"Wall up a dozen lawyers at one end and put a good fee at the other."
February 20, 2009 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Into the black. At nearly five miles, it's the longest transportation tunnel east of the Rockies. Built in 1874, its construction took 200 lives, nearly bankrupted the state of Massachusetts, and served as a crucible for modern engineering. Journey into the Hoosac Tunnel, urban exploration destination and the most haunted place in New England.
posted by billypilgrim (18 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Holy crap, great (and awful) story.

The first thing to things to fall on them were more than 300 newly sharpened drill bits, followed by the hoist mechanism and burning sections of the structure. With the collapse of the structure, the air-pumps ceased working...it was not until a full year later that the shaft was fully emptied and bodies were recovered. It was discovered that not all the men had been crushed by the falling debris, some had managed to build a raft but died from asphyxiation from the fumes.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:36 PM on February 20, 2009

The first link I looked at was a Flickr set that said:

Photos from both portals of the Hoosac Tunnel, in Florida and North Adams, MA.

It is late, and I was momentarily dumbfounded.
posted by patrick rhett at 9:48 PM on February 20, 2009

It's funny reading about the early primitive tunneling methods compared to how it's done today.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:57 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

These stories make me think of the MTA subway tunnel fiascos in Los Angeles. Not so bad, by comparison.
posted by Xoebe at 10:00 PM on February 20, 2009

The first thing to things to fall on them were more than 300 newly sharpened drill bits, followed by the hoist mechanism and burning sections of the structure.

Très There Will Be Blood.
posted by dhartung at 10:05 PM on February 20, 2009

I like this bit towards the end of the account of the trip walking through the tunnel (and back):
The tunnel is a gritty, dirty, cold and muddy place, and physically taxing. Freight trains blast through on regular basis. Electric cables lie in pools of water. There is no lunch anywhere.
posted by barnacles at 11:15 PM on February 20, 2009

posted by !Jim at 12:21 AM on February 21, 2009

An abandoned and decaying railway track goes out almost 100 km from where I live. Maybe I'll make a weekend expedition out of it come spring. Interesting post!
posted by Harald74 at 12:58 AM on February 21, 2009

I've been to the East entrance of the tunnel many times, and gone as far into it to just barely be able to see the light, which is really not that far. Couple hundred yards, maybe. I'm easily freaked out.

It is literally one of my favorite places in the world.

I recommend going on a brutally hot and sultry August in the mid-afternoon. There's a short walk along the tracks from the place where people park, and as you make your way along you start to smell something. Earthy, but not earth. Mushroomy? You even start to get a few hints of coolness in the breeze, and about the time you see the tunnel entrance you also see a thin fog oozing along the tracks. It's probably 20 degrees cooler near the entrance.

Also, there is a lovely little waterfall a very short (10 minutes?) hike up the mountain right over the tunnel, and some interesting ruins along the way.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:43 AM on February 21, 2009

I sure am glad I'm not one of those nut-jobs from IRONFIST.

Not at all sure, but I believe this is the central shaft building, pictured at the bottom of the first link in the FPP.
posted by intermod at 9:17 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not at all sure, but I believe this is the central shaft building, pictured at the bottom of the first link in the FPP.

It sure does look like it. Nice Google Maps-fu.
posted by billypilgrim at 10:45 AM on February 21, 2009

Welcome to HoosacTunnel.net. This website strives to be the most robust source of Hoosac Tunnel information on the Internet. I have been collecting data and photographs, as well as going on adventures for the last 5 years. Now I am making my archive available to all.

On this website you will find old pictures, new pictures, historical information, and maps! Use the content, especially the maps carefully and remember that the information placed here is on the web for informational and education purposes only! Trespassing on Guilford's property is illegal (don't get caught!), and potentially dangerous (the tunnel is train friendly not people friendly!). I will not hold information from anyone, and I will not discourage exploration! However I cannot be held responsible for any ill fate you may meet while quenching your appetite for adventure around or in the tunnel!

posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2009

Spooky. Nothing like the NE for real ghosts.
posted by buzzman at 2:46 PM on February 21, 2009

This is a great post! I was just at the Western Gateway Heritage Museum in North Adams last weekend (I was up to go to Mass MOCA - the railway museum is just 5 minutes away, if you're visiting). They have a nice presentation of the history of the tunnel's engineering, funding, and challenges, although not much mention of hauntings. I'd definitely recommend that anyone who's in that neck of the woods stop by and check out their exhibits.
posted by pants at 4:06 PM on February 21, 2009

1) Ain't no such thing as ghosts.

2) I walked fifty feet into that thing last summer and it's spooky as hell. It breathes out at you like some tunnel through Mordor.
posted by Camofrog at 6:30 PM on February 21, 2009

Great post. I'd read about the construction of the tunnel not long ago and had been meaning to look it up. Will have to go hike up there some time and check it out.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:08 PM on February 21, 2009

Route 2 known as the Mohawk Trail coming from the east down into North Adams, one gets to the famous hairpin turn.
posted by notmtwain at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2009

Thanks! I wound up there on a motorcycle trip last fall. I had no idea that it was so storied a location.
posted by Eideteker at 11:02 AM on February 24, 2009

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