My visit to Curtis Wright

NOTE: I was at this facility at the invitation of an employee, and therefore was not trespassing. Anyone else coming here would be. Also, this visit occurred in 2004, so things may be very different now. Consider yourself warned….

exteriortesting

testingtoxicity

At the former Curtis Wright site, there are many separate areas & building clusters, some of which are leased out to various companies like NJ Transit and a toy company. Others sit abandoned. There have been issues with chemical contamination, and the photograph above shows one of several areas where the ground is monitored for toxicity & chemical contamination. The site is in the process of being converted into a townhouse development. Considering the history of contamination here, one wonders how it could ever get a passing grade, environmentally speaking. Wouldn’t the soil have to be dug up & replaced? That’s what they did over at Stepan in Maywood, and that situation still isn’t resolved 15 years after they discovered the problem….

My guide pointed out the buildings on some of the roofs. Apparently the complex was considered a potential target for attack because of the highly important work that was done here. Anti aircraft guns were positioned around the facility. Some of the buildings had fake houses built on the roof, and had roads & grass painted on the roof, in an attempt to camouflage the site from enemy bomber pilots. We found an entrance into one of the labs through this tunnel. Below is both the exterior shot as well as a shot from inside. The tunnel was used to vent high temperature exhaust that came from testing the engines. The interior had no windows and thus no light.

thrutestingbay

entrancetunnel

largepipes

We explored all the way up to the 3rd floor and we found a lot of stuff, but nothing terribly interesting in terms of souvenirs. We did find old reel to reels, records of testing, even blueprints. The control panels you see here were on the second floor, and there was a window that looked down to the 1st floor where the engine was situated.

mandials

cleanhoses

In this building we found what is, for me, one of the coolest finds I’ve ever made while exploring: a jet engine still sitting on the blocks. From what we could determine the engine had seen actual use and was brought in for an overhaul or 200,000 mile tune-up or something. They took its cowling off, and then it was left there, abandoned and forgotten. How does somebody just leave an engine behind? Or any of this stuff? CW is still in business, they’re just a few towns away. Didn’t the owner of the airplane ever say, “Hey where’s my engine?” Weird.

jetfront

jetrear

After checking out the engine, we headed for a series of buildings with huge metal doors. Apparently these buildings are where they tested designs or newly built engines. Note the size of the entrances, and the thickness of the walls. They were designed to withstand explosions of the engines, as well as enemy bomb attacks….

metalshades

tallmetalshades

noparking

We found many interesting, creepy or otherwise unusual things. We found numerous barrels of unmarked material. We gave them a wide berth, and wore heavy gloves most of the time for safety. This is a hazardous waste site, you know … We saw some evidence of people having used this spot as a place to go & drink. We also saw evidence of a cat population (piles of feathers) but we never saw any actual cats. Joe found an old fire extinguisher which he proceed to gleefully test out. I noticed there was a surprising lack of graffiti.

dankstairs

testingextiguisher

phones

You’ll notice the board of switches in the above pictures. I contacted my father, a former telephone company installer and asked what they were. His answer:

Yes, those are the old copper wires for the communications board. Now I know why my emails took so long to be received. The wires were that much bigger in the old days and underground cable was even thicker and it was covered in a lead sheath to keep out squirrels as well as water, etc.

Our final stop was to check out a place I had been on my first foray into CW. As Joe repeatedly had said, “there won’t be any flies in the dead of winter.” We parked in the giant parking lot I had encountered (and then avoided) on my first trip. We hiked through the woods (thorn bushes remain sharp during winter, and just as prickly damn it) and ventured inside … and found some interesting graffiti, and that’s all.

paintedroad

The room was nothing more then an 8×8 or so pump station. There were numerous pipes and control valves, but where they led one could only guess. Joe & I both speculate that this may have controlled the water supply to the bunkers that supposedly existed below our feet. We couldn’t help but notice power lines running to this bunker, furthering our suspicions about underground facilities. Unfortunately we were not in any position to explore further. With the snow cover it likely would’ve obscured any evidence, and the entrance would more likely be in the basement of one of the buildings anyway.

