Report - Tunnel Boring Machine, Poland, 2014

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kevin arnold

28DL Member
Regular User
Apr 22, 2009
I always wanted to get inside one of those machines. Up until recently there were 8 of them in London, digging Crossrail tunnels but I never had a chance to take a closer look at any of them and now they're gone.

The obvious problem with TBMs is that once they're underground they work pretty much 24/7 and when they're operational there are always some workers around.

With this one I was quite lucky. I explored it just after it had finished digging but before they started to dismantle it. The window of opportunity lasted for about a week during which I'd sneak onto the site night after night until finally there were no workers present (or so I thought).


By the way, the machine's name was Damroka and she was huge. Crossrails machines are 7.1 m in diameter, Damroka was more than 12 m, one of the largest ones in Europe (although at 91m length she was shorter than the Crossrail ones).


Damroka was in Gdansk to dig a road tunnel under the river. Here's more about it (in Polish but lots of really interesting footage + links to more materials):

Road tunnel is twin bore but they only used one TBM. What you can see above is the finished bore. Upon finishing that one the machine was dismantled and put together again to drill the second bore, which as I mentioned had been finished a few days earlier.

The whole site was brightly lit so I was quite nervous approaching the machine. I started circling around looking for a way to get closer to the shield and hoping there would be some way in.




There was!

Under the shield there is this sort of ante chamber with steps and ladders going along the circumference of the machine.


Close to the top part of the machine there were two of those entry chambers each with a couple of airtight doors. I took a few snaps listening if there were any workers inside.





All quiet so I got in.


It was awesome, like being inside of a dirty, grimy submarine.


At this point I will just post the rest of the pictures and give you a link to a cool clip that explains how a TBM works much better than I ever could. I'm won't pretend I know names of all those bits of machinery.









^ Underneath the machine. At this point I started hearing workers voices down the tunnel. I had explored about 1/2 - 2/3 of the length of the machine, so decided it was best not to push my luck, especially that there was no quick way out. I packed my gear and sneaked out quietly.

All in all a great explore, hope you enjoyed the report. I know the interior pics aren't of the best quality but that's all I could do under the circumstances :D

Oxygen Thief

Staff member
Oct 17, 2005
I like your description of it "like being inside of a dirty, grimy submarine", I was thinking the same myself. Like a decompression chamber I thought. Good explore, you're not afraid of anything are you?


28DL Full Member
Oct 27, 2006
Amazing, it's great to see inside one.
I'd love to know what Brunel would make of one of these if he was alive.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Sep 2, 2012
Down Under
Nice report mate, those things are an incredible piece of machinery and you are so lucky to get in and out undetected.