took that to mean Biomedical Research Building, which led us to believe that we had traveled close to ¾ of a mile underground. The gate was locked and had a magnetic sensor. Not having any tools or a desire to get caught, we turned around.
About half way back, I was leading with the flashlight when I heard a yell from behind. Someone had found blueprints. Blueprints for the floor, wait, blueprints for the entire building. Everything, wiring, ductwork, underground layout, steam tunnel access corridors. It was a work of art, and it only weighed 50 lbs. We picked it up and hurried down the tunnel, having to pause several times due to the odd noises and finicky senses.
We made it outside ands stashed the prints in a bush when a campus security car drove by. Aaron made the comment that he “wanted to become an engineer someday” and that “maybe we should put those blueprints back.” After a short silence of us contemplating going to jail, we snuck back in the massive roll of paper back.
We left with a story to tell, and several copies of the 2nd floor wiring and duct layouts, as souvenirs and wall decorations. The real benefit of the trip was telling one girl, who now insists that I take her and her friends the next time I go.