The East Portal & Vicinity

          Ah, the East Portal. Chances are if you have visited the any parts of The Hoosac Tunnel this was it. A popular spot for leaf peepers in the fall, rafters in the spring & summer, and... ice... in the winter!

The East Portal facade. Built in 1877, picture is as it appears October 2005. The light in the tunnel is neither a train, nor is it a ghost, rather it is a boring leaf that was falling to the ground and caught the sun just right. Looks like the ghost of Ringo Kelly remains elusive! [Click to enlarge]

         The East Portal is located in the town of Florida Massachusetts at the big bend on the Deerfield river near the Vermont border. It is relatively easy to find seeing that its not really very far from the road. This side of the tunnel proved much easier to work on because unlike the West Portal this side had lots of solid stone that wasn't prone to collapsing. It comes as no surprise then that this side progressed much faster.

The East Portal as it appeared in the early 1870s [click to enlarge]

        The East Portal is also in very close proximity to what is often falsely referred to as the "false start" (it was really a test spot). The "false start" is about 150 feet east of the portal and 40 feet south. It is mostly covered up but you can still sneak into it these days. The "false start" is what remains of the work done by Wilsonís Patented Stone-Cutting Machine. Scroll down further for more interesting images.

The so called "false start" as seen today. Now the hole occupies a brick room with a big rusting tank and a bunch of trash left by uncourteous guests! [Click to Enlarge]

Here is a pen and ink drawing of Wilsonís Patented Stone-Cutting Machine, the machine that the original tunnel engineers thought would cut through 4.75 miles of mountain. It only succeeded in making it 1/4000th the way. [Click to enlarge]

      There are lots of interesting things near the East Portal which are out of the scope of this page. Worker housing was in close proximity to the portal, as well as one of the Alignment Towers, and the Compressor building. As you can tell these things have their own page.

     The Trestle over the Deerfield river is a very important piece of the East Portal puzzle. It brings the rail line over to the Rowe side (east side) where the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington railroad went off to the north, and the mainline continued southward to the Hoosac Tunnel station about 1/2 mile away, and further on to all points east.

Trestle over the Deerfield just a few hundred feet from the East Portal. as seen today. [Click to enlarge]



From the West:

Travel MA Route 2, up into the town of Florida, about 1/2 mile east of Whitcomb summit. Take a left, then about 500 feet down that road take a right. You will travel down a very steep grade to the Deerfield river. Turn left and go north for about 1 mile. You can't miss it.

From the East:

Travel MA Route 2 through the town of Charlemont. About 2 miles west of the town center before Mohawk park & the bridge over the Deerfield river turn right. This road follows the Deerfield river. Stick to all roads that follow the Deerfield (not like there are a lot of choices) after about 7 miles you will reach the East Portal.

From the North:

Travel VT Route 100 to the town of Readsboro VT. In town there is a main road that goes southward, aptly named Tunnel Road. Travel this road following the river for about 10 miles.

Map of routes to East Portal. [Click to enlarge]

A computer model of the east portal area looking northwest. Courtesy of Google Earth [Click to enlarge]


Now on to more pictures...

    I have broken all of the images down into 6 grossly over generalized categories for your browsing convenience. Click the link to jump down. You can click almost all of them to see larger versions.


Construction Era
Hoosac Station
"False Start"


Construction Era

I hereby deem any picture from 1819 - 1885 "construction era". The oldest pictures are from 1866 at the earliest. All of these are at or near the the East Portal.



A stereograph view from the 1870s showing the East Portal camp. Notice the houses on the hill, the Blacksmith shop at the "false start", and the alignment tower positioned in front of the portal.

An artists rendition of the East Portal, 1869 or 1870 most likely.

This picture from 1870 shows a mule carting out refuse rock from the East Portal. This rock will be dumped along the banks of the Deerfield for future use in the railroad trestle approach.

Looking out the East Portal. Date unknown.

Locomotive used to pull spoilage out of the bore. This locomotive was purchased in late 1870, so the picture is probably from between 1871-1873.

Workers shack a few feet north of the East Portal.

Now here is an interesting picture! In the foreground is the managers office (octagonal building). To the left you see the corner of the Compressor Building. Notice the 1 track width first generation bridge and the grade built on top of the spoilage. If you look in the background you can see part of the east village.

This picture depicts some folks of importance! Notice their dressing is obviously not like that of a miner! I am not sure who these people are, but the picture is taken post 1870.

This is the bridge over the Deerfield about 1 mile south of the East portal as seen in the 1870s. The view is from the railroad tracks looking into Florida Ma. This is where the "rickety" Tunnel road bridge is presently. Obviously there were many more buildings there than there are now!

A picture of the miners, and some of their children, taken sometime after 1870. Notice the pipes the children are sitting on top of. I believe these to be the pipes used for bringing in compressed air to the heading for the drills. Judging by the buildings this is probably a late era picture, maybe as late as 1872.

This picture is profound and unique. Why? Because this shows storm doors on the east portal. Now you can settle those arguments with all your friends! This picture dispels many myths (both spoken and published!) This picture is from 1885 and you can be sure that these storm doors did not last long as I would wager they were found to be unnecessary.

A picture showing the Hoosac House and Depot as seen from the Florida side of the river. None of the buildings remain, the cellar hole of the building in the foreground still remains however.


