We are only concerned at present, however, with the fact that the western ridge of the Appalachian chain separates New England from the rest of the Union. . . . The commercial intercourse of New England with the West has been greatly obstructed by this mountain barrier….
The people of New England did not . . . sit down behind their mountain wall and suck their thumbs. Close business relations with the great West were essential to their prosperity, and they determined to establish and maintain them. Some way must be provided whereby a share of the western trade might reach their markets. If the mountain would not give way to Mahomet, Mahomet must go through the mountain. That is how the Hoosac Tunnel came to be built. It is a clear announcement that New England does not intend to be left out in the cold . . .
The visitor to the tunnel finds the work going on at both ends and at the middle. From the eastern to the western portal the distance is four miles and eighty-four hundredths;—making a longer tunnel than any now in operation in the world . . .
The ride into the tunnel is far from being a cheerful one. The fitful glare of the lamps upon the walls of the dripping cavern,— the frightful noises that echo from the low roof, and the ghoul-like voices of the miners coming out of the gloom ahead, are not what would be called enlivening.. . .
If the contract be fulfilled, more than twenty-six years will have elapsed between the chartering of the road and its completion; and more than twenty-two years since work was begun upon the tunnel. During a part of this time work has been suspended, but it is probable that nearly if not quite eighteen years of steady work will have been done upon the tunnel by the time it is finished. As to the cost, that is a mere bagatelle … the whole cost of the work [is] in the neighborhood of nine millions of dollars. That is the price which Massachusetts consents to pay rather than be left out in the cold.
Scribner's Magazine, December, 1870