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THE HOOSAC TUNNEL.
Scribner's—December, 1870

IT is a matter of wonder that those enterprising gentlemen who proposed during the late war to reconstruct the map of the United States, leaving New England out in the cold, did not discover and point out the fact that New England is divided from the rest of the country by a mountain wall which might well serve as the boundary of a separate State.

The westernmost of the three mountain chains which form the great Appalachian system, stretches without interruption from the western boundary of South Carolina to the northern boundary of Maine. Through the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, it is known as the Blue Ridge. In New Jersey it is called Schooley's Mountain. Crossing into New York, it breaks into a magnificent group of craggy peaks, and, parting to let the Hudson pass, is christened the Highlands. Thence it trends to the eastward, and pushes away to the north near the western boundary of Connecticut, till it reaches the southern line of Massachusetts, where it divides into two parallel ranges. The western range serves as a boundary between Massachusetts and New York, and bears the name of the Taghkanics or Taconics. Over the tops of the other range of hills which are known as the Hoosac range, the zig-zag line of Berkshire county runs. Near the Vermont border these parted columns are massed again in the broad bulwark of the Green Mountains, which stretches northward through Vermont, then north-westward along the northern boundary of Maine, terminating in the Canadian peninsula that separates the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Bay of Chaleur.

Do I hear my intelligent readers suggesting that they knew all this geography before? I must beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen, for doubting whether half of you know it now.

We are only concerned at present, however, with the fact that the western ridge of the Appalachian chain separates New England from the rest of the Union. A narrow belt of country in Vermont is found on the west of this natural boundary, but neither of the other States crosses it. The commercial intercourse of New England with the West has been greatly obstructed by this mountain barrier. It has not served to stem the tide of emigration westward, neither has it weakened the affection of the people of the new States for their old homes; but it has prevented the emigrants from keeping up the close business relations with their native States that they would, under other circumstances, have maintained. The western merchant, arriving at Albany or Troy by railroad or canal, finds a magnificent river waiting to bear him and his merchandise to New York; while between him and the New England markets, stretches for hundreds of miles up and down an abrupt and difficult mountain wall. It is not surprising, therefore, that he goes to New York with his merchandise. Emigration may follow parallels of latitude, but traffic always follows the easiest and shortest route to market, with no reference at all to parallels or pedigrees.

The people of New England did not, however, sit down behind their mountain wall and suck their thumbs. Close business relations with the great West were essential to their prosperity, and they determined to establish and maintain them. Some way must be provided whereby a share of the western trade might reach their markets. If the mountain would not give way to Mahomet, Mahomet must go through the mountain. That is how the Hoosac Tunnel came to be built. It is a clear announcement that New England does not intend to be left out in the cold.

At the present time freight and passengers from the West are brought to the metropolis of New England by three principal routes: the Grand Trunk Railroad through Canada, which reaches the Atlantic coast at Portland, Maine, and approaches Boston from the East; the Vermont Central Railroad, which draws its traffic from the St. Lawrence river by various connecting lines, and the Boston and Albany Railroad. Of these three roads, the two former pierce the mountain barrier by passes far to the northward without any very difficult engineering, but they follow routes too circuitous to be of much practical advantage to Boston as through lines from the West. The Boston and Albany Railroad is nearly as short as any railroad connecting the Hudson river with Boston can be; but between Springfield and Pittsfield, where it climbs over the Hoosac range, the grades are terrific. For this reason, though the railroad is managed with vigor and enterprise, it is still inadequate for the transaction of the business that ought to be carried on between Boston and the West.

If it had not been for the veto of Governor Claflin, the Boston, Hartford, and Erie Railroad might have been added to these thoroughfares from New England to the West. That, however, reaches the Hudson at a point too near to New York to prove of any great benefit to the Western trade of New England.

Long before either of these railways was thought of, before railways had been heard of, indeed, the Hoosac Tunnel route had been surveyed and commended as the most feasible line of communication between the East and the West. This was done in 1825, by a Legislative Commission appointed to ascertain the practicability of a canal from Boston to the Hudson river. Comparing this route with that now followed by the Boston and Albany railroad, the Commissioners unhesitatingly gave the preference to this one for the building of a canal. There was no way of getting round the mountain, and they thought it easier to go through it than to go over it with a canal. This is their conclusion:—
There is no hesitation, therefore, in deciding in favor of a tunnel; but even if its expense should exceed the other mode of passing the mountain, a tunnel is preferable, for reasons which have been assigned. And this formidable barrier once overcome, the remainder of the route from the Connecticut to the Hudson presents no unusual difficulties in the construction of a canal, but in fact the reverse; being remarkably feasible."

It was during this very year, however, that the first railway was put in operation in America; and the Massachusetts Legislature paused, before building the proposed canal, to await the results of this experiment. It soon became evident that the railroad was to supersede the canal; and the Legislature decided to adopt this improved method of communication in opening a route to the West. In 1828 another Commission reported to the Legislature of Massachusetts that they could get over the mountain with a railroad more quickly and more cheaply than they could get through it; and, therefore, recommended the Boston and Albany line, which was opened for travel in 1842.

