A tunnel tree grows up to 25 feet tall in California, where it serves as an inspiration for the iconic California Tunnel Boat, or “tunnel ship.”
The tree is located in the San Joaquin Valley, just east of the San Francisco Bay, in the Tualatin-Piedmont Mountains.
A few hundred feet north of the trees roots, a man named Peter Brown was working on a tunnel boat when he discovered a tree that grew up to the size of a truck trailer.
“I came up with the idea that if I cut it down, maybe we could get rid of the old tunnels, build a new tunnel ship,” Brown told NBC News.
He went on to build the first tunnel ship, which was powered by a diesel engine and had a wooden hull.
But the tree didn’t exactly help Brown’s plan to build a more efficient tunnel ship.
“There was a lot of wood that needed to be cut down, and then I found the root system and found a good place to cut it off,” Brown said.
He cut the trunk and then attached the trunk to a giant tree.
“The roots were really heavy,” Brown recalled.
“We had to take two cars and haul them up to a crane and put them on the tree and make sure that the trunk wasn’t going to fall off.”
After Brown’s initial idea for the tunnel ship was rejected by the state, he turned to a different tree, a bamboo tree, which also grew to 25 to 30 feet tall.
He decided to plant the bamboo tree next to the tunnel boat, which meant the tree was much easier to reach.
But after a few years of growing, Brown had to grow a new bamboo tree to grow the second version of the tunnel ships engine.
“A lot of the time I had to have a tree around and it was too big,” Brown explained.
“When we had a tunnel ship it was like, ‘OK, we can have a two-lane road and I can have three tunnels,'” Brown said, adding that his son’s tunnel boat had six tunnels, which were eventually installed as a new bridge to the bay.
“Now that the tunneling has been done and the old tunnel ships have been rebuilt, it’s like a huge amount of infrastructure is being built,” he said.
The first tunnel ships in San Francisco are now outfitted with solar panels, and the state is currently looking at installing tunnels that can handle the additional power.
“It’s like an extension of the city,” said Mark Stiles, executive director of the Bay Area Tunnel Foundation.
“With tunnels, you don’t have to worry about traffic, and you don’st have to build all these new roads.”
The tunnels are a part of a larger infrastructure plan in California that will eventually allow for the building of a new ferry system.
California currently has plans to build two new ferries, but the state currently has only two tunnels.
Brown said the tunnels are one of the few options in the state for an alternative to the current system.
“People are talking about this,” he explained.
The tunnel ship project has been a long time coming.
Brown and his wife have been planning for their first tunnel boat since the 1950s.
The couple initially planned to build their own tunnel boat and make their own wooden hull, but they realized that would take too much time and money.
So they built a wooden one instead.
“My wife said, ‘You know what, we’re going to have to start from scratch,'” Brown recalled, explaining that they have already begun working on the design and the construction of the first one.
“So we’re working on our design and building it right now.”
Brown said he and his family are extremely proud of their efforts.
“In a lot, many of the other projects I’ve been involved in I’ve had a lot more than just the money, but I had a really great sense of community,” he added.
“This is a way of creating a sense of pride in this community.”
For more information on the tunnel project, you can visit the Bay Tunnel Foundation website.