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Builders of the Hoosac TunnelBuilders of the Hoosac Tunnel

by Cliff Schexnayder, PE

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.

About the Author

Cliff Schexnayder is the author of Construction Planning, Equipment & Methods, McGraw-Hill higher education, in print since 1995 and an Arizona State University Eminent Scholar, Emeritus. He was awarded a fellowship from the Smithsonian Institute Libraries to research this book. He holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University, and B.S.C.E./M.S.C.E. degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology. Cliff was awarded the American Association of Engineering Societies, Norm Augustine Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communications in 2011 and the American Society of Civil Engineers OPAL (Outstanding Projects and Leaders) Award—Education in 2012. He was also awarded the Tasher H. Bliss Award of The Society of American Military Engineers, for outstanding contributions to military engineering education, 2001. He worked as an engineering consultant supporting the National Museum of the American Indian’s landmark exhibition, The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire. Cliff is a member of the National Academy of Construction, the Academia Panamericana de Ingeniería, and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Additionally he is a Profesores Honorarios de Facultad de Ingeniería (Honorary Professor Faculty of Engineering), at the Universidad de Piura, Piura, Peru and a Honorary Professor, Ricardo Palma Universidad, Lima, Peru. He lives in Branford, CT.

Ordering Information

Hardcover, $30.00, 645 pgs, 7x10, photos, charts, maps, Distributed by University Press of New England
ISBN 978-1-942155-07-2


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