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Pinkerton Tunnel Open Cut Project

Dale L. Ramsey, Senex Explosives, Inc.



Abstract

The Pinkerton Tunnel Open Cut Project is part of the National Gateway Clearance Initiative
improvement project to achieve a minimum of 6.4 meters (21 feet) of vertical clearance along CSX
Transportation rail corridor so that double-stacked intermodal railcars can be transported between Mid-
Atlantic States and their ports to Midwest Markets in the U.S.
This paper is a case study of the project which involved drilling and blasting of over 1 million bank
cubic yards of rock in 2 years to complete. There were many challenges on this project beginning with 2
passenger and 38 freight trains running under the project daily and it was imperative to maintain active
rail traffic throughout the project. The tunnel was placed into service in 1885 so the tunnel integrity and
construction standards were unknown so the project had many drilling and blasting challenges as the
project progressed.
Upon initial assessment during the project planning it was identified there were huge void spaces
between the tunnel liner and the rock strata. This created concerns for the potential of rock to fall into
the voids hitting and damaging the tunnel liner during blasting operations. There were stringent project
vibration standards placed on the project along with drilling and blasting restrictions.
The project plan involved the development of the south slope of the project with a cut of 61 meters (200
feet) to rail grade then a run-around track was installed to move the mainline rail traffic outside the
tunnel. Once completed the tunnel was imploaded and retreat excavated and new permanent mainline
track installed.




















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2014G - Pinkerton Tunnel Open Cut Project 1 of 7
Project Overview

The Pinkerton Tunnel Open Cut Project is located in Markleton (Upper Turkeyfoot Township) Somerset
County, PA (USA) and is part of the National Gateway Clearance Initiative improvement project to
achieve a minimum of 6.4 meters (21 feet) of vertical clearance along CSX Transportation rail corridor
so that double-stacked intermodal railcars can be transported between Mid-Atlantic States and their
ports to Midwest Markets in the US. Project planners explored a variety of methods to achieve their
clearance goals and due to geologic conditions the tunnel was not a candidate for a channel relining and
the open cut method was chosen. This method will also give CSX future options to install double track
and replace the single three (3) mile main track section which is a choke point on its east west rail
corridor. The Pinkerton tunnel was originally constructed in 1877 then a fire in 1879 closed the tunnel
until it was rehabilitated and reopened in 1885. The tunnel had an arched shape spanning over a single
mainline track and was lined with stone masonry walls and brick arches. The tunnel was 329 meters
(1080 feet) in length and a clearance height of 6 meters (19.5 feet) and had 61 meters (200 feet) of
overburden on the south slope and 70 meters (230 feet) of overburden on the north slope. Total
excavation was 1.1 million bank cubic meters (1.2 million bank cubic yards).


Project Challenges

There were many challenges going into this project, the number one concern was safety along with
maintaining rail service throughout the entire project. There were on average 2 passenger and 38 freight
trains that ran under the project daily and detouring rail traffic was not a viable option.

Upon initial assessment huge void spaces between the tunnel liner and the rock strata were identified
which created concerns that rock falling into the void spaces could impact and damage the tunnel liner.
Another major challenge was the Old Western Maryland Railroad Tunnel runs under the south slope of
the Pinkerton Open Cut, although it was closed to trail traffic in the mid 1980s it was to be protected for
possible future rehabilitation and a 2 mile bypass was constructed around the Pinkerton Horn which is
part of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail a 150 mile (241.4 km) motorized vehicle-free route that
connects to the C&O Towpath at Cumberland, MD to create a 334.5 mile (538.3 km) route between
Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC. Also adjacent to the project is the Casselman River which had high
volume recreational traffic during peak seasonal periods.

Void Space Project Planning

During the project planning phase it was determined that there were void spaces between the tunnel liner
and the rock strata up to 8.5 meters (28 feet). As a result of these findings there were concerns that any
rock falling from the top of the voids could impact and damage the liner. After initial clearing and
grubbing of the project top soils and sub-soils were removed to top of rock and the first order of
business was to drill a series of 171 mm (6.75 inch) diameter holes up to 46 meters (150 feet) into the
void spaces and 150 psi flowable fill was gravity fed into the voids to cover the liner and provide a
cushion for any falling debris impacting and potentially damaging the liner. It should be noted the entire
void spaces were not completely filled due to the large volume of material required and the concern of
the additional weight loading on the liner.