The northern line was not, however, abandoned. But for the one formidable obstacle presented by the Hoosac range it was by far the most practicable route between the East and the West. Extending west from Fitchburg, it descends the valley of Miller's river to Greenfield; then crossing the Connecticut, it finds a deep though sinuous passage which the Deerfield river, coming from the west, has cut through the hills for thirty miles. Following this stream upward without difficulty, it reaches at length a bend in the river where the Deerfield comes down from the north, and its course is no longer practicable. Up to this point, with a little care in his alignments, the engineer has found an easy passage, but now he is confronted by the steep sides of the Hoosac mountain range, standing directly across his path. Starting at Troy, the western end of his line, and going eastward, he meets with exactly the same problem. The Hoosac river, which empties into the Hudson a little above Troy, has cut the Taghkanics in twain for him, and a most beautiful route is open to the village of North Adams, where the west side of the Hoosac mountain rises before him more abrupt and lofty than the eastern side. But for this Hoosac mountain, the route, as the Commissioners say, is, considering the nature of the country between the Connecticut and the Hudson, remarkably feasible. Old Loammi Baldwin, the engineer who made the first survey with reference to the canal, used to grow enthusiastic over this line. "Why, sir," he would exclaim, "it seems as if the finger of Providence had marked out this route from the east to the west."—"Perhaps so," answered one who was deficient both in enthusiasm and in reverence, " but it is a pity that the finger of Providence hadn't been thrust through the Hoosac Mountain."

This was a work which Providence left to the people of this generation. In 1848 the Troy and Greenfield Railroad Company was chartered, with a capital of 3,500,000; "to build a railroad from the terminus of the Vermont and Massachusetts, railroad, at or, near Greenfield, through the valleys of the Deerfield and the Hoosac to the State line, there to unite with a railroad leading to the city of Troy." Three years passed before any work was done. Subscriptions came in slowly, and the faith of capitalists in the enterprise appeared very small. On the 7th of January, 1851, the directors pluckily voted to, break ground the next day; and in the absence of any information to the contrary it is to be presumed they did it. Indeed, there is a tradition in North Adams that the ceremony took place on the line of the railroad, a little to the east of that village. On the 27th of May, in the same year, the directors voted to expend a sum not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars in experiments upon the east side of the mountain, at or near the mouth of the proposed tunnel. The result of this vote was the building of a stupendous drilling machine which will be described, hereafter. This machine was set in operation at the east end, at some time during the year 1852,—and this, so far as I can learn, was the first work done upon the tunnel. I regret that I am not able to give with greater precision the date of the beginning of this important work; but a diligent study of all the reports, and inquiries addressed to every body who would be likely to know about it, have failed to elicit any definite information. Everybody knows when they began to blow, but nobody knows when they began to strike.

This tunnelling machine was a failure, and after it was abandoned very little, if anything, was done for two or three years. Repeated applications were made by the company to the Legislature for loans; but it was not till 1854 that a loan of two millions of dollars was authorized by the Legislature. By the aid of this loan and liberal subscriptions to the stock of the company by several of the towns along the line of the railroad, work was at last begun with considerable vigor in 1855. The first contractor who showed signs of force and capacity was Mr. Herman Haupt, afterward, in the late war, General Haupt, the great bridge-builder, under whose command the long bridge at Acquia Creek went up so quickly during Grant's campaign with the army of the Potomac. Haupt is a small, wiry looking man, of great capacity and boundless energy; and when the work passed into his hands it was soon evident that he meant business. The financial infirmities of the company greatly embarrassed him, however, and in 1862 he abandoned the work, and the Troy and Greenfield Railroad Company transferred to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, under the mortgages held by the Commonwealth, all the property of the corporation. After a year had passed, during which no work was done upon the tunnel, the State took possession of the property, three commissioners were appointed by the Governor to superintend it, and a Committee of the Legislature visited it every year. The chief engineer in charge during this stage of the enterprise was Mr. Thomas Doane, of Boston, who originated most of the methods now in use, and to whose judgment and skill the enterprise is very largely indebted. The work was carried on in this manner, under the direct supervision of the State, until December, 1868, when, under an appropriation of five millions of dollars the Legislature, a contract was made with Walter and Francis Shanly, of Canada, for the completion of the tunnel. These gentlemen entered upon the work in the month of March following, and have since been pushing it vigorously. Under their administration no doubt is expressed concerning the success of the tunnel.

The Messrs Shanly are Irishmen by birth, originating in the County of Queens, in the Emerald Isle. In 1836 they emigrated to Canada, and have since been engaged, the greater part of the time, as civil engineers and contractors upon various public works in Canada and the United States. Walter, the elder, took an important part in the construction of the St. Lawrence and Welland Canals, and afterward, until 1862, was engineer and manager of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. In 1863 he was returned to the Provincial Parliament for the County of South Grenville, including the City of Prescott, and in 1867 he was re-elected from the same county to the House of Commons of the New Dominion, which position he still holds. Both these brothers immediately impress a stranger as being men of extraordinary force of character. With erect, athletic frames, fair and clear complexions, eyes that mean vigilance, and lips that mean resolution, they appear to be abundantly able to manage their own business, and thus far they have done it, I believe, to the satisfaction of everybody. The frank courtesy of their manners, and the quiet precision with which they do their work, have earned for them the respect of the Yankees among whom they are now sojourning, and have convinced us that the old Irish gentleman is not wholly a creature of the imagination.

