| Dynamite blasts echoed throughout the
valley as workers excavated the tunnels. All tunnels were dug from both ends and the
workers used hand tools, horses, mules and oxen to remove the freed rock.
Springs seep through the limestone walls and ceilings of all three tunnels and make them
more prone to seasonal freezing and thawing. To prevent rocks from collapsing around
tunnel entrances, double doors were built at each end of the three tunnels to seal in
warmer temperatures during cold winter months. When the train operated here, the railroad
hired tunnel watchmen to open and close the doors. The watchmen would stay in a small
shack near the end of a tunnel. They worked 12 hour shifts between November and April, and
their jobs were to open and close the large tunnel doors as many as 50 times a day, as
there were that many trains passing through. They also were responsible for preventing
collisions between eastbound and westbound trains. To stop a train they would hang a red
flag or light outside the shack. To send a train through they would hang a white flag or
light outside the shack. They had a telegraph in the shack to communicate with the
watchmen at the other tunnels.
Watchman's shack, circa 1900
Tunnel watchman at work, circa 1900
The white flag is hanging and he has the red flag in his hand.
Sidetracks were placed all along the main line and
allowed trains a safe waiting place while an oncoming train passed. One sidetrack had a
water tower and potato warehouse. While they were waiting for a train to pass crews
refilled the steam engine tenders with water, checked in with the telegraph operator or
chatted with area farmers who frequented the potato warehouse.
Sidetrack and water tower
As you walk through the tunnels, note the arched
doorway-like indentations in the wall. This is where tunnel watchmen and repair workers
stood while trains pulled through the tunnel. Tunnel walls remain blackened by the soot
from hundreds of passing trains. To keep soot out of trains, windows were closed before
entering tunnels, and engineers and crew members wore handkerchiefs over their noses and
In the days before air brakes and two way radios the
railroad brakeman would have done some of his work on top of moving train cars turning
large circular hand brake handles to slow or stop the train, and pass signals between the
locomotive at the front of the train and the caboose at the back. Warning poles or
"telltales" were placed at both ends of each tunnel. As the train passed under a
telltale, the dangling wires would alert the brakeman to climb down before the train went
through the tunnel. These were also called "Hobo Poles" because during the 1930s
homeless men often hitched free rides on top of trains.
Telltale and train, circa 1900