Tunnels of Moose Jaw is already justly famous as one of Moose Jaw’s premier tourist attractions, so its latest tour is another feather in its cap.
The production values are sky-high, whilethe cast is excellent.
The performance starts fast, and stays that way. Despite the extensive research and tunnels filled — literally wall-to-wall — with notes, artifacts, and mysterious electronic reproductions, Bunker 24 is not meant to be purely informational. The quantity of interesting things to look at ranges from impressive to overwhelming, but the experience is focused on atmosphere, theatre, and entertainment. If you are looking for a museum-like exploring of historical exhibits, and time to linger over a note written by an OSS agent, or a fallout shelter vault equipped with gas masks and radiation suits, it’s possible you’ll be disappointed.
That being said, you will definitely be entertained.
The staff are practiced and costumed, the script is immersive. The history is fascinating, particularly those parts of it that focus (satirically) on the role of propaganda in the Cold War.
“The research took almost two years. For two years, that’s almost solely what I did,” says Kelly Carty, business development manager at Tunnels of Moose Jaw.
There were consultations with local military historians, retired military members living in Moose Jaw, and serving members at 15 Wing. Carty says she sourced information from the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian archives as well, finding all kinds of stories, only a fraction of which were eventually included in Bunker 24.
They bought artifacts from antique stores and military antique stores, and built what they couldn’t buy. The Canadian Forces semi-permanently loaned many items from storage rooms at Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw. The tour dwells extensively on the significance of the pilot training that went on at Moose Jaw during the war.
“We thought it was important to tell this story because of the importance of Moose Jaw in the history of the (Royal) Canadian Air Force,” Carty explains, “that we had the British Commonwealth Air Training Program here during World War II, that during the Cold War pilots from 13 different countries were training here... I don’t think people understand just how much of an impact we had, and how much we contributed as a city and as a country.”
Tunnels of Moose Jaw either owns the buildings under which they build their tours, or leases them from the city. Many of Moose Jaw’s famous tunnels were built by steam engineers to make heating downtown buildings easier. Others connected the now-unused passenger train platform to various downtown hotels. Most have been filled in for safety or utility purposes. Extensive renovations must take place before they can be used for tours, and inspectors of all kinds have been through the spaces checking ventilation, exit availability, fire suppression systems, wiring, etc.
The tunnels can be low in places, and the lighting is sometimes very dim. Those suffering from severe claustrophobia should think twice, and families with small children should be aware that young ones may be frightened.
Tunnels of Moose Jaw’s ticket office is at 18 Main St N. Tickets can also be purchased online at tunnelsofmoosejaw.com.
*Masking is mandatory on all Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours. As of Oct 1, all guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the proof of vaccination or negative test requirement.