The Men Who Loved Trains

The Berkshire Book

The Story Of The Hoosac Tunnel

The Story Of The Hoosac Tunnel

N. H. Egleston, 1882
Edited and adapted from the original ©2006

The observant traveler in our Northern States cannot have failed to notice, within the last few years, as the long trains of freight-cars sweep by him, how frequently appears, lettered distinctly on their sides, the sign as “Hoosac Tunnel Line.” It greets his eye all the way from Massachusetts Bay to the Bay of San Francisco, and from the Ohio to the Red River of the North. Wherever corn and wheat grow or swine and cattle feed on the Western prairies, there will be found the cars, bearing that conspicuous sign, waiting to bring their portion of these products to the distant East, and carry back in return the various fruits of its industry. Perhaps beneath that general sign he may notice the words “Foreign Freight,” which indicate that the cars so marked are destined to discharge their contents, whether of grain or live stock, into vessels which throng the wharves of Boston, ready to hear their burden to the shores of Europe. But, wherever these cars are met, they tell of a feat of engineering which stands among the most noteworthy mechanical and scientific achievements of our time.

It will surprise some, probably, to learn that the project of a tunnel through the Hoosac Mountain dates so far back as it does, and what was the purpose for which the tunnel was originally designed. The enterprise of uniting the Western lakes with the Hudson River by means of the Erie Canal, which has given lasting fame to De Witt Clinton. aroused in the merchants and manufacturers of Boston and its vicinity a desire to share in the advantages of traffic with the growing West, thus to be opened. Accordingly, they conceived the plan of a canal which should extend from Boston and meet the Erie Canal at Albany, thus putting Boston in as favorable a position for the trade of the West as New York; while they hoped also to retain the trade of the central and more distant portions of Massachusetts, which the facilities of transit by the Connecticut River were threatening to take away. Railroads had not then come into being, for this was as far back as 1820, and the first road, the Stockton and Darlington, in England, was opened in 1825. It was a canal which the enterprising people of Boston planned, and a tunnel through the Hoosac Mountain was a part of their canal scheme. And so favorably was their project regarded that early in 1825 the legislature of Massachusetts appointed commissioners “to ascertain the practicability of making a canal from Boston Harbor to Connecticut River, and of extending the same to some point on the Hudson River, in the State of New York, in the vicinity of the junction of the Erie Canal with that river.”

These pages are edited and adapted from the original,
© Laurel O’Donnell, 2006, all rights reserved
Copying these pages without written permission for the purpose of republishing
in print or electronic format is strictly forbidden
This page was last updated on 05 May 2006