Hoosac Tunnel

The Hoosac Tunnel

By Alegra S. and Robert M.

The Hoosac Tunnel is very famous for various reasons. Besides being one of the most important engineering designs in the world in the 19th century it became a gateway between Albany, New York and Boston, Massachusetts.

Located in western Massachusetts the Hoosac Tunnel runs a little under five miles beneath the Hoosac Mountain. Its eastern portal starts in North Adams and the western portal is in the town of Florida – where we live. The construction for the tunnel began in 1851 and ended in 1873. It cost over $21 million dollars and runs 25, 081 feet long.

Stanley Brown told us the reason that the tunnel went through our mountain was because it was the shortest distance. The tunnel is 136 miles from Boston. Its width is 24 feet across.

You may wonder why a tunnel would be built in the remote hills of western Massachusetts. Here’s why. In 1819 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts first wanted to build a canal – similar to the Erie Canal – to transport goods from New York to Boston – a major seaport. After years of debate it was decided that a railroad tunnel should be built instead. The only problem connecting New York to Boston – Hoosac Mountain standing nearly 3,000 feet tall. Using 500,000 lbs of nitroglycerine – the first commercial use of this product- for project and 20,000 locally made bricks the Hoosac Tunnel was made. A new drill was invented for this tunnel by George Law in 1865. The Troy and Deerfield Railroad company was the first to begin this project, but soon other companies joined into the project, which took 22 years to complete and the lives of nearly 200 men. On April 5, 1875 the first freight train consisting of 22 cars of grain, went through the tunnel.

Today the Hoosac Tunnel is still the longest railroad tunnel east of the Rocky Mountains. When we visited the tunnel at eastern portal and found it to be a very scary place. Although it was a hot day out once we entered the tunnel it as dark and cold, you could see your breath! The tunnel is a natural air conditioner. We can only imagine what it must have been like for the hundreds of men who worked for years building the tunnel.