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Pattenburg (Musconetcong) Tunnel - Info | by KHustarelli
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Pattenburg (Musconetcong) Tunnel - Info

The Pattenburg Tunnel, or Musconetcong Tunnel as it was more commonly known when it was built, was constructed from 1872 to 1875. It was bored through Jugtown mountain as the locals called it by the Easton and Amboy RR and was 4,893 feet long when completed. It was actually the longest tunnel constructed on the east coast until the Hoosac Tunnel was finished in Massachusetts around 1876. This huge project was constructed under the supervision of Henry Drinker who, at the time of the start of construction, was only 21 years of age. Construction was not easy for the young Lehigh University graduate and several large obstacles were met with difficulty along the way. In May of 1873 a very large underground aquifer was struck with an pneumatic drill which resulted in huge burst of water and severe flooding. Before the water could be entirely pumped out it destroyed several of the wooden support arches in place to hold the masonry work. This now empty underground chamber can still be seen today by walking 1/4 mile in from the west portal and shining a very bright light up at the ceiling. After things were eventually cleaned up the tunnel soon hit another obstacle many other business and industries ran into around that time - the panic of 1873. Another large problem was with the workers who were largely responsible for the construction of the tunnel. Long hours, exhaustion, race issues, and alcohol were responsible for a large number of fights with one in November of 1872 resulting in 5 deaths and many other injuries. Despite many setbacks and troubles, the Musconetcong Tunnel was finally holed through in Dec of 1874 and later opened in June of 1875. Eventually the Easton and Amboy RR was absorbed by the Lehigh Valley RR who decided later to build a vacation resort on the eastern side of the tunnel. Bellwood Park as it was called, was a popular place for traveling folks from PA to NYC to visit in the summer months. The park featured many rides including a roller coaster and a ferris wheel, however it later closed in 1916. Although this tunnel was a marvel in engineering at it's time of completion, it constantly had water problems and was a little small for the newer locomotives in the early 20th century. A larger, better tunnel was constructed by the Lehigh Valley RR and opened in November of 1928. Although the tracks have been slightly modified in the tunnel, it still sees several trains a day from Norfolk Southern.

 

Lehigh Valley NJ Line, Jersey City - Phillipsburg, NJ Line - Pattenburg (Bellwood) Tunnel - Pattenburg, NJ.

 

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Taken on January 25, 2007