The West Portal, Haupt Tunnel & Vicinity

The west portal circa 1874
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. 
West Portal as seen August 2005 (extra rail is continuous weld about to be installed at time of photo)
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).

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.
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.

Directions

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
A computer model of the West Portal area looking east. Courtesy of Google Earth

Images

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

Construction & Historic

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Contemporary

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Postcards

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Haupt Tunnel

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Power Station

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Etc.

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