The following text mostly comes from Carl R Byron's book "A Pinprick Of Light" If you want more details I highly suggest you read this book. It can be found on Amazon.com
, or the North Adams Public Library. This text is for the most part a summary of the book with a few tidbits thrown in from other facts that I knew.
The Hoosac Tunnel for those unfamiliar is a 4 ¾ mile long railroad tunnel which is at present part of the Springfield Terminal Guilford rail line (district 4). It is blasted from under the Hoosac Mountain which lies in between the Deerfield River on the east and the Hoosic River on the west. Once a well traveled route, the tunnel rarely sees more than a handful of trains a day. Here is its story.
The Hoosac Tunnel goes all the way back to 1819 when it was originally proposed as a portion of a canal system running from Boston to Albany. A civil engineer by the name of Loammi Baldwin was hired by a legislative commission in 1825 to survey a route. However despite Mr. Baldwin’s projections and plans the project was shot down for being too costly and for carrying too much uncertainty. No other route in the northern portion of the state could be found. There was no way around the great mountain.
In 1841 a self made paper mill owner from Fitchburg MA by the name of Alvah Crocker, in response to a the more southern "Western Railroad" being opened, began lobbying for the creation of a more northern route which would favor his mills. He as well as others argued that the Western Railroad which traveled through Worcester and on to Springfield left the more northern towns out in the cold. Not to mention that the Western Railroad had to negotiate some very difficult grades and curvatures. By March of 1845 Crocker had opened his Fitchburg RR from Boston to Greenfield. Crocker knew that the only way to complete his route would be to climb the Deerfield River valley and pierce through the Hoosac mountain which stood in his way. While standing at the foot of the Mountain near the what is today the East Portal, Laomi Baldwin once said: "Why, sir, it seems as if the finger of Providence had marked out this route from the east to the west."—"Perhaps so," answered Alvah Crocker, " but it is a pity that the finger of Providence hadn't been thrust through the Hoosac Mountain."
In 1848 with the slogan “On to Hoosac, on to the West” The Troy and Greenfield line was chartered. The Bore was initially planned to cost $2,000,000. On January 8th 1851 ground was broken on the North Adams side. During the summer of 1852 the infamous $25,000 “Wilson’s Patented Stone-Cutting Machine” built by Munn & Co of South Boston began chewing away at the east side of the mountain. This machine was supposed to cut a 24 foot tunnel through the entire mountain in 1556 working days. The general idea was that the machine would cut into the rock and then that cut rock could be blasted out. After about 12 feet of progress the machine seized up. The machine would stay in its own self dug grave for a number of years. This hole can still be seen today, albeit it is somewhat more obscure than as recently as 50 years ago. It is often referred to as the false start, but in fact this was never supposed to be the tunnel portal, instead it was meant to be a testing area. At least on the west side things were progressing, the tunnel itself had not started, but the gutter approach was underway.