September 20, 2013 Tunnels

Today was Tunnel Day so we packed a lunch and headed to the Staple Bend Tunnel.

A little history from the NPS Site (http://www.nps.gov/alpo/historyculture/staplebend.htm):

“History of the Tunnel

Finished in June 1833, the Staple Bend tunnel was advertised as the first railroad tunnel in the United States. It was the third tunnel of any kind built in the US, the first tunnels were for other canals in Pennsylvania.

Work began on November 21, 1831 and often occurred during inclement conditions. The men were paid $13 per month plus room and board for 12 hour days 6 days per week. Workers chipped and blasted 901 feet of solid rock to make the tunnel.

Approximately 14,900 cubic yards of bedrock was removed using black powder blasting. This was done by drilling three feet long holes and packing them with powder. Drilling one typical hole took up to three hours of hard effort using a three man crew. Nine to ten holes, each one-inch in diameter and thirty-six inches in length, were made before blasting. One pound of explosive powder wrapped in paper was pushed into each hole, tamped down, punctured with a sharp needle, and a fuse added. Fuses were lit with explosions to occur at mealtime. Workers would eat while the dust settled then get to work cleaning (mucking) the tunnel. Of the 36-inch hole drilled only 18 inches, or half of the hole, was blasted.

The tunnel grew about 18 inches each day, with both sides moving toward the center. On December 21, 1832 the workmen broke through the final barrier and connected the two ends of the tunnel. There was much celebration with speeches and toasts. The full tunnel excavation was completed in April 1833.

The ends of the Staple Bend Tunnel were lined with cut stone for safety. Rock and dirt might fall due to rain or other weather, or from the effects of the portage railroad going through the tunnel. The fancy entranceways to the tunnel were to impress the travelers and the general public. The style was described as a " Roman Revival style with low relief lintel supported by Doric pilasters on each side." Of the money spent (the total cost was $37,498.85) nearly half was to build the fancy entrance ways.

After the Portage
In 1907 Henry Storey wrote that the east entrance facade of the tunnel had been removed for building purposes. He gave no indication of a date or the building on which the stones were used. The west entrance facade remains and has been restored to its former grandeur.

After the demise of the old Portage Railroad the tunnel had other uses. Neither the "new Portage" nor the Pennsylvania Railroad used the tunnel. It was instead a popular carriage route until the Flood of 1889. Afterward, Flood damage and other concerns made the tunnel a less desirable driving spot although local residents continued to visit, and even go courting at the tunnel up until the 1940s.

In the 1940s a concrete liner was added to the east portal of the tunnel and large water lines as well as a water vault structure were built. The Manufacturer's Water Company closed the tunnel to the public, the water lines were used by Bethlehem Steel. In 2001 the tunnel became part of Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Rock bolts, shoring posts, and other reinforcements' were added as well as a thin mortar between the historic blocks.”

The tunnel was located 2.1 miles from the trailhead.  The trail was on one of those levels called the Long Level between the inclines.

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So away we went.....:

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This was one of those culverts - some were very ornate and beautiful.

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Sleepers still in place:

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And we arrived:

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The tunnel is 901’ long and here we are at the start.  Check out that stonework - Oh my.

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At this point, Andy and I realized we left the flashlight in the car - 2.1 miles back.  Let me tell you it was REALLY DARK in there.  But we did see a light at the end of the tunnel Smile:

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The west entrance - WOW again with that stonework:

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Before we went back in, I download a flashlight app for my tablet so at least we had a little light.  We found that the stone work did not go all the way through the tunnel.

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Back out on the other side.

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We enjoyed our walk to the trailhead where we had lunch and went on to our next tunnel - The Gallitzin Tunnels.

“The Gallitzin Tunnels

In 1848-49, the Pennsylvania Railroad laid out and adopted the Sugar Gap Route which was the beginning of industrial development at the top of the Alleghenies.

The mountains' extremely high grade made it necessary to build tunnels through the mountain. In 1850, at a cost of half a million dollars, the E. Rutter & Sons firm was hired to do the job. Using picks and shovels, it took over three hundred immigrants to complete it.

The first tunnel, a bit shorter than the "Twin Tunnels", is situated under Tunnelhill. It is known as the Portage Tunnel. The second tunnel, first of the "Twin Tunnels", is known as the Allegheny Tunnel and was completed in 1854. The third tunnel was begun in 1902 and completed in 1904. This is known as the Gallitzin Tunnel. There is a magnificent view of this amazing architectural accomplishment from the Jackson Street Bridge.

These tunnels are the highest and longest tunnels on what was once the Pennsylvania Railroad. They are 3, 605 feet long and at an elevation of 2,167 feet. The first of the "Twin Tunnels" completed the railroad west, after passing around the Horseshoe Curve. This factor made the tunnels so important that they were guarded by Pennsylvania Railroad Police during the war years.

In July of 1902, a blast set off near the tunnels showered the central part of town with large stones, killing one person and injuring another. The building of the second twin tunnel caused the school directly above the tunnels to weaken and a new school had to be built. The new school was completed in 1906. The tunnels remained unchanged until June, 1994.

The Conrail Pennsylvania Clearance Improvement Project began on June 20, 1994. This project consisted of modifying the Allegheny Tunnel in an effort to lower the track and give clearance for the higher, double-stack trains now being used by the railroads. This is a major economic strategy to accommodate rail traffic that until the completion of this project was being rerouted around Pennsylvania. Using much more sophisticated equipment than the pick and shovel, with a crew of approximately 90, the project was completed in August of 1995.

Railroad buffs have identified the Gallitzin Tunnels as a "must" stopover. It offers to the visitor a glimpse of the fascinating railroad "past and present."

Trains run through the tunnels 24 hours a day and are part of Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Line.”

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From left to right, the tunnels are Portage, Allegheny and Gallitzin.  The opening for the Allegheny and Gallitzin is the same.  The Portage is now closed.

This is the closest we could get to them.  From here we walked to the museum that was unfortunately closed.  Sad smile.  They rely on volunteers and today they did not have one.  Bummer.

So we headed home with a short stop to Wal-Mart.  It has been a busy four days for us and tomorrow we are just taking it easy.

I will leave you with the my wildflower pictures from the trail today.

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Enjoy today.


Bob and Linda's RV Travels said...

Great pictures and info. Thanks. safe travels

Diane said...

Thanks. :-)