Staple Bend Tunnel Park, Mineral Point

#2248 of 2,607 in Things to do in Pennsylvania
Landmark · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
The Staple Bend Tunnel, about 4mi east of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in a town called Mineral Point, was constructed between 1831 and 1834 for the Allegheny Portage Railroad. Construction began on April 12, 1831. This tunnel, at 901ft in length, was the first railway tunnel constructed in the United States. It is rock bored and stone lined.
Finished in June 1833, the Staple Bend tunnel was advertised as the first railroad tunnel in the United States. It was the third tunnel of any kind built in the US, the first tunnels were for other canals in Pennsylvania.
Work began on November 21, 1831 and often occurred during inclement conditions. The men were paid $13 per month plus room and board for 12-hour days 6 days per week. Workers chipped and blasted 901 feet of solid rock to make the tunnel.
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 ten 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. The full tunnel excavation was completed in April 1833.
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Staple Bend Tunnel Park reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
7 reviews
  • A beautiful and clean trail, to a beautiful piece of history. Trail is 2.5 miles back to the bridge and 2.5 back to your car. It seems a lot longer. Very flat, gravel. Floody in some places. Would...  more »
  • This is a level hike along the old Portage Railroad right-of-way, and through the tunnel. It is a 2-mile walk to the tunnel, and there are relics (some rails and stone "ties") of the old portage...  more »
  • Great little quiet park. We seen a good bit of wildlife. The trail is pretty flat so taking the kids was great. I will suggest a flashlight for the tunnel part. The kids got kinda scared in there in the dark. Found some really cool carving on the tunnel. Some as old as 1805. We will definitely be visiting again.
  • Great addition to our Allegheny Portage Railroad roadtrip. A beautiful walk, 6 separate trains passed on our way to from the tunnel. Definitely wear appropriate shoes. Wish there was more at the park entrance. There was only a few signs regarding the tunnel and a porta potty.

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