“Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel is a fascinating book describing the politics, society, financing, and construction practices as well as civil engineering education during the late 18th and 19th centuries. The tale begins with a chilling description of the worst accident which occurred at the mountain on October 19, 1867 killing thirteen workers.”
—Jerry R. Rogers, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, Distinguished M. ASCE
“Built at a time when American engineers were just beginning to experiment with industrial construction methods and equipment, such as deadly explosives, pneumatic rock drills and cast-in-place concrete, the Hoosac Tunnel brought great risks. Schexnayder digs deep to provide an amazing level of detail and perspective in his account of one of our nation’s early civil engineering feats.”
—Tudor Van Hampton, Deputy Editor, Engineering News-Record (ENR)
“With Cliff Schexnayder’s momentous work, for the first time the Hoosac Tunnel Saga is examined within the context of its contemporary American history. It is the most complete documentation on the Promotors, Detractors, Engineers, Contractors, and Managers of the fabled Hoosac Tunnel and Troy & Greenfield Railroad ever produced.”
—Carl R. Byron, author, A Pinprick of Light; The Troy and Greenfield Railroad and its Hoosac Tunnel
About the Book
Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel traces the interactions between those who worked to build the Hoosac Tunnel of Massachusetts and those who struggled mightily to hinder its construction. The driving force behind the Tunnel and a thread through the book is Alvah Crocker, paper magnate from Fitchburg. The first to broach the idea of tunneling the Mountain is the father of American Civil Engineering Loammi Baldwin Jr., son of the Revolutionary War hero and builder of the Middlesex Canal, Loammi Sr. There is a parade of builders: Herman Haupt who during the Civil War earned a reputation as Lincoln’s railroad man, engineers Thomas Doane and John Brooks who pushed, China merchant turned railroad man John M. Forbes’ railroads into Iowa before the Civil War, and finally the Shanly brothers from Canada who achieved daylight through the Mountain.
In the early to mid-nineteenth century construction of the railroads was achieved by the brawn of man and beast. As a small band of individuals struggled to bore a five-mile tunnel through the Hoosac Mountain they immediately sought to develop machines and methods to speed their work. Herman Haupt, former Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad, experimented with steam powered rock drills. But it was Charles Burleigh of Fitchburg who finally perfected a working pneumatic drill capable of beating on hard rock for hours and days without destroying itself. Thomas Doane designed drill carriages for the new tool and conducted precise surveys to direct the miners. George Mowbray refined the production of nitroglycerin. Charles A. Brown perfected an electric blasting fuse. These accomplishments are the story line that presents the heroes and villains of the book.