January 2022: The cutterheads are lowered into the launch shaft site and attached to the front of the TBMs.

Where are they now? Check out latest photos of Eglinton Crosstown West Extension tunnel boring machines

Since late last year, Metrolinx has been hard at work assembling the mighty machines that will dig the twin tunnels for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. Now that the assembly is nearly complete, take a look at how everything has come together at the tunnel launch site. It’s time to go deep behind the scenes.

When we saw them last, the tunnel boring machines for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension had just completed their journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

But where are they now?

After travelling from the factory in Schwanau, Germany and arriving at the Port of Hamilton, they made the short trip to the tunnel launch site near Renforth Drive and Eglinton Avenue West, in Mississauga.  

Offloading one of the cutterheads from the truck in Dec. 2021
Offloading one of the cutterheads from the truck in Dec. 2021 – At 6.5 metres in diameter, the cutterheads needed a police escort to travel safely from the port in Hamilton. (Metrolinx photo)

There was a lot of prep work needed to get the site ready for the tunnel boring machines.

A very large hole needed to be dug, colloquially referred to as “the pit” by the construction team. Complete, it’s 80 metres long, 20 metres wide and 17 metres deep, which is big enough to hold about 10 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water.

View of the tunnel launch shaft from Jan. 2022 as the first piece of a TBM (a front shield) is lowered into the launch shaft. (Metrolinx photo)

Lowering the cutterheads into the launch shaft was an exciting moment – they each weigh about 65 tonnes and were lowered by crane.

January 2022: The cutterheads are lowered into the launch shaft site and attached to the front of the TBMs. (Metrolinx photo)
January 2022: The cutterheads are lowered into the launch shaft site and attached to the front of the TBMs.
The cutterheads are lowered into the launch shaft site in Jan. 2022 and attached to the front of the TBMs. (Metrolinx photo)

In January, after months of voting and deliberation, the TBMs were named: Rexy and Renny. These names are a tribute to Renforth Station (Renny) in Mississauga and the Rexdale neighbourhood (Rexy) in northwest Toronto that is adjacent to the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

View of a partially constructed TBM from Feb. 2022 – Is that Rexy or Renny? (Metrolinx photo)

As the months progressed, the TBMs began to take shape and the team made a lot of progress as January turned into February. The tunnel launch shaft looks quite a bit different today compared to the day the first piece was lowered. 

The bridge of one of the TBMs is lowered into the launch shaft site by crane in Feb. 2022.
The bridge of one of the TBMs is lowered into the launch shaft site by crane in Feb. 2022. (Metrolinx photo)

As it gets closer to spring, the team is looking forward to the start of tunnelling. Stay tuned for this next major milestone for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

For the latest information on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, visit the project website and follow the project on Twitter @EglintonWestEXT.

Story by Kimberly Murphy, senior advisor, Metrolinx subway program