February 9, 1875
The Hoosac Tunnel, which passes through a part of both the Berkshires and the Green Mountains known as the Hoosac Range, was opened in western Massachusetts. (“Hoosac” is an Algonquian phrase for “place of stones.”)
Construction on that 4.75-mile (7.7-kilometer)-long tunnel had begun during the early 1850s, and the first train to travel through the structure included several flatbeds and a boxcar filled with passengers. An engineer named George Cheney operated this train, and his two sons were the youngest passengers on board for the pioneering run. Others traveling on the train that cold Tuesday afternoon included a reporter for the Boston Globe.
“The air was rather chilly for enthusiasm and ears, cheeks, noses and feet demanded too much attention to admit of much other exuberance,” noted that reporter in an article appearing in the next morning’s edition of the Boston Globe. “But we were all good-natured; the miners and laborers did not forget to let off a lusty cheer as we entered the eastern portal at 3:05 P.M. exactly (posterity would be miserable if the exact moment of the entrance of that train were not recorded); and just thirty-five minutes later the train emerged safely into daylight, on the western side, and made a close connection with the train for [the city of] Pittsfield.”
At the time of its debut, the Hoosac Tunnel was second only to the Mont Cenis Tunnel in the Alps as the longest tunnel in the world. The Hoosac Tunnel was the longest tunnel in North America until the completion of the Connaught Tunnel in British Columbia, Canada, in 1916, and it is still the longest active transportation tunnel east of the Rocky Mountains.
The Hoosac Tunnel has long served as a major conduit for rail traffic in the northeastern United States. In 1975, this tunnel was designated a Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
For more information on the Hoosac Tunnel, please check out Hoosac Tunnel — PAGE (catskillarchive.com)