Welcome Muni’s thrill-ridden boring machines: Big Alma and Mom Chung

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Mom Chung, one of the Central Subway’s two tunnel boring machines. Photo courtesy The Robbins Company

We’re not quite sure why these earth-moving beasts deserve names, either. But we like the fun.

From SFMTA’s press release:

The first of the machines, Mom Chung, is expected to arrive in San Francisco in April. The 300-foot-long machine will be assembled within an excavation on 4th Street between Harrison and Bryant streets and will start building the tunnel for southbound trains about two months later. Big Alma will arrive soon after Mom Chung to construct the northbound tunnel.

Perhaps most importantly, follow the tunnel-boring machines on Twitter at @BigAlmatheTBM and @MomChungtheTBM (curiously, Mom Chung has more followers as of this writing).

Here’s more on the namesakes of the machines:

“Big Alma” de Bretteville Spreckels (1881-1968): Known as “Big Alma” (she was 6 feet tall) and “The Great-Grandmother of San Francisco,” Alma de Bretteville Spreckels was a wealthy socialite and philanthropist who, among her many accomplishments, persuaded her first husband, sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels, to fund the design and construction of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor at Land’s End in San Francisco.  A model in her youth, Spreckels was the inspiration for the “Victory” statue atop the Dewey Monument in the center of Union Square.

Dr. Margaret “Mom” Chung (1889-1959) was the country’s first female Chinese-American physician, practicing in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown. During World War II she “adopted” more than a thousand “sons,” most of them American servicemen, mentoring them, sending them presents and sharing meals with them during and after the war. She was also one of the earliest supporters of women in the Navy. When one of her “sons” became a congressman, he filed the first legislation to create a female branch of the Navy in response to a phone call from “Mom Chung.”

So, local history and all that.

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Big Alma, photo courtesy SFMTA

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