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shane on September 27, 2015 at 10:21 PM

    I been to the site countless times seeking the “tunnels”. The site security is now more tight due to the newly constructed condos. A lot of the entrances have been chained, fenced, or boarded up. I just acquired some history from a former employee dating back to 1941 the year the Woodrdige plant opened. The original Curtiss Wright building was now where the current Garfield Wall-mart sits. Apparently when WWII broke out the Woodridge plant was built in only 6 months and there was a tunnel constructed that connected the two buildings! Obviously the one end has been closed up when the Wall-mart was constructed but there is a tunnel going from there to the Woodrdige site around the cemetery under the go go bar and into that direction. This is the tunnel to discovery. The main tunnels that have been discussed are merely the employee entrance from the parking lot area, or maintenance tunnels. My email is kingbowl93@aol.com if anyone wants to contact me with any more info or questions.

    Reply

    • In the process of reading Hidden Figures and Curtiss Wright is mentioned in the book. Thought I would do some research. I had passed this placed many times after it was closed.

      Reply

  2. I worked there in the 70s on the J-57 contract. There are indeed some very long tunnels two flights down. That’s how we got from the parking lot to the job. The tunnel was at least 3,000 feet long but the stairwell back up to the main floor was well before the end of the tunnel where there was a freight elevator.

    That engine on the blocks – the engines sent in for overhaul arrived in big blue “cans” filled with nitrogen gas. That looks more like a J-65 than a 57 btw. No airplane is missing an engine – the military sent them over for overhaul and an engine wasn’t meant for any given aircraft. They remove and replace as needed. Testing was almost the last of a great many steps in the o/h process. Post test they were brought back inside using that large door at the end of that exterior corridor. Inside, down a hall and to the left they went to final DCAS inspection where we checked everything one last time and made minor tweaks to safety wire, plugged any open fuel and pneumatic lines, final paperwork, lifted, put into a large heavy two piece half shell metal can that had a huge o-ring around the seal between the two long horizontal halves, bolted it down, and filled it with nitrogen to fend off corrosion. J-57s were used on KC 135 in flight refueling aircraft.

    There are huge fuel tanks underground that led from the fuel farm to the test cells. The test cells were protected by fire by a large Cardox tank that’d automatically fill a cell on fire after the doors automatically closed via sensors in the cells. I never saw an actual fire. BUT- on one occasion the testers failed to remove a large round plate that was held up by a crane and swung into place covering the exhaust port that led to a series of baffles to keep the noise down. That large plate kept the natural draft that resulted from the chimney effect to a bare minimum so we could work in there in winter. It took about an hour or so to hook up all of the leads, fuel lines, throttle cables etc. Without that plate you’d freeze. Because they forgot to remove that plate, when the engine was spooled up the heat exhaust had nowhere to go and it set off the sensors. My friend Willie almost got caught in there. The in-cell testers were there to make adjustments as the engines were run up. So, with head sets on they couldn’t hear us and they couldn’t see us frantically waving to them through the thick cell observation port. Somehow they figured it out at the last second and escaped by rolling under the automatically closing entry doors. Another few seconds and they’d have died when that Cardox went off and displaced any oxygen in the cell.

    I often wonder where all of the guys I worked with are now.

    Stories? There are many. That place was just huge! It was a great place to work IMHO.

    I could give a tour but I doubt the current owners would oblige. A lot of it is blocked off, blocked in, cut up.

    Oh- John Connors – you can’t miss the place. It’s HUGE. The entrance is near the college. You can’t miss it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark on October 16, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      Do you know what building to find the tunnel entrance or exit?

      Reply

      • Hi Mark:

        I took a ride around the property a few months back and gave my son a Reader’s Digest tour. The actual path from parking lot to above ground entrance to the double entry, remote lock equipped, guard occupied and live camera surveilled is kind of paved over. Partially. I can’t find a pic show you the actual location on a photo on the interweb. It was an actual man trap. Everyone and everything was checked both going in or leaving.

        Everything is condos on the outside. The old entry is gone. There was a camera, a mic and speaker, and a guard either right there or at least on cam you had to show i.d. to to get in – they remotely opened a large gate.

        If you come in through the entry where the broken Curtiss Wright roof sign is, you want to drive to the right around the building, left at the end of the building, all the way to the end of that complex, then left about 1/3 of the way up. The tunnel entrance is there by the old man trap. In one door, about a 12’w x 20′ L room, another door on the right at the end of the room, left out the door, stairs down, landing, more stairs. Tunnel left…long. Stairs up about 1/w way down on left, at least 600 feet. Long walk. All kinds of things in there even at the tunnel level.

