Hoosac Tunnel on Misty Evening—October 2015.

There’s an undeniable magic to the Hoosac Tunnel. It’s old, it’s long, and its portals are nestled deep in scenic valleys of western Massachusetts.

Hoosac East Portal is especially fascinating; the railroad approaches on a sweeping curve and crosses a bridge over the Deerfield. All around are vestiges of earlier times. Some of the old catenary supports survive from when the tunnel was electrified. The keen eye will located the false portal, where early builders initially bored but gave up.

A flume cascades down the mountain making an unending roar that sometimes sounds like a train.

East Portal.
East Portal in the rain.

On this cool evening, Mike Gardner and I arrived in time to photograph Pan Am’s EDRJ disappearing into the bowels of the mountain. We’d heard a hint of an eastward freight on the radio and decided to wait it out.

Pan Am Railways EDRJ approaches East Portal in the rain. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. ©Brian Solomon
Pan Am Railways EDRJ approaches East Portal in the rain. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. ©Brian Solomon

About an hour after EDRJ had passed, the tunnel began to breathe. It emitted an effluence that was part locomotive exhaust and part condensation caused by the air inside the tunnel meeting the cool air outside. After a while it began to fill the valley around East Portal with a fine bluish vapor, like the spirits of lost souls escaping the confines of the mountain.

“I think I hear a train,” Mike said. I assured him that was just the cascading water.

“No, I really hear a train.”

Hoosac_Tunnel_east_portal_DSCF5297

The tunnel began to breath a weird mist.
The tunnel began to breathe a weird mist.
The mix of mist and exhaust started to fill the valley. It was like that scene toward the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. (I guess I'm not evil :-) )
The mix of mist and exhaust started to fill the valley. It was like that scene toward the end of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I guess I’m not evil 🙂

Despite this sense more than an hour and half had passed, and we were about to leave. Then suddenly, as with past visits, the signal across the bridge lit up—high green. “Yahoo!”

We resumed positions a safe distance from the east portal, and exposed photos of intermodal train 22K as it approached.

22K approaches the east portal of the tunnel.
22K approaches the east portal of the tunnel.
Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern intermodal train 22K clears the mist from the Hoosac tunnel.
Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern intermodal train 22K clears the mist from the Hoosac tunnel.

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3 thoughts on “Hoosac Tunnel on Misty Evening—October 2015.”

  1. Sometimes you can hear trains at considerable distance when unusual atmospheric conditions prevail. On one occasion, when I was walking on a country road just outside Fethard, Co. Tipperary, I distinctly heard a locomotive on full power travelling from LImerick Junction towards Thurles. The nearest point on the line is abut 20 miles away!

    On another occasion, I could hear from the Grand Canal at Ranelagh, trains climbing out of Heuston. A shorter distance, but three or so miles of intervening urban clutter which normally attenuates sound very quickly.

    So MIke may well have heard a train.

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