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Geology
The site geology was primarily sandstone, shale, coal and soils. The project specification required the
coal be recovered and special handling of specific pyritic overburden zones for neutralization potential.
Blast Area Security
One of the many challenges mentioned earlier was the close proximity of the Great Allegheny Passage
Trail and the Casselman River, recreational bicycle and foot traffic was a primary concern during
blasting operations, personnel were placed on the trail to secure the blast area perimeter and also acted
as observers on the Casselman River keeping watch for boat traffic. All blasting window curfews were
coordinated with CSX Employee-in-Charge (EIC) and Two (2) Flaggers that communicated with rail
traffic.
Project Drilling and Blasting Specifications
Project designers placed drilling and blasting restrictions in the project specifications, cut depths were
limited to 6 meters (20 feet) and hole diameters were limited to 76 mm (3 inch) maximum diameter. The
drilling patterns were limited to a 1.5 meter (5 feet) by 1.8 meter (6 foot) ratio and a maximum 2.4 meter
(8 foot) dimension. Presplit lifts were also limited to the maximum production lifts and a maximum hole
diameter of 76 mm (3 inch) and spacing of 762 mm (30 inches). Z-Curve Vibration Criteria was
adopted as the vibration compliance standard.
Drilling Equipment Selection
Due to the rugged terrain and rock type, top hammer track style drills were chosen to drill 76 mm (3
inch) diameter holes on a burden of 2.13 meters (7 foot) and a spacing of 2.43 meters (8 foot) to a
maximum depth of 6 meters (20 feet). A self-imposed limit of 200 holes per blast was permitted by our
blast plan based upon our daily production requirements and our vibration concerns.
Phase I Mass Rock Loading Plan
Due to geologic conditions, water and hole diameter restrictions repumpable emulsion was chosen as the
primary explosive for this project along with cast boosters and shock tube initiation. Digital detonator
technology was considered if vibration limit compliance became an issue. A re-pump density of 1.23
g/cc loaded at a rate of 3.77 pounds per foot and given a maximum hole depth of 6 meters (20 feet) and
holding an average of 2.13 meters (7 feet) of stemming collar our maximum charge weight per hole was
22.22 kg/hole (49 lb/hole). Using a 2.12 meter (7 foot) burden and a 2.43 meter (8 foot) spacing it
typically yielded a powder factor of 0.71 kg per cubic meter (1.18 pounds per cubic yard.)
Slope Overbreak Control Drilling and Loading Plan
The north and south slopes of the Pinkerton Open Cut were presplit for slope overbreak control using 76
mm (3 inch) diameter holes loaded with 22.22 mm (7/8 inch) continuous presplit and holding a
stemming collar of 1.21 meters (4 feet). After excavation was completed a final wall inspection was
conducted and rock anchors and shotcrete were installed in softer rock strata zones of concern such as
coal and shale,

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Vibration Monitoring
Permanent seismographs were located just inside the east and west portals of the tunnel and one at the
halfway point. Initially the geophones were placed on the north tunnel wall stone masonry
approximately 3 feet above the rail grade using a bracket fabricated from steel U-Channel then lagged
and grouted to the tunnel wall. The north tunnel wall was initially chosen to collect background data
since it was near an underground fiber optic cable. Due to the lack of cellular phone service and the
cabling challenge for satellite communications deep within the valley we chose to collect visual data
after each blast then later interrogate the seismic instruments with a laptop. When operations switched to
the south slope and run-around track development the seismographs were relocated to the south tunnel
wall.
Instrumentation
Along with seismographs we employed additional technology, during our project flowfill and
production blasting operations we drilled probe holes and utilized borehole cameras to assist in
identifying void space volumes and geologic anomalies. Due to coal seams on this project we utilized
methane detectors to monitor for potential gas buildup in the holes and void spaces. The project owners
also installed cameras within the tunnel to monitor during non-blasting activity but this never provided
good data due to limited visibility in the tunnel darkness.
Post Blast Inspection and Tunnel Integrity
Given the age of the tunnel and its unknown integrity a walk through post blast inspection was
conducted after each blast. During Phase I development there were reports from railroad engineers of
falling bricks from the tunnel liner during rail traffic but was never experienced during blasting
operations as documented in post blast inspections. Upon review it was determined that water
infiltrating the tunnel during Phase I excavation was washing out loose mortar between the bricks and
the close clearance of the locomotive exhaust stacks to the tunnel roof was causing the bricks to
dislodge. Once specific zones were identified a tunnel crew installed steel sets and lagging and the entire
tunnel received shotcrete reinforcement.
Phase II South Notch Drilling and Blasting Plan
Once drilling and blasting operations reached elevation 1710 we switched into Phase II South Notch
Development. The plan was to develop a notch to the south of the existing Pinkerton tunnel and install a
temporary run-around track to move rail traffic outside the tunnel. Once rail traffic was relocated the
tunnel would be imploaded and retreat excavated. We began by shooting a box cut using a pattern of 5
holes per row in width and 3.04 meters (10 foot) in depth on production holes but we continued to shoot
presplit 6 meters (20 foot) maximum allowable depth to develop a box cut, once we advanced the cut we
began slabbing rounds 2 holes wide into the box cut development. As the box cut continued to advance
we added a second slabbing round (See Figure 1) to develop the cut width for equipment optimization
and final notch development which involved blasting to within 4.57 meter (15 feet) of the south tunnel
wall. Once we reached rail grade CSX track crews installed a run-around track and a cut-in was made to
the mainline that moved rail traffic outside the tunnel.


