Twin Cities urban exploration Return to Ford Motors

Part 1

postcard - 1930

aerial photo - 1936

postcard - 1930

photo - 1938


the Background

As longtime readers of this site know, Action Squad has a special relationship with the Ford Assembly Plant in Saint Paul and more specifically, with the miles of old sand mining tunnels beneath it.

See, seven or eight years ago, they were the local Holy Grail for the tiny exploring community everyone wanted to get in, but nobody could. We were determined to be the first - but, as often happens, we had to get some help from 'random coincidence' first ...

At that time, one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities was the Saint Clair Broiler. In the years since then, it's been bought up by a corporation, and is no longer the family-run, awesome place full of characters that it once was.


But back in 2000, Al the knife-wielding greaser dishwasher was still kicking ass (RIP - lung cancer in 2005 or so), Jimmy the Greek was still running the place, Shawna the perky waitress was still our favorite server, and Mark the One-Armed Cook hadn't yet been fired (for taking his hook arm off and going outside to fight a pissy customer).

And it was Mark that gave us the tip that got us into the mines.


Shawna had mentioned to him that we were into exploring tunnels and trying to find a way into the Ford Mines. Coincidentally, Mark knew a thing or two about it. In fact he'd been caught by Ford security down there some years earlier he was the guy they'd held in a room for hours, where he got lectured, ate doughnuts, and watched Ford promotional videos until they finally just let him leave.

Mark was more than happy to explain roughly where we should look for an entrance it still wasn't easy, but we eventually made it in. And it was beautiful.


FLASHBACK: deep in the Ford Sand Mines - 2000

We went back several times, until the last time we invited along a large crew of other local explorers, during the snowy, freezing 'Mouser Week 3' festivities and only got away because a security guard fell asleep while waiting to bust us when we emerged from the mines.

Fortunately, I have never been an explorer who takes much pleasure from repeatedly returning to an already-explored site, so I was not all that crushed when Ford drastically resculpted the area where our old entrance had once been, replacing the hidden cove (entrance secured with a puzzle patchwork of boards and styrofoam sheets) with a modern building - complete with deadbolted metal doors and a modern security camera.


This effectively resealed the mines from curious explorer eyes and for the next seven years, the Ford Mine slowly became a born-again virgin.

Around the time that the local papers started talking about the plant closing down in 2008, I started to hear Her calling me again ...



... so I took a couple of scouting trips to see what I could see.

The first time, I managed to get down near the steam plant and hydro dam unmolested, walking my dog with my girlfriend. All I discovered was that our old tunnel entrance was truly no longer an option, and there were modern security cameras all over the place.


concrete Indy 500 architectural ornament
found in Ford woods

Next trip, I tried to simply drive down there in my car, but we were stopped by an imposing Jamacian security guard in a pickup truck. I played innocent and dumb, and he just told us to go away.

It was on my third scouting trip - early one Sunday afternoon while again "accidentally" walking Mutt Action on Ford property - that I finally spied a chink in Ford's armor.

It wasn't a way directly into the mines - but it was a way indoors, anyway.

And if I could get inside the place at all, I reckoned it would be possible to find a way down into the mine tunnels again ...


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