During the Second World War, over four kilometres (13,950 feet) of tunnels ran under the city of Scarborough, Ontario. Heading in a south-east direction from Eglinton and Warden Avenues, this byzantine tunnel network housed service lines for electricity, water, steam, and compressed air, as well as contained transformer vaults and switch rooms for GECO’s sprawling top-secret munitions plant. The tunnel system was equivalent in distance from St. Clair Avenue at the north end of Toronto (at the time) to almost Queen Street in its downtown core. Due to the potential of losing their bearings while navigating the ever-expanding underground maze, workers during GECO’s construction were warned to keep to short sections of tunnel.
In the ensuing decades since the world made its peace with Germany, GECO’s original buildings have been zoned for light commercial/industrial use, and its tunnels used to hold storage, or filled in. Rumor has it there are entrances to the GECO’s tunnel system in surviving buildings today but they are hard to find. Businesses move in and, ignorant to the rich, poignant stories that linger under their feet, seal up the old, decrepit tunnels, and with them, a treasured era filled not only with incredible toil and sacrifice, but with the tenacity of the human spirit. Sadly, if you listen closely, you can hear the creaking of old trapdoors closing, ending a unique era, not only in Scarborough, but in Canadian and world history, as well.