        Be careful. Old construction. Extremely sturdy concrete & rebar structure – but back then asbestos, lead paint, kero soaked wooden block floors, maintenance tunnels galore, a neat place. Built to withstand bombs. Only the office at front, credit union area by that broken CW roof sign weren’t reinforced.

        The sign for reference.

        Imagine that building is an automobile. A rectangle. That sign is the license plate.The tunnel entrance is approximately at the driver’s side rear view mirror. IE: You have to drive around the building. To the right because left into that entrance is a dead end. Go right, left, left… the door is at 90 degrees to that long wall, oriented to the left. The door will not face you as you drive by. You have to walk up at street level and enter an overhang, one entry on left.

        Post some pics if you go. That test cell area where that engine is/was. Cool area. Do not stir up dust. They used a lot of Hg filled glass barometric tubes in there. My guess is they were vandalized eons ago and there Hg in the crud on the floor. Not to mention God knows how much pigeon excrement.

        Oh. There are other tunnels. One exterior entry via a manhole type entry is now paved over. I think. Hard to tell, topo’s changed a lot. But it was in a fenced in area about 100 yards out from that man trap entry, at the end of the old parking lot.

        Another came off that main tunnel, but only accessible by previously mentioned elevator, one level down and it went towards that busted CW sign. It went the other way too but I don’t remember ever going that way. It was huge. Anyway, we always headed towards the street. There was a great dive bar and pretty good food across the street. Heh! Billy Martin hung out there at times. When we came out of that tunnel, we headed towards and across the street after slipping trough a neat gap in the fence that was hard to see through the bushes. 🙂 A college was to our left at the T in the road.

        That place is or at least was a multi level maze.

        Reply

        • Posted by Mark on November 13, 2014 at 5:40 PM

          Can you give me a call sometime 201-954-9647

          Reply

        • Posted by Mark on November 14, 2014 at 10:32 AM

          I went there the other day. Went into the main building noticed brand new cameras every 20feet on wall. So many doors couldn’t find stairway down to a tunnel so I left before I wore out my welcome. Idk where them camera feeds go.

          Reply

          • Posted by Otto on December 22, 2014 at 1:19 AM

            I went there this past Friday with a friend. My dad had told me stories of how his father described the plant when he worked there.. Huge. Anyway, we strayed to the left side of the CW roof sign and took a closer look at the test cells. They were quite large and quite creepy. Some large retractable doors hung down from their rusted ceilings. Thick and baron concrete walls encased old testing equipment with analog displays. Most of which were still somewhat intact. It’s funny to see how different times are now with digital.. We explored to the end of a fence and saw a building label “64” in red letters. It had about 6 different chimneys that resembled organ pipes from the roof. It was next to what looked like an NJ Transit building for maintenance. I’m curious as to what building “64” was used for as it also looked abandoned. If anyone could offer any insight that would be fantastic!

            Reply

        • Posted by Fred on January 13, 2017 at 3:25 PM

          is there any entrances that are possible to get into?

          Reply

  3. Posted by Steve Vodzik on October 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    My dad worked there for a short time and I am interested in history of that facility. I would like to get together with people and explore. If anyone is interested please contact me. Steve

    caprice350lt1@optonline.net

    Reply

  4. Posted by kim on July 5, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    can i get this location?! thanks =3

    Reply

  5. Posted by Sonny on March 18, 2009 at 8:01 PM

    I’VE BEEN DOWN THERE. I LIVED IN WALLINGTON MOST OF MY LIFE. IN FACT, I HAVE SEVERAL CANS OF WATER FROM THERE SHELTER. THERE DATED 1947.

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on June 20, 2010 at 3:49 PM

      Hey sonny, do you know where the tunnels by the substation are. My sister has told me about her adventures there and i really want to see it for myself. Email me at nictes@bergen.org if you have any info.
      Thanks alot!
      -Nick

      Reply

    • Posted by lostinjersey on July 12, 2010 at 8:41 PM

      yeah If you have info on the tunnels. I’d aprpeciate it.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Alex on March 18, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    Hello. I live in wood-ridge new jersey and have been to curtis wright before. it truly amazes me and i was familiar with many of the pictures that were posted on this site. i’m very interested in exploring more deeper in curtis wright, as i’ve heard stories from friends about being in the underground tunnels and finding numerous filing cabinets with organized folders, but no papers! i really want to go back one day but i cannot find anyone to go with me. if you know of anyone please let me kno

    Reply

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