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Photos of Construction

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Our reason for going into such detail about the construction of our shelter is not just to show how large and strong it is but to let others benefit from our experience.

This was the 24th shelter that the designer has personally built. He has used in other shelters almost every material and method imaginable. Wood structure and sandbags, gunite, corrugated metal, steel construction, steel tanks, concrete forms, and concrete block. The best method found to date has been the use of school buses as forms.

Mind you, one learns from experience, and there are still many things that would be done differently another time around. Mistakes had to be corrected - that now with the experience could be avoided. Still, all in all, the assessment of the Federal Government shelter inspectors who came from Ottawa to view the shelter that, "This is the best shelter that we have ever seen!", seems to be accurate.


To begin the facility, we first dug a DEEP hole. How deep the hole was, you can get an idea by looking at the road the concrete truck has to go up in the above picture. All the shelter lies below the truck and the big pile of dirt behind the truck is a very small part of the fill from the hole that was pushed back over the shelter.


The mountain of backfill gives you another idea of the depth of the hole, when you see the road used to bring the buses down into it.


Here is a picture that shows all the buses being lined up in the hole. The far bus is just being jockeyed into place. On the left of the picture are stacked up forms that are placed around the whole complex. If the buses are accurately placed, each bus acts as a form for the next, and the concrete just fills in between. This is what makes this mode of construction so strong. It is formed like a beehive, with many, many, strong cells. The civil engineer who guided this construction was the engineer who designed the subway system in Toronto and he felt that the concept resulted in an IMMENSELY strong shelter. Especially with the immense amount of reinforcing steel that we put in and the extra strength concrete that we used.


Here you see how the buses are completely gutted and stripped before being brought to the site, so as to cause no environmental damage. Their engines, transmissions, gas tanks, windows, and so forth, have all been removed at another site. They are brought to the site on their rear wheels only, and then the same tow truck takes those wheels away with it. If you look at the bus in the bottom of this picture you will see how all the windows have been sealed with fibreboard. After the concrete is poured, the fibre board and the buses remain in place. Only the outside forms will be removed.


Here you can see the outside forms being put in place and how strongly they are braced. This is VERY necessary. The buses are also greatly braced on the inside. Multiple 2 by 4's hammered together to make 4 by 8's and larger, running the length of the top inside and the floor of the bus with the same type of vertical bracing between them every 4 feet. NECESSARY, NECESSARY, NECESSARY. There is also cross bracing, at TWO levels every four feet. All this bracing is of course removed after the concrete is poured, and the AFTER the backfilling is done. The bracing is then used to build bunks and interior walls. There is not too much.


Here you can see all the buses parked tightly together, and the concrete being poured in between. The framing of doors between the buses must also be securely braced. The importance of STRONG bracing EVERYWHERE can not be over stressed. The concrete is poured over the whole complex bit by bit. Some on every side of all the buses. This is important because otherwise the weight of the concrete would cause the buses to move. Between all the buses is HEAVY wire netting to reinforce the concrete, and because this was private construction we were able to force down in TONS more of scrap steel to further reinforce the concrete.


Here you can see a close up of the pouring of the concrete. Notice the wire reinforcing rod over the top of the shelter. Every so many feet plastic and tin also had to be laid to create expansion joints. The big pumper was rented for a week, at $10K per week, and many concrete trucks were necessary to keep it serviced. One at the pumper, one waiting, one or two on the way back to the mixing yard. One at the mixing yard. One or two on the way to the pumper. From early morning till late at night. Make sure you pick a week of good weather. Talk with the airport meteorologists.


The one bus being formed up separate from the others is the fuel bus. The rest of the buses end up in one big concrete block, which then must be kept dampened and hosed down for a month to let the concrete set. After the outside forms are removed everything is sprayed with heavy black water proofing (we have never had a leak) and then the bulldozers move the top cover back into place, and after giving everything a week or two to settle we remove the interior bracing. In the following picture there is a corrugated pipe that extends up into the air to the left and in the foreground in front of the workmen. The back fill around this pipe will end up about a foot from the top so you can see how far underground the shelter is after the backfilling.