The Hoosac Mountain, of which a profile is here presented, has two crests or summits with a valley between them. The Hoosac River washes the western base and the Deerfield River the eastern; and it is a curious fact that these rivers are at precisely the same height above tide-water, making it necessary to enter the mountain on each side at exactly the same elevation. Most of the tunnels heretofore built are upon an ascending grade; and it is necessary that there should be some descent in order that the water, which is usually met with in large quantities, may be carried off. In this case the only method of securing proper drainage was to have a summit at the centre, from which the grade should descend to either portal. Accordingly the grade rises about twenty feet in a mile toward the summit level in the heart of the mountain. But this manner of constructing the tunnel increased the difficulties of ventilation. If built on a continuous grade an upward current of air might be expected; and when this failed to secure ventilation, the rapid driving of a train downward through the tunnel would create a current by which it would be cleared of smoke; but if built in this manner, with a summit level in the centre, neither of these methods could be depended on. It therefore became necessary, in the judgment of eminent engineers both in this country and Europe, to sink a shaft from the top of the mountain to the summit level of the tunnel. By this shaft it was hoped not only to secure ventilation, but also to expedite the work, by affording four faces of rock instead of two to work upon, when the shaft was sunk to grade. The central shaft was, however, an afterthought, not having been begun till the work had been in progress for several years.

The visitor to the tunnel finds the work going on at both ends and at the middle. From the eastern to the western portal the distance is four miles and eighty-four hundredths;—making a longer tunnel than any now in operation in the world. The Mount Cenis Tunnel, now nearly completed under the Alps between France and Sardinia, is however about seven and three-fifths miles in length. The longest one now in use is the Woodhead Tunnel near Manchester, England, which is a trifle over three miles long. The rock of the Hoosac Mountain is mica slate with occasional veins of quartz. Except when the quartz seams occur, it is easy to drill, but quite difficult to displace by blasting.

With these general explanations concerning the character and magnitude of the work the reader will be prepared to imagine himself a visitor, and to examine it in detail. Alighting from the cars at Hoosac Tunnel station, on the eastern side of the mountain, he crosses the Deerfield upon a wagon bridge, and finds himself in a most romantic little valley, walled in on every side by steep hills. The road which he follows leads for half a mile along the southern bank, which soon becomes a precipitous cliff as the mountain elbows the valley aside and comes down to the water. Cut in the side of this steep hill, the road gradually rises till it reaches that bend in the Deerfield heretofore described, where it is fifty or sixty feet above the water. Here we are first confronted with signs of the tunnel. A huge pile of broken rock, which has been thrown down this high bank, pushes far out into the bed of the river. Judging them by their chips, these miners must be good workmen. A rough tramway running out to the brink of this bank indicates the dumping place of the cars by which the rock is brought forth from the mountain. Scattered about in various picturesque localities upon the hillsides are the huts of the miners and the houses of the engineers and superintendents in charge. The store, at which all the necessaries of life from a tobacco-pipe to a tarpaulin-axe furnished to the, workmen stands upon the edge of this glacier of rock. On the other side of it, a little farther up the stream, is the machine shop and the compressor building, the machinery of which is driven by the water-power of the Deerfield Dam, a short distance above. In this building the power is generated by which work is done at the heading, nearly a mile and a half away.

At the very outset the project of tunnelling this mountain by machinery was entertained, and an enormous machine, to which reference has already been made, was built at South Boston, and set in operation here in the winter of 1852. This machine was "designed to cut a groove around the circumference of the tunnel thirteen inches wide and twenty-four feet in diameter, by means of a set of revolving cutters. When this groove had been cut to a proper depth the machine was to be run back on its railway; and the centre core blasted out by gunpowder or split off by means of wedges." Great hopes were entertained of the success of this mechanical monster, but they were not realized. It cut a very smooth and beautiful hole into the rock for about ten feet, and then it stopped forever. Subsequently another boring machine was tried at the west end. This was intended to cut the heading only—a hole eight feet in diameter, which was to be enlarged by manual labor and blasting. But this was even a more signal failure than the other. It would not go forward an inch. And this was the end of the boring machines. The fact is, that all machines of this sort are built in disregard, of one fundamental principle in engineering, viz., that in excavations of rock as little cutting as possible should be done, and as much of the work as possible should be left for the explosive agents to do. It is impossible that any machinery should be made that will cut hard rock as cheaply or as rapidly as nitro-glycerine will break it. No force that can be harnessed to machinery bears any comparison with the forces that are lodged in these chemical compounds.

After the failure of these boring machines the work was for a long time done by means of hand-drills and gunpowder. But it was found that the most rapid progress that could be made with hand-drills, under the most favorable circumstances, would not exceed sixty feet a month at either heading. Making allowance for accidents and unavoidable delays, the average progress would be much less than that; so that though by this means the tunnel might ultimately be completed, it was not likely to be done within a generation. This fact led to the introduction of power drills. Several experiments were made with machines of this description, resulting in the adoption of the Burleigh Drill, invented by Mr. Charles Burleigh, of Fitchburg. This drill, like all the others that were tried, is driven by compressed air. That appears to be the only motive power which could be used in a work of this kind. A steam-engine under ground would fill the air with smoke and the steam could not, of course, be generated outside and conducted to the machines in pipes, as it would condense before travelling far. But air can be compressed by machinery and carried anywhere, by means of strong iron pipes, without losing its elastic force.

