Located between David Bagares gata and Tunnelgatan, the Brunkeberg Tunnel turned out to be a difficult task for the engineers back in 1884. Two years later it was ready to welcome the Stockholmers and it is now a classic Instagram spot in the Swedish capital.
It does feel a little like being in a science fiction movie. The walls of the tunnel tube 231 meters (758 feet) long, four meters (13 feet) wide are clad with bright-yellow slabs. The ceiling consists of corrugated iron and riveted metal illuminated by neon tubes at regular intervals. In photographs, this somewhat futuristic effect is enhanced, accentuating, even more, the interesting shadow play between light and corrugated iron. At two points the cladding is broken, and a glimpse behind a wire netting reveals why the construction of the tunnel nearly turned into a fiasco in the late 19th century.
Old maps of Stockholm show a narrow ridge running across Norrmalm. Formed during the Ice Age, this ridge made up of sand and debris – once divided the district. That goes some way towards explaining why the Brunkeberg Tunnel, which is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, seems to be the only underground passage to have ever been drilled through what is known as the Brunkebergásen.
This is where engineer Knut Lindmark, who made a name for himself with drawings for the old Katarinahissen lift, met his Waterloo. Loose rock debris on the western side caused the tunnel to collapse time and again. Only a freezer unit, originally invented for the transport of perishable goods by ship and rented especially from England, brought the solution the team longed for. The device allowed the scree to be cooled down to a temperature of minus 18 degrees, deep-freezing it as it were and allowing the crews to dig without interruption.
In 1886 King Oscar II inaugurated the tunnel, the passage of which initially cost two öre. The fee was abolished later, as it was considered too expensive.
On the summer day that I visited the tunnel in 2018, it was unbearably hot. Smart teenagers from all over the city had gravitated to the tunnel, where it was not just naturally cooler, it was downright chilly. As the tunnel is secured on both sides by doors, it is constantly cool in summer and warm in winter. A spectacular setting for a futuristic photo shoot in any weather.
Look out for a tiny statue of Ernst Herman Thörnberg standing outside the eastern entrance to the Brunkeltberg Tunnel. It is quite easy to overlook him, but he’s an interesting little fellow.
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