Hoosac Tunnel History

Abridged Timeline


Legislature funds a study of a possible canal route across the state.


Laomi Baldwin proposes a canal route, including a tunnel through the Hoosac Mountain at North Adams.


Legislature refuses to fund the canal project.


Alvah Crocker, of Fitchburg, is authorized by the legislature to raise money to build the Troy & Greenfield RR and to dig a connecting tunnel through Hoosac Mountain.


Troy & Greenfield RR begins the tunnel project.


Alvah Crocker, now out of money, takes out a loan from the state to continue work.


Troy & Greenfield RR hires contractor E.W. Serrell to dig the tunnel. After little progress, he is discharged.


Herman Haupt is hired to manage the project. He makes progress using old tools and old ideas.


The West Shaft is dug, overcoming water and rock removal problems. The legislature amends its 1854 Tunnel Aid Bill and becomes the sole source of money for tunnel work.


The legislature refuses to pay Haupt for his work; he leaves to manage the military railroads for the Union Army.


The tunnel is without money or management, and is taken over by the State.


The State Tunnel Commission is created and given new money. Thomas Doane is hired as chief engineer.


Work on the Central Shaft begins.


Charles Burleigh develops a powerful air-driven rock drill. George Mowbray is hired to try out the new explosive, nitroglycerin.


Digging speeds up as new tools, ideas and nitroglycerin go to work. A fire in the Central Shaft kills 13 miners and burns down the hoist house.


Canadians, Francis and Walter Shanly, are hired to dig the tunnel, given $5 million and the deadline of March 1, 1874.


The Central Shaft reaches the tunnel grade.


Eastern half of the tunnel is completed after a two year work delay caused by the heavy flow of water and falling rock.


Final blasting open the tunnel on November 27th.


The West End portal is built, the track is laid and the brick arching is finished.


First work train runs February 9th. First freight train runs April 5th. First passenger train runs October 13th.


The State accepts it's new tunnel, the longest in the Western Hemisphere, on July 1 1876.


Eastern Portals stone facing is finished.


The Hoosac Tunnel is sold to the Fitchburg RR for $5 million in common stock and $5 million in bonds.


Steam powered fans are installed in the Central Shaft to help remove the blinding smoke from the tunnel.


Boston & Maine takes over the Fitchburg Railroad.


Boston & Maine tries an oil burning engine in the tunnel to reduce the smoke problem.


On May 18th, the first electric locomotive is used in the tunnel to reduce smoke in the tunnel. The fan in the central shaft is electrified, and block signals are installed to improve operations throughout the bore.


The tunnel is re-signaled and deepened on the West End to allow bigger engines and cars to pass through safely.


The first railroad fan group comes to the tunnel.


Two New Haven RR electric engines are bought to speed World War II traffic through the tunnel


As of August 23rd, clean burning diesel locomotives replace electric engines and the overhead electric is removed.


The Hoosac Tunnel is single tracked and put 3 feet north of center for new piggy back flat cars.


On November 30th, the last scheduled passenger train runs through the tunnel.


Welded rails is installed and track is lowered and centered, allowing roof clearance for automobile carrying rail cars.


Guilford Transportation Industries gains control of the Boston & Maine RR and the tunnel and begins to build a new northeast rail system which includes the Maine Central RR and the Deleware & Hudson RR.


The 50th anniversary of the first railroad fan club is held at the Eastern Portal. Eight hundred people gather to witness the unveiling of a commemorative plaque.


A 10 foot wide strip is cut on the roof of the tunnel to facilitate triple stack cars.


Source: Heritage Park exhibit.

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.