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Tunnel Removal Phase III
Once mainline traffic was shifted outside the tunnel onto the newly installed run-around track focus was
directed to the tunnel removal phase. This project phase had an entire new set of challenges, the run-
around track was within 4.57 meters (15 feet) of the north slope highwall. Once again it was imperative
to maintain rail traffic and our rail curfews were under 2 hours. We chose to use blasting mats topped
with steel impact plates as our track protection method due to time constraints to maximize our track
curfew. We videoed each blast as our method to develop our standoff distance of the blast pattern to the
south highwall. Since vibration on the tunnel was no longer an issue we returned to our maximum cut
depth of 6 meters (20 feet) and we determined our optimum standoff distance to be 9.14 meters (30 feet)
or 1.5 times the cut depth. It is important to note that due to continued concerns of earlier mentioned
void spaces we delineated the tunnel location on the surface and no time during the tunnel removal
phase was equipment allowed to encroach on that limit. We used a John Henry drill to reach over the
tunnel zone to drill production holes. Once we reached the 9.14 meter (15 foot) elevation above the
tunnel liner we only drilled the presplit line and 2 production holes wide 6 meters (20 feet) deep which
put the bottom of the production holes along the side and 1.52 meters (5 feet) below the tunnel roof.
When the blast was fired it collapsed the north tunnel wall and the entire tunnel imploaded leaving the
south tunnel wall and a 9.14 meter (15 foot) rock rib on the south wall protecting the track from debris
then is was mechanically removed.

Seismic Data Recap

Engineers throughout the project gained confidence that the initial Z-Curve compliance criteria on a
subterranean structure was ultra conservative and although compliance with this standard was
achievable the project deadlines caused them to allow us to exceed the initial specification based upon
visual post blast walk through inspections indicating no adverse effects. On a few occasions we received
a secondary impact after the blast on the seismic record and after review with our production team and
seismic consultants it was determined they were a result of debris impacting the liner inside the void
spaces but were not causing any visible damage. We took the opportunity on one occasion to place a
seismograph on the surface directly above the center seismograph so we surveyed the placement
location for accuracy and we drilled and grouted an anchor pin into the rock to fasten the geophone. The
surface reading was 10.16mm/s (0.40ips) @ 34 Hz and the underground tunnel reading was 2.794 mm/s
(0.11 ips) @ 32 Hz. The surface seismograph was 79.85 meters (262 feet) from the blast and 23.46
meters (77 feet) directly above the tunnel monitor. Approaching the end of the south slope development
our project team decided to get as close as possible to the west tunnel portal where vibration levels were
at 248.92 mm/s (9.8 ips) with no visible damage to the tunnel liner.

Conclusion
Going into the project blast vibration levels were the project designers primary concerns for protecting
the tunnel but upon completion the biggest challenge to the tunnel integrity was water infiltration from
the excavation above. The consensus of our entire construction team was this was the most challenging
and at the same time the most rewarding project we have ever worked.




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Acknowledgements
Senex Explosives, Inc. Blast Crew - Michael Weaver - Blaster-in-Charge
Joseph B. Fay Company General Contractor Tarentum, PA
CSX Transportation Project Owners Jacksonville, FL
AMEC Project Manager Nashville, TN
Trans-Systems-Hill Construction Manager Pittsburgh, PA
Terra-Mechanics Vibration Consultants Gibsonia, PA

References
ISEE 18
th
Edition Blasters Handbook (2011)






















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