In the upper story of this machine shop we shall find several of these drills in process of repair; for, unlike the one-horse shay of the deacon, Mr. Burleigh's invention has several "weakest spots," and often breaks down, but never wears out. It stands the severe strain, however, much better than any machine of the sort heretofore invented. The Burleigh Rock Drill consists simply of a cylinder and a piston. The compressed air being admitted by a hose from the iron pipes, by its elastic force moves the piston quickly back and forth in the cylinder, making about three hundred strokes a minute. To the end of this piston the drill is firmly fastened, and is thus driven into the rock by the strokes of the piston. A ratchet upon the cylinder turns the piston and the drill round a little with every stroke.

In the lower story of this building the compressors are at work, packing the air into small compass for use at the heading. A pressure of six atmospheres, or ninety pounds to the square inch, is given to the air which is collected in the huge pipes that lead from these machines into the tunnel. The compressor is simply an enormous air forcing-pump worked by water or steam.

By the use of drilling machines the progress of the work has been greatly accelerated. An average advance of one hundred and fifty feet a month is made at the heading at this end, and at the west heading, where the rock is harder, ninety feet a month.

The portal of the tunnel is only a few rods from the bank of the river. Just before reaching it we pass on the right the blacksmith shop, where the drills are sharpened, and the engineers' signal station, a little octagonal building standing directly in the line of the tunnel. Looking back across the river another station is perceived on the top of the opposite hill, and a slashed line through the forest on the hill-side leading up to it. A similar station is built upon each summit of the Hoosac Mountain, and another upon the hill west of the Hoosac River; and the greatest care has been taken by the engineers to keep the alignments accurate. Working from each end toward the middle, and from the middle toward each end of an underground line nearly five miles in length, it is evident that some care is necessary. The portal of the tunnel at this end is in the solid rock, and is twenty feet high and twenty-four feet wide. A little stream comes down the mountain side on the right of the portal; and the attempt was first made to follow this stream upward a considerable distance before entering the mountain; but it was soon found that the rock was more easily managed than the water; and instead of fighting the stream they flanked it by this lower entrance.

Mule power only was employed in the removal of the broken rock till recently; but the increasing distance made the employment of a swifter and stronger force necessary; and a small locomotive is now in use at this end of the tunnel. Clothed in a tarpaulin and rubber boots for protection against the water, which drips abundantly from the roof of the tunnel, the visitor mounts one of the small platform cars attached to this locomotive, and is drawn slowly into the tunnel. If it chance to be a sultry day in summer, the change of temperature will be noticeable. A cool atmospheric current, created by the air which the drilling machines at the heading are liberating,—and, if a blast has recently taken place, freighted with unmerchantable odors,—is blowing outward continually. The reverberation of the noises of the locomotive and the cars fills the air with an unearthly clangor, and timid souls are usually willing to return before they have gone very far.

From the portal to the heading the distance is now (Sept. 1, 1870) seven thousand five hundred and thirty-five feet, or nearly a mile and a half; but the tunnel is not complete for this distance. First a heading, eight feet high by twenty-four feet wide, is driven into the mountain; some distance behind these workmen come another gang, who add about six feet more to the height of the excavation; and some distance behind these another gang, who complete the work. For about half a mile from the portal the excavation is completed, or nearly so; at that distance the roof drops down a few feet, and for half a mile further the excavation is only about three-fourths completed; beyond that point is only the first excavation, twenty-four feet wide and eight feet high.

On the car we may observe a fellow-passenger with a bucket or a basket in his hand, containing a dozen, more or less, of tin cans, a foot and a half or two feet in length, and an inch and a half in diameter, and closed at the end with a large cork. These are the cartridges of nitro-glycerine which are used in the enlargement. When a sufficient number of holes are drilled in the face of the rock, the corks are taken from these cartridges and perforated; through the holes in the cork the wires of an electrical fuse are drawn, and the cork is replaced, leaving the fuse in the cartridge, with the short ends of insulated copper wire projecting from the cork. Then the cartridges are carefully placed in the holes which have been drilled in the rock (no tamping being necessary), and the wires of the fuses are connected with longer wires attached to an electrical machine some distance toward the portal. The miners withdraw, a few turns are given to the crank of the electrical machine, the circuit is completed, and the rush of the air and the stunning reverberation proclaim that the mightiest of all the chemical forces yet discovered by man has dealt another crushing blow at this barrier of rock.

Simultaneous blasting by the use of electrical fuses is found to be far more effective than the old-fashioned method. A very ingenious fuse, invented by Mr. Charles A. Brown, of North Adams, is used in this work. It consists of a hollow cylinder of wood, about an inch and a quarter in length and half an inch in diameter, one end of which is closed. Into the open end is thrust a little wooden plug, the bottom of which is also hollow. In the hollow of this little plug a very sensitive fulminate is confined, and the points of two copper wires in the same little chamber are separated only a little space. These wires connect with two others which enter the main cylinder on either side.

The fulminate in the little plug answers as the priming of the fuse; the main chamber of the cylinder is filled with a less sensitive and less costly explosive material. The electric spark, leaping from the one copper wire to the other in the little primer, ignites the cap and thus explodes the fuse.

