A rare illustrated history and description of the Hoosac Tunnel

E[dward] S. Martin, / Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers HISTORY OF THE HOOSAC TUNNEL. Boston, 1878.
12mo, [24pp] plus a folding lithographic map and a folding profile view. ¼ cloth over printed and illustrated card-stock covers. ½” tear at right edge affecting covers and all leaves. Puncture to back cover, also affecting all leaves. Minor soiling, some wear and separations along old folds.

A rare pamphlet promoting the Hoosac Tunnel in the Berkshire Hills of northwestern Massachusetts one of the engineering marvels of the 19th century. With a large and striking cutaway view of Hoosac Mountain showing details of the tunnel.

The Hoosac Tunnel began as a project of Massachusetts paper mill owner Alvah Crocker, who in 1848 received a state charter for the Troy & Greenfield Railroad. The railroad was to traverse northwestern Massachusetts, offering an alternative to the Western Railroad which ran aross the middle of the state. The only catch was that the projected route entailed a 4 3/4-mile bore through the heart of Hoosac Mountain, with the eastern terminus at the town of Florida and the western at North Adams. The work began in 1855 and was not completed until 20 years later, at a staggering cost in both money and human lives. When completed the Hoosac was the world’s second-longest tunnel, exceeded only by one in the French Alps. It remains in use today.

Offered here is an interesting promotional pamphlet touting the tunnel, published soon after its opening. It includes a long account of the tunnel’s construction, including both moments of technological triumph and human tragedy; poetry (“Only a Tunneler”, by one E.S. Wright); a long list of hotels along the Hoosac route, “first class in every particular”; and a double-page, illustrated advert for Heywood’s Patent Snow Plow.

“This small booklet seems to be directed at two distinct audiences: it contains a stirring yet fairly technical history of the tunnel’s construction, but it also invites the general tourist to visit the two portals of this “royal pathway.” Visitors to the east end will pass through “forests of birches” on their approach to a “grand outlook.” Those fortunate enough to visit the western portal will “exclaim with delight at the striking beauty of the scene.” The advertisements in the booklet also seem directed at both the railroad operator (Heywood’s Patent Snow Plow) and the casual traveler (comfortable inns in Troy, New York and North Adams, Massachusetts).” (MIT Libraries)

The visual highlight of the pamphlet is a large (9 ½” x 26”) folding “Profile of Hoosac Mountain, Showing Tunnel.” It depicts a cutaway profile of Hoosac Mountain as seen from the south, with the line of the tunnel at its base and the location of the two vertical shafts providing both access and ventilation. The view is ornamented by pictorial vignettes of the the east and west entrances and an ornamental border. Several columns of text identify the project’s engineering and other leadership and provide a range of statistics, including the staggering amount of nitroglycerine employed. The pamphlet also includes a small folding map (7” x 13”) of the Northeast and Midwest delineating the routes of the Troy & Boston and Fitchburg Railroads, along with their principal connections.

This edition of the pamphlet is unrecorded in OCLC, and I find no record of any version having appeared at auction since 1910. A version was issued the previous year by North Adams publisher E.D. Angell, also including the profile but with only 21 pages. OCLC also records a Boston edition of 1880 with a slightly variant title.

This edition not in OCLC. Some background from “Year 17 – 1877: History of the Hoosac Tunnel” on the web site of the MIT Libraries.