Trouble at the Fallsburgh Tunnel
Sixty years after their construction, the tunnels along the route of the New York, Ontario & Western Railway began showing their age, the resulting deterioration causing serious problems for the railroad company. Throughout the spring of 1930, railroad workers worked at the tunnel below South Fallsburgh, relining the northern portal with a new ceiling of curved steel plates to help keep rock and dirt in place, and to prevent water from dripping onto the tracks below. Earlier, during the winter of ’29 – ’30, pools of water dripping from the leaky ceilings had formed on the tunnel’s floor, completely covering the tracks and eventually freezing, threatening derailment of trains. Throughout the cold weather, section crews had to continually remove the ice from the rails with picks.
Unfortunately, the relining work did not solve all the problems at the Fallsburgh tunnel. That June, just as the workers were completing their task of relining the entrance, a large rock become detached from the tunnel’s ceiling just as a freight train was pulling through. Crashing down onto the front of the locomotive, the stone knocked off the top of the steam vent. The escaping steam and hot water from the engine combined with the cool air in the tunnel, filling the rocky interior with a thick cloud. Even though it was quickly losing its energy and pulling a full train, the crippled engine was able to extract itself from the tunnel’s interior foggy chasm, pulling the cars out into the daylight and onto a side track at the Fallsburgh yard. The crippled engine was quickly hauled back to the round house at the Middletown yards for repairs, continuously blowing steam out of its broken vent along the route.