West Portal, Haupt Tunnel, and Vicinity.

The west portal circa 1874 [Click to enlarge]

     This portion of The Hoosac Tunnel was a complete nightmare to dig. Preliminary geological surveys saying that the rock was solid and sturdy were thrown out the door here. As it was later discovered a thrust fault caused by subterranean pressure buckled one layer of rock over another over thousands of years creating a nightmarish "porridge stone" or demoralized rock. This inherently unstable stone slowed progress to a crawl and forced the creation of a tube of brick (which was essentially a brick arch with a supporting invert as a base) of 883 feet. When the tunnel was completed the brick lining extended 7573 feet in from the West Portal. Later in the 1972 a metal lining was installed after a section of the brick arching collapsed several hundred feet inside the tunnel. A 318 foot deep shaft known as West Shaft was sunk 2500 feet from present day West Portal so the weak stone could be circumvented and work could continue from the inside to outside. (In other words 2 headings were added, one going into the mountain, one going towards West portal).


West Portal as seen August 2005 (extra rail is continuous weld about to be installed at time of photo) [Click to enlarge]

    One of The West Portal's hidden secrets is known as the Haupt Tunnel, or Hoosac's baby brother. This abandoned section was used for housing mules, as well as drainage after the main approach was complete. It was never actually part of the active train tunnel. Think of the the current situation with the West Portal. There is a long approach cut into the mountain before you actually get to the portal itself. Well, during the original construction a similar approach was cut about 100 feet south of today's cut. This cut leads up to an old no longer existing West Portal that is in line with the present tunnel and about 300 feet west. This cut can still be seen today, it leads up to the pond from the east near the parking area and follows to the right (south) of the 4 wheeler trail. This cut often fills with water when there is a high enough water level. This cut at present day suddenly ends. There isn't much to see. The interesting part lays underneath the ground where the original 300 feet of the Hoosac Tunnel remains. If you walk in the cut with the active railroad towards the portal about 150 feet west of the portal you will notice a large amount of boulders on the south side of the cut. You will also notice a little trail leading up to these boulders. There is a small little crawl hole between some of the boulders. This is the entrance to the abandoned portion of the Hoosac Tunnel! It is about 150 feet long, underground, and has an abundance of cave ins (see pictures below). It is poorly ventilated, damp, musty and cold year round. I don't suggest anyone go in here, but obviously curiosity will get the best of anyone. Wear a hard hat and take a flashlight and remember that most of the fresh air in there comes out of that tiny hole you used to get in!

I don't know where in the Haupt tunnel this is taken (and I took the picture no less!) but I believe this is at the far end near the old portal looking towards the current west portal. [Click to enlarge]

    There are plenty of interesting things to see inside of the Haupt Tunnel. A few very old drill marks remain on the north side about 20 feet inside the old tunnel. Stalactites can be seen not too far from the entry hole, Graffiti can be seen in abundance all over the place, as well as beer cans, even tree trunks used as seats. Towards the front (far end from the entry hole) you can see what appears to be a cemented stone arch used for support. If you need more reasons to not go in here one of the cave ins extends upwards about 30 or 40 feet.

    East of the West portal (up the hill in line with the tunnel) lots of fun ruins can be found. There is a hand dug brook reroute complete with retaining wall which brings a small brook over to the south side of the tunnel and ultimately to the pond near the parking area. There is also an abandoned brook reroute on the north side of the active approach cut that literally goes from where the active brook turns, straight west (its near the old abandoned railway transmission lines). The Brick Kiln remains can be found south east of the portal up on the hill near the brook. If you continue climbing the hill past the brook reroute with the retaining wall you will find a whole slew of cellar holes. If you continue further up the hill you can align yourself with the large active power lines. These power lines follow the course of the tunnel. Look for any ditches, as they may be the remains of the old Hockin's wells mentioned on the West Shaft page.

     There are a bunch of spoilage piles near the main parking area. In fact the road leading to the parking area is literally dug out of the spoilage pile. Spoilage can also be found above the portal.


   Basically to get to the West Portal you need to get onto Route 8A in North Adams (not to be mistaken with the 8A that runs from Dalton MA to Whitingham VT). Once on that road, there is a small turn off on the east side about 1/4 mile north of West Shaft Rd. the turn off is dirt and is a few hundred feet north of an old concrete bridge. There is a gate near the front, if its closed you will have to proceed on foot. Follow the dirt road for about 1/6 of a mile, where you will happen upon a parking area. From here you can explore anything. Just make sure you realize that by walking onto the tracks you are putting yourself as somewhat a risk, and you are trespassing. Refer to the West Portal map on the maps page to help find things.

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

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



I have tried grouping these images into something at least resembling coherent. Enjoy!

All images can be clicked to view a larger image (in some cases not much larger)


Construction & Historic
Haupt Tunnel
Power Station

Construction & Historic

These pictures are ordered in as best I can tell chronological order. I won't make comments on all of them since there is a good bit of repetition

Notice the 5 layers of brick are exposed giving us a good view of the tube.

Notice the buildings in the background.

Work begins on the facade, notice the wooden bracings.

This picture depicts the digging of the approach to the West Portal. You can see work on the facade progressing in the background. Courtesy North Adams Public Library.

Taken 1874 after completion of the facade. Notice the lack of trees! Also notice the service track to the right. 2 tracks wont go into the tunnel until 1881.

The wooden arch laying on the ground was used as a support. You can see it in use in some of the above pictures.

