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Hoosac Tunnel

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The Hoosac Tunnel, also known as the Hoosic or Hoosick Tunnel, is a railroad tunnel in Massachusetts that passes through the Hoosac Mountain. At the time that it was constructed, it was the second longest tunnel at 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long, after the Mont Cenis Tunnel.

Construction of the tunnel began in 1848 and was completed in 1875. It cost approximately $20,000,000 (in 1870s dollars) to build and employed many of the same drilling methods that were used in the construction of the Frejus Tunnel, including early tunnel-boring methods.[1]

The Hoosac Tunnel comprises 4.75 miles (7.6 km) of tunnel railroad, a part of the present day Springfield Terminal Guildford rail line (district 4).


[edit] Construction History

[edit] Conception of the Tunnel Railroad

Even before 1819, it was acknowledged that there was a need for a route to get across the state of Massachusetts. In 1825, civil engineer Loammi Baldwin was hired to survey a route for a possible canal system from Boston to Albany. His project was rejected for being too expensive. But this did not stop others from trying to advance the project.

In 1841, paper mill owner Alvah Crocker, along with others, argued for a Western Railroad that would travel through Worcester and on to Springfield. Crocker was authorized to raise funds for the project. In less than 10 years, the project was put into action and engineers began thinking of ways to drill a railroad through a tunnel.[2]

When construction on the tunnel was first begun in 1851 by Troy & Greenfield, drilling holes in the rock was completed by hand. Laborers held drill bits against the rock until the holes were big enough for blasting. This task proved difficult and slow, prompting Crocker to take out a loan from the state in 1854. A year later, Troy and Greenfield hired E. W. Serrell to dig the tunnel, but Serrell was let go shortly thereafter and Merman Haupt took on the management of the project in 1856.

[edit] Tunneling Problems

There were many ensuing problems in the early stages. Tunneling work on the West Shaft proved difficult; falling rock and water resulted in many problems. This was somewhat alleviated when legislature amended the 1854 Tunnel Aid bill and provided funds for the tunnel work. Construction slowed once again when legislature failed to pay Haupt, and he was forced to leave the project behind. Without money or management, the tunneling project was taken over by the State. Thomas Doane was appointed the chief engineer in 1863, the same year that work on the Central Shaft began. [3]

Before the invention of the Burleigh rock drill, and under Haupt’s direction, laborers attempted to improve the drilling process with "Wilson's Patented Stone-Cutting Machine." It failed because the machine was not ready for drilling. The method was tested on the East Portal, but as the drill cut through the face of the mountain, it got jammed at a depth of 12 feet (3.6 m). It was eventually disassembled and sold.

The drill cost $25,000 and was built by Munn & Co. The boring machine was supposed to produce a 24-foot (7.3-m) tunnel in a job to be completed in 1,556 days. Engineers had planned that the machine would drill through enough rock to allow for blasting. The hole, still visible today, is referred to as the "false start." [4]

[edit] Advanced Drilling Methods and Burleigh’s Rock Drill

In 1866, with new management and new funds, new methods were tested. The first pneumatic rock drill was introduced to the project, an invention that made major headway into the tunnel. Compressors were used to supply power to the pneumatic drills. In order to supply power, water was collected by laborers from a sluiceway a half-mile (0.8 km) away. To harvest and store the water, a rock crib dam was constructed. Pivotal as it was, Charles Burleigh’s rock drill required constant energy from compressed air in order to bore the tunnel. Despite the close water source, the compressors later utilized steam power and supplied the rock drills with that source of power.[5]

The Burleigh drills, mounted on mobile carriages, were connected to rubber hoses and iron pipes that extended from the compressor building. The drills were used as of June 14, 1866. [6]

[edit] Fire in the Central Shaft

What is now known as the Central Shaft was bored to help speed up the tunnel's excavation. It was also used as a ventilation source. When it was completed, the Central Shaft extended to a depth of 1,028 feet (313 m), including a 10-foot (3-m) sump hole that collected water. The Central Shaft consisted of 64 floors and was fitted with an elevator for the hoisting and lowering of men and equipment and the removal of rock. The Central Shaft was destroyed on October 17, 1867 by an explosion, followed by a fire. At the time, 13 men were working at the bottom of the 583-foot (177.6-m) pit. They all died and it took more than a year to recover their bodies. [7]

[edit] Shaft Construction

In 1868 Canadian brothers Francis and Walter Shanly were hired to advance the tunneling and were given $5 million to do so by March 1, 1874. In two years, the Central Shaft reached the tunnel grade. Another two years later, the eastern half of the tunnel was completed.

The West Shaft, at 318 feet (97 m) deep, still exists but has since been partially filled. Drilling the West Shaft posed some problems with the workers. Shovels were used to remove dirt but when they did so, more dirt would fall in its place. Water pumps were used as men tried to dig deep into the mountain to get to the west side in order to drain water from the shaft. This was not successful and four additional shafts were dug. The shafts became known as Hockin’s Well, Baby Shaft, Brick Shaft, and Supplementary Shaft. They have since been filled in.