Several explosive agents have been tried in the progress of this work. Gunpowder was used for a long time exclusively, and is still employed in the softer portions of the rock. Dr. Ehrhardt, a German chemist, sought to introduce in 1866 a blasting powder which he regarded as very powerful. The experiments made with it were not, however, satisfactory, a poisonous gas being evolved which drove the workmen from the tunnel. During the last year Lieut. Ditmar, a Prussian inventor, has been exhibiting a preparation which he calls Dualine, and for which he makes great claims. Dualine is, according to Lieut. Ditmar, much cheaper, much more powerful, and much less dangerous than nitroglycerine. It can be handled and used, he says, with perfect safety, not being liable to explode from concussion, and, unless confined, harmless when ignited. It is certainly very innocent-looking stuff, resembling nothing so much as sawdust. Indeed the inventor admits that it is woody fibre, with which, by a process known only to himself, the component parts of nitro-glycerine are chemically combined. Other chemists are inclined to disparage Lieut. Ditmar's invention, asserting that it is nothing in the world but sawdust soaked in nitro-glycerine; and since the great explosion at Worcester, in which this tranquil sawdust kicked up such a terrible bobbery, there has been, if you will pardon the expression, considerable dualine between the chemists in the newspapers, and several shots have been exchanged, with what result I am unable to say. The experiments with this explosive at the tunnel did not, however, justify all the claims that were made in its favor; and nitro-glycerine has not as yet been superseded. It seems difficult to believe that anything can be more powerful than this; and, with proper care in the handling, it is not more dangerous than gunpowder. Several serious accidents have occurred at the tunnel through its use, but these, so far as the circumstances are known, have been occasioned by inexcusable carelessness. One of the most serious casualties connected with it took place in the autumn of 1869 at the magazine where it was stored at the east end. The magazine stood upon the hill-side, a quarter of a mile from the portal, and it contained at the time of the accident about five hundred pounds of the nitro-glycerine. Three of the miners, whose business it was, went one morning to the magazine to prepare the glycerine for the day's use; and by some unknown accident an explosion took place, killing them all. One of the men was outside the building, and he, though terribly lacerated, was identified when he was picked up; but of the other men hardly a vestige was to be found. They were literally blown to atoms. Of the building, not a plank nor timber was left in the neighborhood and nothing but an ugly fissure in the ground remained to mark the spot where it stood.

This ride into the tunnel is far from being a cheerful one. The fitful glare of the lamps upon the walls of the dripping cavern,—the frightful noises that echo from the low roof, and the ghoul-like voices of the miners coming out of the gloom ahead, are not what would be called enlivening. It therefore occurred to me, on seeing the miner, with his basket of tin cans, take passage on the same car with us, that it might be agreeable to while away the moments of this rather anxious ride by telling these soothing tales of nitro-glycerine.

About four-fifths of a mile from the portal passengers change cars for the heading. Beyond this point mule power is still employed to bring down the broken rock. Our friend with the basket goes no farther; powder, instead of glycerine, being used in the soft rock at the heading. The roof of the tunnel for the rest of the journey is very low, and the scenery does not on the whole improve as we go forward. Through the smoke before us spectral lights are seen flitting about, and a frightful din in the region of the lights grows louder as we approach. Presently we dismount, and conclude not to go any farther. Mr. Shanly has not the slightest objection to our pursuing the journey if we choose; but it is probable that circumstances entirely beyond our control will make it inconvenient for us to do so. We are in the heading, almost a mile and a half from daylight horizontally, and about a quarter of a mile vertically. A huge iron frame-work, resting on rollers, is pushed up against the face of the rock; to this the drilling machines are securely clamped, and at various angles they are pounding holes into the mountain. The clamor which they make is absolutely terrific. When the blast takes place, the carriage upon which the drilling machines are fastened is moved back a short distance, and two firm plank doors are shut before it, to protect the machinery from the flying rock. About fifteen men are employed at this heading; and here, as on all other portions of the work, there are three relays or "shifts," as they are called, in the twenty-four hours; each shift working eight hours only. The men are brawny fellows, principally Irishmen, though there is a large sprinkling of Cornish miners among them. The average number of men employed upon the work is seven hundred and fifty.

Having explored the works at the east end to our satisfaction, we are prepared for a visit to the other side of the mountain. From the Hoosac Tunnel Station to the North Adams Station, the distance, when the tunnel is completed, will be about seven miles. By, stages it is nine miles. The journey through the mountain will be much more quickly made than the journey over the mountain can be; but travellers who hurry through. this dark passage in future years will miss the very best part of the journey between Boston and Troy. For pleasure-travel this line has been, since its opening in the summer of 1868, constantly growing in popularity; and the stage-ride over the mountain is the grand feature of the journey. It might be difficult to find anywhere in New England a public road which affords within an equal number of miles an equal variety and magnificence of scenery. The elegant six-horse coaches are crowded every day in the summer with tourists, who have discovered that quite the pleasantest journey from the east to the west is that which includes the ride over the Hoosac Mountain.

The western portal of the tunnel is two miles south of the village of North Adams. The road leading to it passes over and among a series of conical foot hills that rest against the base of the mountain. These immense tumuli are no doubt the remnants of a terrace of the drift period, which has been washed away in part by torrents from the mountain, leaving a row of mounds where the terrace once stood.

