Vermont August 13, 2018
The Longest Tunnel In Vermont Has A Truly Fascinating Backstory
Vermont’s longest tunnel was constructed way back in 1860. It is truly a feat of engineering, determination, and hard work. Here is the fascinating backstory of the Burlington Tunnel or as some call it, The North Avenue Rail Tunnel.
Construction began on the Burlington Tunnel on November 1, 1860. Crews worked 24 hours a day around the clock to complete the backbreaking labor needed to complete the 340-foot tunnel in just over six months.
The tunnel cuts through a sandy ridge that was formed from loose sand blown off the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. The sand was 75-80 feet deep and made the construction of the railroad tunnel very challenging. Almost 700,00 feet of lumber was used to brace the digging effort. Crews were split into two teams that each worked 12-hour shifts to speed up the excavation and construction of the tunnel.
The walls of the tunnel are four feet thick and the archway is two feet thick. Limestone, concrete, and brick were among the materials the workers painstakingly put in place each day. Only about a three-foot tunnel section could be completed each day.
Making it even more difficult, most of the building took place during the winter where temperatures were challenging. It's hard to believe that this massive undertaking was completed so quickly.
The Burlington Tunnel is considered to be one of the most successful early railroad tunnels in New England second only to the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts.
In the early 20th century, up to 11 passenger trains would go through the tunnel every day. By the time the 1930s rolled around, that number had decreased to one. The very last passenger train rode the rails through the tunnel in 1938. Today only freight trains use the passageway.
In 2008, the tunnel's cracks and loss of brick face was repaired using a shotcrete application.
In addition to the resurfacing, new track was laid, and the tracks were lowered to offset the 6-inch shotcrete layer. The project cost approximately $1.2 million to complete.
Today freight trains still travel though the tunnel at a speed of less than 10 mph. This passageway has stood the test of time lasting more than 150 years.
Did you know the story behind Vermont’s longest tunnel? Many former railroads are now being converted into beautiful scenic walking and biking paths. Check out this
stunning rail trail with spectacular views.