First day back to work after one week of underground explorations during a field trip to Malta.. I get off the train in Utrecht to go to university. As usual I take the Noordertunnel to get to the city center from the train tracks. When I walk past the former technical room of the tunnel I realise people are working in there. Quickly I learn that the technical room will be dismantled and destroyed after today, making place for the fundaments of an office building. I walked by at the right moment. I was able to go in to take a look behind the screens.
The Noordertunnel has been used as an underground shelter during the Cold War. Part of the technical room of the shelter has been made visible for the public by the placement of a thick glass wall in 2010. But behind another concrete wall there is much more to see.
The shelter was meant for passers-by going to and coming from the train station, built to host a maximum of 2000 people. In total the place covers 2000 square meters. In case of emergency that would be 1 square meter per person. A 10cm thick concrete sliding door in a slit filled with water functioned as the entrance, holding back gas and nuclear radiation in case of attack. In case of a nuclear attack clothes had to be dumped into a deep concrete space through a thick steel door. Showers were ready to wash of remaining radiance.
In the back of the space you can now still find all of the equipment used to control electricity and oxygen in the shelter. Including bikes in case of power failure to generate just enough electricity to ensure air ventilation.
The building of the shelter was also a message for the enemy to show signs of preparedness. Thankfully a bombardment on the Utrecht train station never actually happened.
The heavy material in the control room has been donated to a museum. A couple more weeks, and this space will turn into even more concreteness. The shelter itself, known as the Noordertunnel, will remain functioning as a gateway for thousands of train passengers every day.