Leaving the road, we follow the high embankment on which the track is to be laid up toward the mountain. Soon the road which runs beside the embankment has reached its level; then, taking the track, we enter a deep cutting, and are soon at what was once the western portal of the tunnel. At the end of this cutting Mr. Haupt first began tunnelling on this side; and the short excavation in front of us is still known as Haupt's tunnel. At the foot of all the hills which surround this valley, a secondary formation of limestone rocks is found overlaying the mica slate which forms the body of the mountains. When Mr. Haupt began his tunnel here, in the limestone, he expected to pass directly through it into the solid primary rock; but his expectations were not realized. After a few feet the limestone began to dip, and he found overhead a soft material, which made it necessary for him to build the roof of his tunnel of masonry. Soon the limestone disappeared entirely below the grade of the tunnel, and in place of it was the famous demoralized rock which has brought such grief to engineers. This was a disintegrated mica schist, dissolving readily in water (of which there was plenty in those parts), and utterly unmanageable. Hoping to escape it a little farther on, the engineers went a few hundred feet farther up the hill, and made a deep excavation to the grade of the tunnel. But, instead of finding solid rock, here again Was the porridge, and the tunnel must in some way be carried through it. The task of tunnelling a bed of quicksand would be no harder; but by some means it must be done. The excavations were made with the greatest difficulty. Drifts were run out for considerable distances on either side the line, to drain off the water; and then, as the excavations were advanced, a complete casing of timber was necessary to support the crumbling and dissolving walls. Inside this casing of timber the brick arch of the tunnel was built. The porridge would not, of course, support the walls of the arch, and therefore an inverted arch or trough of brick was laid in the bottom, and on this the side-walls of the tunnel rest. For about seven hundred feet at this end the tunnel is, therefore, a complete tube of brick, seven courses in thickness; beyond that point, for fourteen hundred feet, the rock, though soft enough to require arching, is firm enough to sustain the walls of the arch, so that an invert is not needed. Of the twenty-one hundred feet of brick arching, about thirteen hundred are now completed.

The western portal of the tunnel is therefore, at present, at the bottom of a deep hole in the ground. The little Haupt tunnel will eventually be cleared away, and this portal will be approached through a deep open cutting.

The greater part of the progress, on this side the mountain has been made, however, not from the west end, but from the west shaft. While the engineers were floundering in the porridge at the west end, they wisely resolved to climb a little higher up the mountain side and sink a shaft to grade. This shaft is about half a mile from the portal, and its depth is three hundred and eighteen feet. Working outward from the bottom of this shaft a few hundred feet, the miners came upon the soft rock, and their progress was checked in that direction. Going westward from the shaft, their only difficulty was with the water, which appeared in troublesome abundance. In spite of the most careful provisions for its removal, the water several times got the better of the enormous pumps, and drove the miners from the tunnel, delaying the work for long periods. At length a narrow drift or adit was pushed through from the west shaft to the west end, permitting the water to escape in that direction, and dispensing with the use of the pumps.

From this shaft the heading is now advanced eastward two thousand seven hundred and seventy-five feet, making the whole linear excavation from the western portal five thousand two hundred and twenty-two feet—a few feet less than a mile.

This, then, is what the visitor sees at the west side of the mountain. Climbing out of the cutting, at the end of which the Haupt tunnel begins, he follows the road up toward the mountain a few hundred feet to a point where he can look down into the deep pit, at the bottom of which the portal of the brick tunnel is seen. South of this pit is the brickyard, where the bricks for the tunnel are manufactured. Good clay is found in abundance within a few rods of the portal. It would not be a very perilous adventure to clamber down the sides of this pit and walk up the track a quarter of a mile to the place where the miners and bricklayers are at work. There is nothing to fear save noise, darkness, and dirt. When completed, the western portal is to have a fine facade of granite.

Along the northern verge of this pit runs a little stream: in dry times a very tame and innocent rivulet, but, like other mountain streams, not to be trusted in a storm. In the great flood of October, 1869, this brook, swollen into a torrent, made havoc for a little while. At that time the embankment by which the brook is separated from the tunnel was much less strong than at the present time; and before any one had suspected the danger, the brook had torn the embankment away, and was pouring its whole volume down into this pit. The little Haupt tunnel was quickly filled with debris, and then the water rushed into the portal of the tunnel. The alarm was quickly given to the men at work; and by running for their lives all but one of them escaped. One poor fellow, who was doing his first day's work in the tunnel, and who was probably hindered in his escape by his lack of familiarity with the ground, was swept back by the torrent and drowned. In an incredibly short time the whole tunnel was brimful of water.

The road to the west shaft follows this brook upwards. On the right of the road, a short distance above the western portal, is the school-house provided by the town for the children of the miners. From seventy-five to a hundred children receive instruction here during the week, and for a part of the year the house is occupied on Sunday by two Sunday-schools, meeting at different hours; one of which is under the care of the Roman Catholics, and the other of which is conducted by one of the Protestant churches.

