Most people don’t realize they are driving over a 150-year-old plus train tunnel when they travel on State Route Route 54 in Barnesville (PA) or both lanes of Interstate 81 in Mahanoy Township.
The 3,500-foot Mahanoy Tunnel, which runs under Buck Mountain, is still in use by the Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad Company. It’s north entrance is located at the Mahanoy Township village of Buck Mountain; with it’s south entrance located at the base of the Vulcan Hill (SR54) in Ryan Township.
The tunnel’s construction began in 1859 and completed in 1862. The tunnel was primarily used to transport anthracite coal and replaced the Mahanoy Plane.
On the Ryan Township side of the tunnel are two structures that housed two large ventilation fans used to blow fresh air into the tunnel when smoke-producing steam locomotives went through.
The last true upgrade to the tunnel was the construction of a concrete mouth on the Vulcan side. It was completed in 1943.