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Tunnel under a town prototype: Bellows Falls, Vermont

By Steve Sweeney, Digital Editor | March 14, 2022

There's a prototype for everything, including the tunnel under a town prototype!

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Bellows Falls tunnel under a town prototype: Black and white image of a freight train exiting tunnel underneath a town.

Tunnel under a town prototype: Yes, there is at least one U.S. example of railroads going underneath small towns. And here it is: Boston & Maine’s single track line through Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Bellows Falls tunnel under a town prototype: Black and white image showing track tracks underneath a New England town.
From the original caption: Tunnel beneath the center of the town at Bellows Falls, Vermont, as seen from the rear car of the northbound B&M Train No. 77. Central Vermont Railway also uses this tunnel, by virtue of trackage rights over the B&M between White River Junction and Brattleboro. Model Railroader Collection

Kalmbach Media’s David P. Morgan Library has three photos in the Boston & Maine tunnels folder that show off this specimen in the late transition to early diesel-era.

The first is an excellent shot of the tunnel’s north portal, shot from a train, over a bridge and straight through — a bullseye rail photograph, if ever there was one.

Notice the details: power lines and utility poles, riveted girder bridge, late 19th century brick buildings. Let us state for the record, that very few items appear to be “squared” and perfect. Yet the visual items are lined and straight.

Bellows Falls tunnel under a town prototype: Black and white image of a freight train exiting tunnel underneath a town.
A Maine Central E7 leads a northbound train out of the Boston & Maine tunnel under Bellows Falls, Vt., in the 1950s.
David K. Johnson photograph

According to the bridge first opened in 1851 and had its “floor lowered” in 1897, 1977, and 2007. Fortunately for modern-era modelers, the New England Chapters – Society for Industrial Archeology published a document concerning the most recent project in PDF form.

The projects goals included reducing truck traffic on Interstate highways and improving the state’s “transportation system”. In effect, it made it practical for double-stack containers to move through the tunnel.

The PDF includes during construction photographs as well as basic drawings showing the project’s work scope.

Today, you’ll see branchline traffic courtesy of Genesee & Wyoming’s New England Central Railroad and daily passenger service with Amtrak’s Vermonter.

Yes, Bellows Falls’ unusual tunnel, coupled with rail activity show that indeed, there is a prototype for everything!

Artistic black and white image showing a train in a tunnel under a town.
Bellows Falls tunnel under a town prototype: Black and white image of a detailed shot showing the Boston & Maine underneath Bellows Falls, Vermont, the stone work of the tunnel, an adjacent street. The light at the end of this tunnel happens to be an unidentified second-generation diesel locomotive.
Ben Bachman photograph



4 thoughts on “Tunnel under a town prototype: Bellows Falls, Vermont

  1. In the more common “tunnels under cities” department, Seattle’s wasp-waisted downtown created the need for not one but three tunnels. In reverse order of construction: a four-lane bore for state highway 99; a double track light rail transit tunnel for Sound Transit; and the century-old BNSF bore from King Street Station to the waterfront near the Pike Place Market. It is said that you can hear the rumble of the passing freight trains in the basements of certain downtown buildings. The three tunnels actually cross over one another at different levels under downtown.

  2. There is another one in Greenfield, Massachusetts that goes under some businesses that Amtrak uses to to get to Bellows Falls.

  3. Are there any pictures in the collection of the tunnel under Frostburg, WV? I have seen the north portal often while watching engines turn at the end of Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. I do wonder where it went.

  4. Another is in Spartanburg SC. The well-known tunnel under the old Southern connecting the Clinchfield with the P&N/ACL that was built to avoid the switching charges that Southern charged to move cars between the others.

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