The wooden buildings of the west shaft stand upon the mountain side, a little way above where the gradual slope up which the road has brought us, changes to an abrupt acclivity. The road winds up to the buildings through rows of huts occupied by miners, at the doors of which numerous young children and other live stock, both biped and quadruped, some with feathers and some without, may be seen at any hour of the day. A vast pile of broken rock lies upon the mountain side, and the little hand-cars that are running out every few moments, upon the tramway at the top are adding every hour to its bulk. A little farther south are the buildings where the nitro-glycerine is made. In the building which stands over the mouth of the shaft are the blacksmith shop, where the drills are sharpened, the machine shop, where the drilling machines are repaired, the four large air-compressors, by which power is furnished for drilling below, and the steam-engines, by which the compressors are driven, and the hoisting of the shaft is done. Over the wide door by which the little cars are, trundled out is the legend, "No Admittance;" but, armed with the proper pass from Mr. Shanly, we step inside, and find ourselves immediately upon the Brink of the shaft. In this shaft, the section of which is eight by fourteen feet, a timber frame-work has been set, and in this frame-work two strong wooden cages run up and down-the one ascending while the other descends. The wire cable, by which these cages are lifted, passes over a large drum in the other room, which is turned by the engine. The cages are provided with automatic brakes, by which they would be instantly stopped in the descent if the cable should break. Into these cages the little cars of, rock are rolled at the bottom of the shaft; and on reaching the top they are pushed out and rolled down upon, the tramway to the dumping place.

It is quite worth while for the visitor to make the descent of the shaft. Provided with old clothes and rubber boots, he will suffer no damage whatever, and the sensation is worth experiencing. The feat has frequently been accomplished, by ladies sometimes to the detriment of their skirts, but never with any worse disaster. If you walk out to the heading about this time, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have stood directly under the western summit of the Hoosac Mountain, with seventeen hundred feet—a full third of a mile-of solid rock between your head and the sky.

And now, if you have seen what is underground, it may be well enough to turn about and devote a moment to what is visible above ground. One of the fairest little valleys your eyes ever rested on lies at your feet; on your right, at the foot of its encircling hills, the outskirts of the village of North Adams are visible; South Adams is on your left in the distance, and directly across the valley, Old Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, lifts his hoary head. It is a scene you will not be likely soon to forget.

In the order of time, as the philosophers would say, we should have visited the central shaft on our way from the east to the west end; but the order of logic required that we should describe both ends before visiting the middle, and the inspection of that part of the work has therefore been postponed till our return over the mountain. About midway between the two summits a road turns southward, and following it a mile and a half we reach the central shaft. This is not located at the bottom of the valley between the two ridges, but is half a mile west of the lowest point, on the slope ascending to the western summit. The bed of Cold River, the little stream which flows southward through the valley, is two hundred - feet lower than the spot where the central 'shaft is sunk. The higher ground was chosen for two reasons:—
In the first place, the work might be greatly impeded at the bottom of the valley by water, the engineer's worst enemy. In the second place, the bed of the Cold River is much nearer the east than the west end. Work on the eastern section of the tunnel has progressed much more rapidly than on the western section; if, therefore, the shaft had been located at the lowest point near Cold River, when it was sunk to grade, much less work would remain to be done on the east than on the west side of it. It was for this reason judged expedient to locate the shaft at a point on the western ridge nearer to the west end, in order that at its completion the work on either side might be more equally divided. The distance from the shaft to the east end is, in round numbers, thirteen thousand feet, and to the west end twelve thousand. The shaft is of an elliptical form, the longer diameter, on the line of the tunnel, being twenty-seven feet, and the transverse diameter fifteen feet. Its depth is one thousand and thirty feet. It was only during August, 1870, that grade was reached; and the preparations are now nearly made for beginning the excavations east and west from the bottom of the shaft. The hoisting is done here, as at the west shaft, by steam; but, instead of the heavy cages and cars, large copper buckets are here employed for bringing up the rock. The bucket is attached to cross-bars of wood, which slide in a frame-work, of timber, thus preventing it from swinging back and forth in its passage. It goes up and down, at a fearful rate, only two minutes being occupied in the ascent or descent of more than a thousand feet. The miners ride to and from their work, sometimes sitting in the bucket, and sometimes standing on its rim, or on the cross-bars, and holding on by the cable. Most of those at the central shaft are Cornish miners, and their life-long experience in such holes in the ground has made them reckless of danger. The fatal accidents that frequently occur among them have no effect to in make them more cautious. When the whistle blows for the "shift" of hands, every man at the bottom wants to come up in the first bucket, and generally the whole dozen of them do all come up at once, two or three sitting in the bucket, and the rest standing on the rim and the cross-bars, and clinging fast. If a man can get one foot on the cross-bar and one hand on the cable, he had much rather come up in that way than wait three minutes for the bucket to return for him.

The rock of the Central shaft, like the rock of the East end, is much softer than that of the West end. During the last year the average monthly progress downward has been about thirty feet. The drilling has for the most part been done by hand: drilling machines have been employed to some extent, but handwork has been found, on the whole, more economical. The electrical machine by which the blasts are discharged is kept in the office at the top of the shaft; two permanent wires, well insulated, extend from the top to the bottom; and when the blast takes place the miners are all brought up to the surface—out of danger.

