Tuttle Creek (or maybe Buttle*) Drain
*(If you don't get it, see the movie "Brazil")

Tuttle Creek once flowed from the Southeast Como neighborhood to the Missisipi river, beginning in a former milling area and present residential distric near the headwaters of Bridal Veil creek. In the late 1800s, railroad developers began laying right-of-ways through former creekbeds, as the lower elevation provided a dedicated route as well as less desirable land which could be purchased cheaply. Like Trout Brook in St. Paul, Tuttle Creek was routed into an artificial pipe and the creek bottom was filled and leveled to provide a rail corridor. Tracks for several railroads ran down this path from the Southeast Como yards to various river crossings beginning in the 1880s. James J. Hill's Union Railroad line passed through the Tuttle corridor on its way across the Stone Arch Bridge. the Minneapolis Western Railroad, built to serve area grain mills, crossed the river just downstream of the TCRT powerhouse (presently the U of M steam plant)(3). The Northern Pacific Railroad ran on a bridge almost directly over the end of Tuttle Creek, across the river to the West Bank U of M campus near the former Noerenberg Brewery(2). This bridge was replaced in 1922, and the later bridge is in use as a pedestrian walkway for the U of M. Today most of these lines are inactive, serving only as a retired car-storage yard and a coal shuttle siding to the U of M heating plant.

Rail lines running above Tuttle Creek, down the northwest side of the U of M campus.

There is some question as to the actual age of the present Tuttle Creek tunnel. The pipe itself appears to be from the 1930s or later, and may in fact be from the 1970s. There is little if any 1880s-era pipe visible in this system, so it is possible that the drain was rebuilt or re-lined at some point. It is also possible that the original drain was shallower, and the deep tunnel was built at river level at some later time to provide additional drainage to a wider area. One USGS study notes that the upper section of drain (the Como Tunnel) was planned for the late 1970s. (1). This area was previously served by a shallow sewer tunnel which ran beneath 18th avenue and Elm st, outfalling downstream of the U of M campus (the deep outfall tunnel is accessible but short). The Como and 18th sections of Tuttle Creek stay in city property by following the streets above, while the lower section from Elm to the river follows a diagonal path beneath the U of M and private businesses, more closely matching the original creek path. Hexagonal manhole lids are placed above deep dropshafts throughout the system, such as the one near Tuttle Community school. In addition there are also some open mesh gratings in Hex collars, one such can be found on Stinson Ave just north of Hennepin, near the railroad crossing.

The junction at Como and 18th Ave, and a flooded section near Tuttle School.

A side branch to a hex grate, under SE Como Ave. A small straight branch and a larger left turn are barely visible in the first photo.

A side tunnel beneath the U of M East Bank campus, home to several bats.

The entrance to Tuttle creek requires a boat or rapelling, as there seem to be no ladder-equipped shafts in its entire length.

This drain is fairly nondescript inside, and is only really interesting for its history and the fact that a boat is needed for access. While it passes beneath a large cross section of university campus and cheap student housing in the Como neighborhood, it's impossible to reach the surface from inside without preparation from above. This page will be updated if I am able to find more historical information on the tunnel construction and history.

This group has a few pictures from Tuttle Creek in 2002:


1:  Madsen, Eric, and Ralph Norvitch. "Hydraulic Properties and Tunneling Constraints" USGS 1979.
2: "Lost Bridges" Minneapolis Riverfront District. http://www.mrdbridges.com/lostBr.php
3: Week, John. "Minneapolis Bridges" http://www.visi.com/~jweeks/bridges/pages/b02.html


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