The Miracle of the Well

Inside Photo of The Well

Photo of The Well During Construction

Photo of The Well During Blasting

These photographs were taken when the inside well was still under construction - but it we completed it in the year 2000. It was a project that had been ongoing for over a decade. The well is wonderful, and I do consider it a true miracle - (just getting it paid for was one alone).

It was a miracle finding the right person to do it. He had been raised in this area and had family here, so answered my ad on the government employment net - just on that whim. He now lives in Northern Ontario and holds 14 mining tickets - including dynamiting. When the Safety Board was called in on us, the inspectors just shook their heads and said we were doing everything right.

We decided on the spot for the well before we ever put in the first bus over 20 years ago. My son Bonnar was the best in our family at water witching - (it is just a word - nothing to do with witchcraft, magic or any such thing - I now understand how it works scientifically) and we had him go out and survey the land.

This is the best spot for the well he said - but it was not where I really wanted to put the shelter. Well, try again I said. Three times we tried and he always picked that spot. Oh well, said I, this will do well for the well.

We lined up the first buses to that spot - and placed the water settling tank facing it. But immediately over the well location, I did not place cement - so that I could did down through the dirt. And dig I did. Down, down, down. Thinking the water would only be another foot or two.

When the Fire Marshal ordered us to put in a back door, this was the area where it needed to go also, so I thought to just bring it in over the well and have the backhoe dig out the well for me at the same time. We brought in a 7ft in diameter big steel tank for the well casing and I had the backhoe dig down 20 feet to place it.

BUT, we ran into rock, so I had the well casing set on the rock, and later started digging under it. Eventually I put a concrete ring around under the casing to connect it to the rock. (Didn't do as good a job as I thought and we eventually had to scale away quite a bit).

Over the years I tried to dig the hole down further and further. First tried drilling and placing dynamite. But the first dynamiter I got years ago was terrible - and time and again I had to go down and dig out the dead heads. Had to stop that before I became a dead head.

Volunteer crews came and with jack hammers and we pressed on downward. Finally got down to 35 feet several years ago. In sort of an ice-cream cone shape - but no water. Decided that Bonnar was wrong. We know where the water comes out the side of the cliff in a spring, (which was the source we had been using) so we had the surveyor come and survey a tunnel path for us to there. We would dig the vertical shaft down and then tunnel over to the spring.

The water is at fifty-three (53) feet, the surveyor said, but he felt we wouldn't have to tunnel, because he thought we would hit a water table.

In the Summer of '98, the new blaster came and blasted away the thick concrete wall that had created a narrow door between the shelter and the well. We poured a new concrete supporting post, floor and wall and were ready to start.

Then in 2000 he came and widened the well to five feet all the way down from below the 7 ft concrete collar. We rented a tractor, and he brought from up north a marvelous winch to go on it. Also he brought powerful miner's drills, and two great helpers.

He thought they would do eight feet a day, but it averaged out to more like eight inches a day. Finally, weeks later we reached water at 52 feet and 10 inches. Just where the surveyor said we would. It is in a stream about the thickness of a broom stick, that came in through the wall, at the rate of a little over 6 gallons per minute.

We dug down another four feet to create a reservoir, and hollowed out the sides to capture 1500 gallons of water. Then we drilled around the incoming jet of water, to increase the flow. We drilled all around it everywhere in a six inch circle. to a depth of four more feet back into the rock, but they were all completely dry. And we drilled all around the rest of the well. But this was the only real source of water and it came in only that one stream.

If we had put the well over a few feet in any direction we would have missed it. Thank you Bonnar.

The pumps are now installed. Two one horsepower pumps that together can pump better than 15 gallons per minute. We can fill our settling tank in about 30 minutes, and then turn off the generators. (We also have a back up hand winch and bucket).

A third pump fills the big stainless steel milk tanker - (like you see on the highways) that we have buried underground.

For the first time in many years, we now have both tanks full. (Years ago we used to fill them with a ram pump, but it was a very slow process). The well is also what makes it feasible for us to now install a Fire Sprinkler System.

The well ended up costing over a hundred thousand dollars. But its donation is also part of the miracle.

Current and Future Projects

There are always on-going construction projects to improve the facility. While we consider the facility ready there are always more items that come to mind for equipping it.

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