For many years the Maywood Historical Group (http://www.mhgonline.org/sponsored a hike through the O&W’s Northfield Tunnel near Sidney NY. Several years ago I was lucky enough to be able to go on this walk. The hike started at the old Maywood depot. This depot has been restored and turned into a local museum, well worth the trip for an O&W nut like me. South of the depot can be seen the abutments and footings for the curved trestle that once stood here. The grounds and surrounding area are immaculate, a real credit to the society. At the station a group of almost 100 hikers met and car pooled to the tunnel site.
Northfield Tunnel was an important feature on the railroad. Built in the 1880’s, it replaced a switch back that was originally built over the mountain. It was the tightest tunnel on the railroad, and was the reason that the railroads larger steam locos could not operate north of Walton, NY – they literally wouldn’t fit through the tunnel!
The tunnel is today on private property, but the owners are gracious enough to allow this invasion of their land. You reach the tunnel after a hike along the old right of way through the woods. Shortly before reaching the roadbed enters a cut lined with stone walls. As you get close to the tunnel mouth the temperature drops noticeably as the cool air wafts out of the tunnel mouth. Inside the tunnel the air is much cooler and damper than outside. A local Boy Scout troop has made the effort to placer a fair amount of gravel in the bottom of the tunnel so that hikers can keep their feet dry. I wonder if the roadbed was in this good a condition in O&W days!
The north portal of the tunnel is collapsing – when we were there a rather large chunk of concrete was dangling on its re-bar – leading to concerns that the tunnel will soon be unsafe for travel. Oddly enough, the lining inside the tunnel is in very good shape having been replaced only a few years before the end of the road.