During the height of canals in the early 19th century, proposals were made in the Massachusetts legislature to create canals between the Hudson River and Boston to allow for the flow of goods between the Midwest and New England. Among those proposed were canals between the Connecticut River and the Albany/Troy area near the Erie Canal and also between the Connecticut River and Boston Harbor.
The canal through western Massachusetts, first proposed in 1819, would flow through a tunnel in the Hoosac Mountains. Plans and reports were developed in the 1820s, culminating with a study done by Loammi Baldwin for the legislature in 1829 that looked at two options: creating a canal tunnel through the Hoosac Mountains or building a railroad line to the south of the mountains. Neither of these options was ultimately chosen, and these ideas were not actively explored for almost 20 years.
By the 1850s, railroads had supplanted canals as the preferred mode of transportation and the idea of connecting Boston to New York was debated again. Technology progressed to the point where a tunnel was again proposed through the Hoosac Mountains, although this time as a railroad tunnel. Taking over 20 years to complete, the 4 ¾ mile tunnel was the longest in the country until 1916. The first train went through the tunnel on February 9, 1875, with regular passenger service beginning the following year.
This project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
This information is provided by The State Library of Massachusetts.