Taken 1885 after the completion of the double track.

This picture from after 1911 shows the catenary wires used for the electric locomotives. The Tunnel Gangs' building can be seen on the left.

This picture is from 1957, shortly after the Storm door was installed.


I am not sure entirely where exactly this picture was taken, or for that matter where the cellar holes for those houses are. The mountain in the background gives us the clue its looking eastward, and the stream is another clue. This will be further investigated!




The West Portal as seen August 2005. The garage door type storm door was installed in 1954. Notice the 2 rusty rails on each side of the track. These are the soon to be installed continuous weld rail.

A shot from just inside the tunnel. The stone tube you see here is part of the facade. You can see slightly in the distance where the brick tube starts.

The top of the arch. This stone originated from a quarry in Northfield MA.

A view of the rail below from atop the storm door.

A rare photo I managed to catch of the closed Storm Door. Taken day after thanksgiving 2005 (132 year & 1 day anniversary!)

Another view of the Storm Door.

The flat area up top is where the old brick kiln used to stand. There is a small field over there now. This picture is taken about 80 feet south of the West Portal. The flat area shown is on the other side of the rerouted brook.




Most of these cards speak for themselves. Postcards showing the West (and East) Portals were quite popular around the turn of the century.

Pre 1911 but post 1885. Notice the Tunnel Gangs' house, as well as the smoke marks on the facade.

The pole with dangling wires hanging down was used as an indicator that the train was too high to clear the tunnel. I am not sure what the technical name of this is.

This postcard depicts the tunnel as seen sometime after 1911.

An electric locomotive emerging from the West Portal.

This postcard is probably from around 1885.

So is this one..

An electric pulling a train out of the West Portal. Notice the significant amount of soot on the facade.

This postcard is particularly fine in detail.

An electric engine pulling a steamer into the tunnel.

An interesting picture. This cart road still exists amazingly and still connects to West Shaft Road. Notice the buildings in the background and the metal power line towers. These towers lead to the central shaft fan building (and still follow mostly the same course)



Haupt Tunnel

The Haupt Tunnel is the 150 foot long abandoned section of the Hoosac Tunnel. The pictures from inside are ordered from closest to the entry hole, to furthest.

This picture taken from the 4 wheeler trail shows the old approach cut heading into the old West Portal. I am actually on top of the Haupt Tunnel in this picture. The old portal has been sealed off. The old approach seen here is often filled with water.

This picture gives you an idea of the placement of the old cut and portal location relative to the active cut. From left to right: old cut, old road, active cut.

The trail to the Haupt tunnel "entrance". To give you perspective, I am standing about 100 feet in front of the West Portal. You can see the rocks through the foliage.

The entry way into the 150 or so foot long abandoned tunnel.

Another picture of the entryway minus the picture ruining foliage.

Stalactites growing on the ceiling. These look like drips of water but they are really stones. These are very close to the entrance. There is a great deal of lime stone in the area which is what these particular stalactites are made from.

A view of the outside from within. The hole is quite small.

The dirt on the ground is from a cave in, this is about 15 feet in from the entry hole.

Drill hole profiles. You can bet these were from hand drills. Whoever drilled those holes spent an awful long time working on them. These were the only 2 I could find in the Haupt Tunnel.

Looking up at a crevice created by a cave in. This one seems to go up about 20+ feet. If you want a reason not to go in here, this is it!

A ghost I spotted. Actually this is fog that looks vaguely humanlike. It is very cold and damp in the Haupt Tunnel and fog ruined several of my otherwise perfectly good pictures.

I think this is the stone arching that is often mentioned in books. This is right near where the portal would have been. It is hard to tell if it is a stone archer for sure. Too bad I had a crummy flashlight when I was in there.

I am fairly sure this is me at the end of the tunnel looking toward the entry hole off in the invisible distance.



Power Station

This is what remains of the old West Portal substation. The purpose of this building was to distribute power to the catenary wires for the electric engines. Originally the Power came from the Zylonite power plant in Adams, but in 1915 it was switched over to the 5 MW Deerfield 5 Hydroelectric plant which was a few miles upstream. The original hydro plant is gone now, it was moved 1/2 mile upstream so the much larger 650MW Bear Swamp hydroelectric plant could be built.

Inside the building ruins.

A look at the ceiling. Insulated wire dropped through the ceiling from the power lines.



An old advertisement depicting the West Portal.

Steel lining being raised in 1997 to accommodate triple auto stacks. Track was also lowered here. The Brick tube section of the tunnel proved the most difficult to engineer during the enlargement project. The solid rock east portion of the tunnel was simply ground with a giant machine.

A 1946 promotional photo

A barely visible cellar hole up on the hill near the section of the stream with the retaining wall.

The stream east of the West Portal. It takes a right angle here and goes over to the south side of the tunnel. Notice the retaining wall. This is where the "old stream" went straight instead of turning as depicted in this picture.

The old stream bed. This is on the north side of the tunnel. You can see an old retaining wall here too. Where the last picture (showing the current stream) was taken the stream literally went straight instead of turning and going its present course. You can follow this old stream bed for a while but when I explored it the thorn bushes got so thick that I stopped.

An electric engine approaching the West Portal.

A picture of (most of) the brick kiln where the 20,000,000+ bricks used for lining the tunnel were baked. There is a field in this location now. Because this is a hill side a giant mound can be seen where this was once located: contemporary view. This can also be seen here in the top right corner (partial).


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.