Image shows a crane and the TBM.

Scarborough’s mighty tunnel boring machine will soon be arriving at its new home for subway extension project

The Scarborough Subway Extension’s engineering and earth-digging star, a huge tunnel boring machine, is finishing its journey from Germany. Here’s how it’s being welcomed to its home turf – which it will soon tunnel through.

They’re bringing the muscle home.

After a journey across the Atlantic Ocean, the Scarborough Subway Extension’s tunnel boring machine – also called a TBM – is arriving at the site where it will begin its underground journey.

The machine reached the Port of Oshawa last month. Jumbo Vision, the massive cargo ship that transported it to Canada, brought more than 15 shipping containers of parts, and 86 bigger pieces of the machine that were too big to be put into shipping containers.

These parts are now being transported to the project’s launch shaft site, at Sheppard Avenue East and McCowan Road, where crews will assemble the TBM. Work has been underway at the launch shaft site since last summer to build out the massive excavation required to lower the assembled machine into the ground to start the actual tunnelling process.

Image shows the ship arriving.
Jumbo Vision arriving in the Port of Oshawa (Photo provided by Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority)

Transporting the machine to its new home

Transporting more than 2,000 tonnes of machinery across the eastern end of the GTA is no easy task and required detailed logistical planning.

Transportation began in mid-December, with all the smaller parts arriving at the launch shaft site before the year ended. The bigger parts of the machine continue to be transported to the site this month and all pieces are expected to be delivered before the end of January.

Some of the pieces are so large that they need to be transported to the launch shaft site as an oversize load, which requires safety vehicles to escort the transportation truck to the site.

As parts of the machine continue to arrive at the launch shaft site, Metrolinx and its tunnelling contractor, Strabag, are reminding pedestrians and drivers around the construction site to be extra mindful and aware of their surroundings.

Image shows a truck coming down a road with the TBM on the back.
The main drive of the machine being transported as an oversize load across Toronto’s east end. (Strabag photo)

Assembling the TBM

A massive machine needs even more massive equipment to put it together. Some truly impressive cranes, called ‘crawler cranes,’ have been set up at the launch shaft site to accomplish this goal. Some of the crawler cranes can lift almost 600 tonnes of material, equivalent to the weight of a full-size, 12-car GO train.

Image shows a large crane and the TBM.
The crawler crane unloading the main drive of the machine after arriving at the launch shaft site. (Strabag photo)
Image shows a crane and the TBM.
Pieces of the TBM’s cutter head after being unloaded by the crawler crane. (Strabag photo)

As pieces of the machine are unloaded, they are placed on special concrete pads that have been constructed to support the weight of all the machinery. Seven of these concrete pads have been set up around the launch shaft and will be used as assembly areas for the machine. Each concrete pad can support 1,800 tonnes, which makes them ideal for assembling heavy machinery.

After all the parts arrive at the site, assembly of the massive machine will begin with welding of the cutter head. Check back with Metrolinx News for more photos and updates as the TBM is assembled and brought to life.

Naming Contest

Metrolinx launched a naming contest last fall to crowdsource names for the TBM.

After receiving more than 200 submissions from the community, five names were shortlisted for the community to vote on. Voting closed at the end of December, and the winning name will be announced very soon. Stay tuned to the Twitter channel @ScarbSubwayExt to be the first to know the winning name.

And for the latest information about the Scarborough Subway Extension, visit

Get in Touch 

Metrolinx’s community relations team can be reached for questions or comments through a 24/7 hotline at (416) 202-7900 or by email at

There’s lots happening on this project –now with even more muscle onboard!

Story by Joshua Patel, Metrolinx Senior Advisor, Subway Program