HT&W Excursion Hoosac Tunnel to Bear Swamp Hydroelectric

The Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington Railroad "a.k.a. the Hoot Toot & Whistle" was a much loved narrow gauge Railroad that originally went from the Hoosac Tunnel Station in Rowe MA all the way to Wilmington VT. Over time it was gradually decimated by power plant construction. First the Harriman Reservoir in Whitingham/Wilmington restricted it to Readsboro, then Yankee Atomic in Rowe MA restricted it to Monroe, and finally Bear Swamp Hydroelectric killed it once and for all! The original RR was a narrow gauge, so mainline B&M traffic could not travel its route. Ultimately It was converted at for power plant construction. The railroad was windy and awkward at points and was called by some as a "cliffhanger". This page is a photo documentary of the section between The Hoosac Tunnel RR Trestle, and Bear Swamp Hydroelectric. This entire hike took me about 1.25 hours including time for taking pictures. It is not very strenuous. There are no "no trespassing signs" along what I hiked so you should be alright. The lower portion at least is labeled as a catch and release fishing area.


[click to enlarge]

The above is a map of the area covered. Basically I parked near the tunnel entrance, crossed the bridge by foot and followed the old grade. It is hard to miss. The old grade is also represented on the map by a dashed line. Sorry its metric!


All pictures are in order from Southernmost to north (unless otherwise noted). Most are taken looking in a southerly direction. CLICK TO ENLARGE!


Just off the bridge, This is where the "modern" portion of the HT&W veered off to the right. Originally the HT&W started at the Old station about 1 mile south followed the mainline toward where this picture was taken, then veered off to the north and merged with the late era HT&W line. I dont know when they changed the setup, probably when they converted to regular gauge rail?

You can see the old ties laying in the woods.

An old bit of rail exchange sitting in the woods.

Another old bit of rail.

Tracks with growth, these aren't really fixed to the ties anymore.

Parallel lines. This part is still attached.

End of the rails. There is a good 100 feet of rail remaining I would say.

Looking south near the rail ending.

Looking at the old grade from the path. The path doesn't quite follow the grade here, but they are about to merge. I believe however that the original grade that went to the station was along this part of the path (or off to the right out of view).

A small campground near a rock cut. This is not far from the mainline. Someone has hung an American flag here. I almost think that there was a flag hung here 5 years ago, not sure if its the same one though.

Progressing Northward!

Rock cut to the right with some impressive icicles.

Curve up ahead.

On the curve.

Looking over the embankment. There is no shortage of old ties that have been tossed aside towards the river.

Looking south towards the Hoosac Tunnel. In the foreground you see one of the great bends. off in the distance the Hoosac Tunnel trestle is visible.

Retaining wall coming up.

At the retaining wall.

Near the Old Hoosac Tunnel compressor building dam.

Coming up on another turn.

Here is the turn as well as a small dirt cut. There is a considerable amount of floodplain to the right near the foot of the hill.


A small pile of spikes and rail braces.

A fallen transmission line. I think this was the first pole I came across, but there may have been a few others that seemed less interesting.

Nearing the middle of the bend.

This transmission pole met its end with a chainsaw!

End of bend in sight!

A piece of coal. I found lots of little bits here and there along the route.

Finally end of bend!

Commence straightaway!

Here starts my favorite part. A several hundred foot section of the old grade is built up on both sides. water built up on one side, which just happened to be were the best preserved section of transmission lines stands.

A look down the pool of water. notice the transmission line stub, as well as several poles in the background.

Transmission lines standing in a pool of water. Whatever drainage this area once had is gone!

Another angle of the pole stub. Notice anything funny? The pole was brought down not by chainsaw, not by wind, but by beaver!

Here is the beaver pole lying in the pool of water.

Back to the straight away.

A transmission pole, this one won the competition of "most intact insulators"

See the serial number on this pole?


Straightaway with pole! By the way, you can see these poles from the other side of the river (on the road)

Getting ever closer to the end of the straight.

A washout, I think this was the only washout on the whole section.

The culprit of this washout.. a waterfall!

End in sight.

Small rock slide.

Curve and a rock cut!

Curve and mud!

I couldn't help take this picture. just as I parked some bicyclists were packing up ready to leave. I asked them if they had just biked the old rail grade on the other side of the river, to which they responded in the affirmative. I found their tracks all over the place. I wish I had a bike that works.

Picture of yet another river bend, as well as some old Rail Road related junk strewn about.

Mud. This part was not fun to walk through, especially with one of my shoes having a giant hole.

Looking back at the mud, and possibly cursing at it.

Looking ahead from the mud. Our trail condition is worsening, but still very walkable.

A smaller straightaway. The ever growing mountain in my pictures on the left side indicated the end of the line is near.

I couldn't help it, I had to take a picture of the recent beaver activity in the area. There is no shortage of beaver cut trees in the area.

Some older drainage.

Approaching a retaining wall.

Well preserved retaining wall.

Very close to the end now.

This picture is taken where the old grade ands and where a "fake grade" begins. The "fake grade" starts heading up the hill at a sharper angle just before the fence.

The fence. It all ends here.

The dam/spillway for Bear Swamp Hydroelectric and Fife Brook Hydro.

An old rock bridge. I don't know where this was exactly, I'm pretty sure it was north of the long straightaway. It has an old piece of rail to help support.

View of the straightaway looking south. I took this lower to the ground. for some reason looking southward makes it seem longer.



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