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Railroads were a major factor in America's industrial revolution. By the 1840s, politicians, entrepreneurs, and town leaders demanded ready access to the rail lines. In Massachusetts, one major rail line, the Western Railroad, cut across the center of the state, connecting Boston with Albany. Another railroad, the Fitchburg Railroad, wanted to build a northern railroad across the state. By 1843 it connected Boston to Fitchburg. By 1850, it extended westward to Greenfield. But in order for it to eventually connect to New York, it would have to cut through a high obstacle, Hoosac Mountain. The tunnel was begun in 1851, but early optimism faded as the hard rock proved too difficult to cut. By 1863, progress had ground to a halt, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts took over the project. Although the pace picked up in 1866 with the introduction of nitroglycerine, the tunnel was not completed until 1875. In the end, it cost the state $17 million, 196 lives, and 24 years effort. It was the most expensive and most debt-producing item in the state's history. Eager to clear its books, the state sold the tunnel to the Fitchburg Railroad for only $6 million.
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