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.
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.
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.”
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.
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