Hoosac Station

The Hoosac Tunnel Station was located at the end point for the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington RR. This is where passengers and freight changed trains. Its location was on the Rowe side of the river at what is now known as the Soapstone Siding. It is still accessible now on Tunnel Road in Rowe, but the building is long gone.



The Hoosac Tunnel Station where the present day Soapstone Siding is. This picture is really remarkable because among other things you can actually see the advertisements on the side of the building. The rails on the back side of the station are from the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington RR which was a narrow gauge railroad that originally went all the way to Wilmington VT but gradually got shortened, first by Harriman Reservoir, then by Yankee Atomic, and finally by Bear Swamp Hydroelectric.

Another picture of the Hoosac Tunnel station in Rowe. This time you can see a train on the HT&W tracks. Notice the cart in front of the station, this was used to cart goods between HT&W trains and Mainline B&M cars.

A steamer pulling by the Hoosac Tunnel station in Rowe.


"False Start"

The "False Start" is the large hole built from the highly unsuccessful "Wilsonís Patented Stone-Cutting Machine" as you can see its still there and still accessible.



This picture was taken inside the "false start" room. you can see the roof is supported by several portions of old railroad track. To the right you can see a large rusting tank. Any wall that isn't stone in here is brick.

This picture was taken above the entry way to the brick room. You can see the old curvature from the stone cutter's blade here.

Here is an picture of the "false start" from the mid 1900s.

A picture from Fall 2000 showing the location of the "false start".

This picture was taken inside the little room made from the old "false start" you can see the cut marks from the giant rotating blade made in 1854.

If you look closely you can see the curvature from the old round blade on the rock wall.



Postcards of the Hoosac Tunnel were popular in the day (and popular for collectors now). You can still find them on eBay pretty easily. There are a lot and I mean a lot of these floating around. So many that I didn't even scan all the ones made available to me because they were so similar.



This image is probably from the early 1900s, but after 1911 (catenary wires were a dead give away). Notice the fence to the left. There are equivalent fences north of the portal on the hill that are still there today. Also notice the lack of trees.

Another image of the East Portal. Not sure of the date, probably between 1946 (removal of catenary wires) and 1957 (Single track).

Picture from between 1911 and 1946. Those transmission lines seen on the left are still there believe it or not, however they are completely grown in.

The same picture from above excepted doctored by a sneaky artist for a postcard. Why is there a steam engine going through when we have catenary wires for electric trains? The artist definitely flexed his "creative license" muscle.

Late 40s postcard.

Postcard from 1910 depicting where the B&M line and Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington line meet. Looking westward.

A postcard of the East Portal sometime after 1911. The two people really put the size of the bore into perspective.

This is a postcard with an electric engine about to pull a steamer into the East Portal, an interesting angle.

This postcard shows what I believe is a water tower for the steam trains, as well as a long since gone rail siding on the north side of the trail. This postcard is likely form the 1910s.

This postcard gives a nice view of one of the electric engines just north of the Soapstone Siding.

Looking out of the East Portal. Notice the buildings that are definitely not there anymore. Postcard from 1908



A wide variety of train pictures Mostly historical



Three electric engines pulling a steam train up to and ultimately through the tunnel.

Freight train heading westbound in 1945, shortly before the removal of the catenaries.

This picture taken 8-13-1941 depicts 3 electrics pulling a very big load & a steam engine over the 3rd (and present) generation trestle. Notice the building on the other side of the river.

some electrics pulling a steamer through the east portal. Probably taken during the 40s


A B&M Diesel passing over the trestle ready to enter the East Portal (6-16-1954)

The tail end of the above Diesel. Notice the wooden crossing, and the interesting cart!

This is engine 3623 pulling a couple passenger cars over the Deerfield trestle onto the Rowe side. Notice the 3 signals on the right. The picture was taken sometime after 1911

An old HT&W steamer crossing the bridge. I believe it is switching tracks. The HT&W RR follows the Deerfield River north to Readsboro (which is where is ended when this picture was taken in 1941. It used to proceed to Wilmington VT but was abandoned in 1938.)

A steamer heading out from the portal. Notice the signal tower, and the water tower.


A lot of these pictures didn't really fit in anywhere else so I made a generic spot for the rest



A view from the tracks looking up at the East Portal

A pole that really doesn't want you to trespass.

Present day picture taken on the trestle east of the portal. Looking SE. Notice the single track, as well as the signals.

Inside the Hoosac Tunnel, not sure how far from the East Portal, maybe about 1000 feet, this is the first brick arching you come across. Notice the fog (not smoke).

Long since dead transmission poles. These seem to continue up the mountain. These were quite the odd find for me.

A view from south of the railroad. This shows just how deep the approach is, as well as how neat the water diversion looks from above.

A surprisingly nice shot of the portal and the rocks next to it.

This plaque commemorated the 50th anniversary of the worlds first rail fan expedition. This plaque was stolen April 2004 and hasn't been seen since.

A view from the hillside. You can see the bridge to Hoosac station/Soapstone siding in the distance.

The trestle, probably from around the 1940s. Looking southward.



Copyright 2000 - 2005 Marc Howes
Trespassing is illegal and dangerous especially when inside the tunnel with a train! If you go inside and see a light run and hide! that is unless of course its the portal, then you don't have to run nor hide. Trains burn diesel fuel and produce among other things carbon monoxide and deafening amounts of noise! Trains also have people in them and people have eyes used for seeing things.. Like trespassers! Just be careful use your head and stay safe.