[edit] Blasting with Tri-nitroglycerin

To hold back the earth as the tunnel was bored, workers lined the walls with brick. Approximately 7,573 feet (2,308 m) of bricks were used to line the tunnel wall.

Tri-nitroglycerin was used to aid in the tunnel construction. Provided by Professor Mowbray, the explosive material was perfected in the oilfields in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Mowbray set up the explosives 1000-feet (304 m) south of the West Shaft.

[edit] Construction Houses

Several sites and buildings were set up to aid in the tunnel’s construction. One of them was the 150-foot (46-m) long acid house, as well as a 90-foot (27-m) building to manufacture electric blasting wire. Two icehouses were constructed for the purpose of containing 400 tons of ice to control the temperature of the tri-nitroglycerin. A 100-foot- (30-m-) long converting building was also built. Known as the engine house, it supplied the steam and mechanical power that powered the construction equipment. [8]

[edit] The Four Towers

When the tunnel was being constructed, there was a great deal of consideration given to the problem of drilling a straight line through the mountain. Engineers were worried that workers drilling on either side would not meet in the middle. Tom Doane, the civil engineer appointed to the project, sought to combat this by first surveying the mountain. His survey led him to suggest building towers that would line the tunnel. The first tower was built in 1866. This allowed the surveyor to view the East Portal. Several more towers were built for the purpose of ensuring the tunnel was constructed in a straight line. Each tower comprised a long pole that protruded from the top. When all four towers were constructed, a line was carried through each tower.

Carl Wenderkinch, another civil engineer, worked in the Central Shaft and aligned wires horizontally one-eighth of an inch (0.3 cm) apart down 1,028 feet (313 m) to the bottom of the tunnel in order to transfer the line to the work face.

The West Shaft posed the biggest problems because it was smaller, which meant that the double wire would not reflect the most precise measurements. Another shaft of 264 feet (80 m) was dug to the west so that a more precise measurement could be determined. Today, four of the six towers are still standing.

[edit] The Brick Tube

Excavation was difficult because of the viscosity present in the soil. Every time a worker shoveled a bucket full of earth, more would fall in its place. This issue was resolved by the construction of a circular tube, conceived by B.N Farren. The tube comprised six to eight layers worth of bricks. Twenty million bricks were used to build the brick tube, which was 26 feet (7.9 m) wide. The tube was filled with the excavation backfill. The brick tube supported backfill for another 883 feet (269 m) into the mountain.[9]

F.W. Shanley hired contractor Hawkens & Holebrook Co. to finish work on the brick tube project. However, a flood occurred in the summer of 1869 and much of the track along the Deerfield River had to be replaced with brick lining.

[edit] Completion

On Thanksgiving Day, 1873, the last section of the tunnel was blasted as 500 members of the public gathered to celebrate. The first to pass through the tunnel included Walter Shanly, Commisioner Johnston, and Mr. Granger, who made their way through the tunnel on a five-foot (1.5-m) crater. Shortly after, grading was done and tracks were laid.

The first train passed through the tunnel on February 9, 1875. B.N. Farren continued to work on the tunnel, widening the tunnel’s tight spots and repairing weak regions.

The tunnel was officially opened by the State on July 1, 1876.

[edit] Equipment Used

[edit] Refurbishment/Recent Projects/Renovations

  • In 1899, steam powered fans were installed in the Central Shaft to remove smoke from the tunnel.
  • On May 18, 1911, the first electric locomotive was used in the tunnel.
  • The tunnel was deepened in 1926 to allow bigger engines and cars to pass through.
  • In 1957, the tunnel track was replaced with single tracks.
  • In 1973, welded rails were installed and the track lowered. 
  • The Guildford Transportation Industries took over the Boston & Maine railroad and built a new northeast rail system in 1983.
  • In 1997, a 10-foot- (3-m-) wide strip of the tunnel roof was cut to allow passage of triple stack cars. [10]

[edit] Unique Facts

  • It is rumored that there are dualin explosives buried somewhere on Hoosac Mountain.
  • The Civil War caused a delay in the project. By the end of 1864 only 145 feet (44 m) of tunnel had been drilled. [11]
  • By 1867 the tunnel had reached the halfway point and workers were completing, on average, 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 m) per month.
  • In August 1867 civil engineer Doane quit the project due to the growing death toll. C.P. Granger replaced him.
  • The Central Shaft was known as the "bloody pit" for the 13 workers who had lost their lives in an explosion. It took a year before their bodies could be recovered.[12]

[edit] References

  1. Famous Tunnels. Thinkquest. 2008-10-30.
  2. History. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-30.
  3. History Timeline. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-31.
  4. History. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-30.
  5. Compressor. JKRails. 2008-10-30.
  6. History. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-30.
  7. History Timeline. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-31.
  8. Hoosac Tunnel. JKRails. 2008-10-30.
  9. Hoosac Tunnel. JKRails. 2008-10-30.
  10. History Timeline. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-31.
  11. Hoosac Tunnel. JKRails. 2008-10-30.
  12. History. Hoosac Tunnel. 2008-10-30.