The shaft is expected to serve an important purpose in ventilating the tunnel when it is completed. By dividing it into compartments, after the manner of the ventilators now in general use, it is supposed that a strong current of air can be constantly maintained. Another expectation is entertained concerning the Central Shaft, it is said, which is perhaps less likely to be realized. This lofty plateau between these mountain peaks includes the town of Florida, called by that name probably on the lucus a non principle, because it is the coldest and the least flowery spot this side of Greenland. The only tropical fruit raised in Florida is the potato, for the culture of which it is deservedly famous. It is, however, somewhat difficult for the Florida farmers, or planters, if you please, to get their potatoes to market, owing to the long and steep hills down which they must be carted. Now it appears that it is necessary for a railroad to obtain the right of way, not only when it runs over a man's farm, but also when it runs under it; the theory of the law being that freeholders own all the ground within their boundaries down as far as the centre of the earth, be the same more or less. (This, being the case, how vast must be the possessions of the Florida farmers!) To the Hon. Alvah Crocker, of Fitchburg, the duty of securing for the railroad the right of way under these Florida farms was committed. Mr. Crocker is a man of immense, energy and unfailing resource; from its first inception until now he has been one of the stoutest friends of the tunnel; and the success of the project is in a very large degree owing to his exertions. It is said, with how much truth I do not know, that the denizens of this elevated region had high notions about the value of that portion of their land which lay a thousand feet, more or less, beneath the surface; and were not disposed to grant the right of way until Mr. Crocker shrewdly suggested that there might be a depot in Florida, on the line of the tunnel, and that potatoes might be shipped to the North Adams market via Central Shaft. That suggestion silenced all objections and the right of way was readily granted.

Here, on the 19th of October, 1867, occurred the most terrible tragedy that has ever been enacted upon this public work. Early in the progress of the shaft, the experiment was made of lighting it with gas produced from gasoline. The experiment was not, however, deemed successful by the engineer, and after a short trial the apparatus was condemned by him as unsafe. In the summer of 1867, the work at the Central Shaft and the east end was placed in the hands of contractors, and these gentlemen, finding this lighting apparatus in the buildings at the shaft, determined to make a new trial of it. On the very first day of the trial, by some accident, the gasoline in the tank, which was situated near the engine, took fire. In an instant, the whole building was in a blaze. Thirteen men were at work at the bottom of the shaft, which was then nearly six hundred feet in depth, and it was impossible to rescue them. In a very few seconds the engineer was driven, badly singed, from his post, and no way was left of communicating with the miners. Two minutes more would have answered, the engineer said,—three minutes would have been ample time—to send a man down for them, and bring them all up safely; but it was impossible for him to remain at the wheel another moment. So the poor fellows all perished there in the darkness. Nobody knows how soon, or by what means they became aware of the danger they were in; nor is it certainly known in what manner they died, but the more probable conjecture is that they were suffocated. Very quickly after the air-pumps stopped working, the supply of pure air would be exhausted; probably the intense heat at the top of the shaft would accelerate the exhaustion of the oxygen; and it is not likely that any of them were conscious half an hour after the fire broke out. After the stoppage of the water-pumps the shaft rapidly filled with water, and if they had escaped suffocation from the bad air, they must have been drowned in a very few hours by the rising water. The fire broke out at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon. At two o'clock the next morning the flames had been extinguished and the rubbish cleared away from the mouth of the shaft, so that tackling could be rigged for a descent. A workman named Mallory, who had superintended the timbering of the shaft, and was familiar with every part of it, volunteered to make the descent. A rope was fastened round his body, three lanterns were attached to him, and a small cord for making signals was put into his hand. In this way he was slowly lowered into the darkness. Those who watched at the top saw two of his lanterns go out as he neared the bottom; then heard him shout, but heard no reply; then felt a nervous jerk of his signal cord. On this he was quickly drawn up, and when he reached the top was nearly insensible from the effects of the foul air. He reported about fifteen or twenty feet of water at the bottom, and no signs of the men. Before any appliance could be obtained for procuring their bodies the water was so deep as to render it impossible. Within a few days the shaft was full of water, and for its removal buildings must be erected and machinery prepared. It was not till October, 1868—a full year after the accident—that the shaft was emptied of water, and the bodies were secured. They were all in such a state of preservation as to be easily identified, though quickly crumbling after exposure to the air.

By the contract, Mr. Shanly agrees to finish the tunnel by the first day of March, 1874, and if the work goes on at the present rate that time will not be exceeded. The tunnel is twenty-five thousand and thirty-one feet in length; and there is now from both ends a linear excavation of twelve thousand seven hundred and fifty-seven feet, more than half the entire length. With two new faces to work upon at the bottom of the Central Shaft and with improved facilities the work will be greatly accelerated. If the contract be fulfilled, more than twenty-six years will have elapsed between the chartering of the road and its completion; and more than twenty-two years since work was begun upon the tunnel. During a part of this time work has been suspended, but it is probable that nearly if not quite eighteen years of steady work will have been done upon the tunnel by the time it is finished. As to the cost, that is a mere bagatelle. Before the State took the work in charge the State Treasurer had paid something more than a million of dollars. The Commissioners expended in round numbers three millions and a quarter; the Messrs. Shanly are to have for finishing the tunnel $4,594,268, making the whole cost of the work in the neighborhood of nine millions of dollars. That is the price which Massachusetts consents to pay rather than be left out in the cold.


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