Taft Tunnel – Lisbon, Connecticut
Posted by Michael on February 19, 2007
Recently my wife and I were doing some research on Norwich and it’s surrounding areas. While checking out Ebay for items, we stumbled on an old Pen & Ink drawing of places in Norwich. It showed some recognizable sites, Uncas’s Monument, and a railroad tunnel.
I have never seen a tunnel, nor have I heard of a tunnel anywhere in Norwich. I had walked the railroad tracks in Norwich extensively, so I chalked it up to someone just drawing something to take up extra room in the picture.
Later that day, Shadow Wolf and I decided to take a walk around some areas we had kinda just brushed over. It never looked interesting, so we would just bypass it looking for more exciting areas. We followed a gated path that put us on a very small stretch of railroad we hadn’t walked before. Immediately upon accessing the tracks, we had discovered the Quinebaug Falls. While not a natural water falls, and probably part of either Norwich Public Utilities’ Hydro-Electric program or some still-working Mill’s energy source (There are many mills along the Shetucket, Quinebaug, and Thames Rivers), it was still an awesome sight.
Following the tracks east, we soon stumbled upon the Taft Tunnel.
We didn’t know what it’s name was or any of it’s history until later, but we were seriously impressed by it. One of the things that surprised me was the lack of graffiti around and in the tunnel. Most places like that would be a magnet for any kid with a spray can, but it was pretty clean. I had borrowed my son’s digital-video camera and did some terrible recording, which I’ll post at a later date. After we went home, I started researching what we had found. There isn’t much to tell, but it is really cool.
The Taft Tunnel was carved out around 1837 for the Norwich-Worcester railroad. It may have been the first railroad tunnel built in the USA. It is the oldest railroad tunnel still in use today.
I estimate the tunnel to be from 150 -200 feet long, and 30 feet wide but I may be wrong. Concrete braces have been poured into place to help support the roof of the tunnel. Water drips from most of the ceiling, and although it doesn’t seem to have corroded the tracks (probably because it’s still used often), some of the rail ties are in very poor condition.
Here’s a satellite map from Google Earth:
(Click on the image for a larger version)
Even from above it’s pretty noticable that there probably is some sort of tunnel running through the hill (red circle). Using the measuring tool (yellow line), it says that the tunnel is approximately 350 long, which seems a bit much. It’s not very far from where the Quinebaug river enters the Shetucket River. Its pretty easy to get to from River Road (route 12). I do not recommend crossing the railroad trestle west of the tunnel! These tracks are still in use, and the trestle is very long. If a train comes while your on the trestle, you will probably be killed. The walk way is very rusted and not in good condition at all.
If you decide to visit the Taft Tunnel: I’ve said it above and I will say it again, these tracks are still in use! There is no regular schedule for when the trains go by, but my guess is several times a week to twice a day. All I know is that the squished penny test came back positive for the presence of large heavy vehicles traveling on the tracks. The tunnel seems wide, but is pretty narrow when filled with train cars, so please use common sense, and be careful. ‘Exploring Forgotten Connecticut’ takes no responsiblilty if you are harmed or killed if you visit. Explore at your own risk!
Here are some photos we took:
The west face of the tunnel. Photo by Shadow Wolf.
Shadow Wolf silhouetted against the east entrance.
Interior of the tunnel from the east entrance looking west to the opposite entrance.
East face of the tunnel entrance. Shadow Wolf is on a small trail that leads to the top of the tunnel. We both climbed about 20 feet more up the path before deciding against it. The dead leaves and mud made it very slippery and, its about a 30-40 foot drop.
Here I am in front of the east face entrance. To put the size in perspective. I am 6 foot 5 inches tall. Photo courtesy of Shadow Wolf.
I hope you found the Taft Tunnel as interesting as we did. We can’t stress enough that if you decide to explore it, please be careful. Falling from the top or getting hit by a train would result in a really bad day for you and your loved ones. If you have an interesting abandoned place (or at least some place not well known) and would like to take us on a tour, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll research, document, credit and publish your story here. Don’t live in Connecticut (or you do but don’t want to email) then please add yourself to our Frappr Map. Thanks for stopping in!
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum (Ran trips through Taft Tunnel)
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