Looking For the False Start

The false start was roughly to the left, we knew that much. We had seen photos of a big mouthed tunnel to the left of the real tunnel, but where it was exactly… we didn’t know that much.

What strikes me first are the trees. We had just learned about this in science class – what was it called, a new growth forest? We look up at the trees, reaching, curling up and out of the rock face. A breeze comes in. The branches shiver when we do.

I look at the mound of dirt before me, and I have an idea. I look at Cassie, back again at the mound, then down at the camera and phone in my hands. I smile and put my phone in my backpack, shouldering it off so I can be a bit more nimble.

I clench my camera hard and still smiling, I use my long legs to propel me up the side of the hill. I’m still grinning when I get to the top, even with my mud-soaked knees and mud splattered camera lens.

“I can clean it,” I say, looking around. I get distracted, forgetting about the false start – the reason I came up here in the first place. I get distracted again by the trees and make my way over to them.

Moss on the rocks, a blip of green in the gray, brown scene.

I think to myself how new the trees are, how young. I can almost fit my hands around them. I look down at the ground, shouting over my shoulder to Cassie that there’s some Christmas fern up there, some other species of fern, too. I look up at the pine tree over my head, trying to see if I can remember species and can’t. I look behind me, looking for more plants, maybe a flower or two if they sprouted when the weather was nice.

My eyes drift down and stop. I’m looking at something, and it takes me a second to see it, to realize what it is.

“Hey! I found it!” I laugh, taking a few pictures before I forget.

Life at East Portal

We tried to find the false start to the east face of the Hoosac Tunnel.

I’ll admit it was a bit of a struggle trying to locate it. I wouldn’t call it a “hike” but it sure was a task. Mud and sliding rocks provided a bit of difficulty in trying to locate the false start.

When I think of “life” at the East Portal I think of the Deerfield River that runs just to the right of the tracks. You can’t miss it. If at first you do not see it, you will hear it. It’s loud and calls for your attention. For a moment it was relaxing to just stand there and listen to the rushing water.

I didn’t think too much about the vicinity otherwise. Just rocks under my feet, branches snapping with each step, getting caught in twigs, talking over the sound of the river.

But I quickly discovered another form of nature and life beside the East Portal.


Two be exact.

If I hadn’t seen the first one on my white shirt (why did I wear white knowing we were about to encounter mud?), we never would have seen the smaller one crawling on my pants.

A big thank you to Erica for saving me when all my brain was telling me to do was run around and cry in a panic.

On the bright side:

We found the false start.


Visiting The Library

Libraries are considered emergency services. During a snowstorm, or other extreme weather, they are one of the few places that must stay open, no matter what.

This is due to the fact that libraries are one of the few completely free locations left in the world. You can come in from any walk of life, and stay there, for free, while the library is open. You are not expected to pay a fee just for entering. You don’t have to purchase anything to be there. You won’t get in trouble for loitering. You have free access to wifi, computers, and hundreds, and hundreds  of books.

Libraries are welcoming, warm. I had never been to the North Adams Public Library prior to this project, and I am so glad that I was able to do so.

Admittedly, I was nervous before going for the first time. I had no idea what it was like, what it would look like inside, or what we would be able to get when we went. (The library is gorgeous – I was not disappointed)

Chandelier in the Library

On our first visit, we were deciding which location we were going to look into and research. Our first visit, we asked about another location, offhandedly mentioning the Hoosac Tunnel, but got information on another location instead.

The third time we visited, we made sure to ask specifically for information about the Hoosac Tunnel – and got a blank stare.

“What are you looking for?” The reference librarian asked us.

“The history, that kind of thing,” we replied. “Pictures, if you have them.”

She gave us a look, and turned away for a second, coming back with a binder.

“This is everything we have,” she responds. “You have the book, already, right? Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel?”

We nodded, we got that last time. We noticed a picture in the book with the caption, courtesy of the North Adams Public Library. So, we assumed there were pictures. Maybe hanging on the wall somewhere, we weren’t sure where it was, what we would find.

She opened the binder, and inside was, well, everything.

“Here is the table of contents,” she explains, pointing at it, flipping through the contents pages. “If there’s anything specific you’re looking for, you can find it here first. We have photos, microfilm, letters…” she flips to show us the lists and lists of stuff. “You know how to use call numbers, right? Just write it down and I can find it for you.”

She paused, then looks up at us.

“Do you know how to find stuff in the online database?”

Cassie and I looked at each other.

“What?” We say at the same time.

The librarian smiles and reaches for a sticky note. She writes down a URL to the library’s website, telling us how to find the online database as she writes everything down. She eventually goes over to the computer to log into it for us, and tells us to get her if we need anything.

By now, Cassie and I are grinning from ear to ear. We get it now. The first time we came here, it’s not that they didn’t have any information, it’s that they had too much, which is why they didn’t want to give us anything. The second time, nope, still didn’t get it that we wanted everything – but by the third time, they understood.

As of now we have practically full reign of the reference library. When Cassie and I are squealing over all the information we find about the tunnel and North Adams – they probably roll their eyes. I know they enjoy it, though, because when we smile and gush about how much we love libraries, the librarians tell us we’re preaching to the choir.

The Focus

We couldn’t not think of death when we thought of the Hoosac Tunnel.

The history of the tunnel is riddled with death and seemed odd to avoid the darkness heavily associated with the tunnel. But at the same time, we couldn’t avoid the life we saw in the space around the West Portal… We couldn’t ignore the presence of the beavers.

The longer we thought about it, the more we felt that we couldn’t disregard the local ghost stories. Even as a college student who spent approximately 7 months here a year for four years, I always hear of these tales. I often  find myself referencing the stories or talking about their to people back at home.

It cannot be ignored.

We decided to create the pages, “Life”, “Death”, “Afterlife”, and “Regrowth” to try and capture the full identity of the Hoosac Tunnel.

To take any of these aspects away from the identity of the tunnel we are trying to present would not give a clear and accurate picture of all that the is the Hoosac Tunnel.



We discovered early on in our research that the task of finding information on Hoosac Tunnel would not be easy.

Our first roadblock was trying to find information. We found a singular book, Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel by Cliff Schexnayder, that provided a lot of the ins and outs of the tunnel ranging from funding, important figures, and deaths. The problem? It seemed to be our only source of information, and thought it was vast, we felt we needed more.

After sometime, we decided to ask just once more if they had anything else on the tunnel. We were surprised to find that the reason we were initially given just one book was because they had “too much” information to give us.

We were directed to an online database of everything that was in the public library’s vault (archive).

Our new problem was searching through all of our new material. What should we use? What was important to use? What was our focus?



Ringo & Co.

I’ve been having such a hard time locating information on Ringo Kelley, Ned Brinkman, and Billy Nash. Nearly every article of the unsolved murder leads straight to the ghost stories of the three explosive experts. I was able to locate one article that did start with the mention of a police case and the name of the officer in charge, but I was unable to find anything else.

I’ve been wondering about this story a lot lately. The first mention that I was able to find of it is around 1970… As a ghost story.

Looking back on what we know about the story of these men, after they died many workers reported hearing moaning and yelling that they believed were the spirits of these men. Many even believed that the vengeful spirits of Brinkman and Nash were the ones who killed Kelley.

Their story has always been a ghost story.

I wonder if we’ll be able to find more information on them.

I wonder how much of their story is true, and how much was changed as their story has been passed around.