March 18, 1834 — The first railway tunnel was completed today in Pennsylvania. Named the Staple Bend Tunnel. it was 901 feet long and located 4 miles east of Johnstown, PA, in a town called Mineral Point.
Construction began on April 12, 1831 by the Allegheny Portage Railroad, it was rock bored and stone lined. Approximately 14,900 cubic yards of bedrock was removed using black powder blasting. This was done by drilling three-foot-long holes and packing them with powder.
Drilling one typical hole took up to three hours of hard effort using a three-man crew. Nine to 10 holes, each one-inch in diameter and thirty-six inches in length, were made before blasting. One pound of explosive powder wrapped in paper was pushed into each hole, tamped down, punctured with a sharp needle, and a fuse added. Fuses were lit with explosions to occur at mealtime.
Workers would eat while the dust settled; then get to work cleaning (mucking) the tunnel. Of the 36-inch hole drilled only 18 inches, or half of the hole, was blasted. The tunnel grew about 18 inches each day, with both sides moving toward the center. On December 21, 1832 the workmen broke through the final barrier and connected the two ends of the tunnel. There was much celebration with speeches and toasts when the full tunnel excavation was completed today.
Words of Wisdom
A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.