Big Bull tunnel

There are three tunnels on the Norfolk and Southern line between St. Paul northwestward to Coeburn.  They’re all old tunnels and faced and dated at time of construction. This is Big Bull tunnel, centered at 36.917577, -82.359635.  It’s about 1,500′ long.  Date’s 1904. I particularly like how these tunnels were finished up.  Nice stonework.

6 thoughts on “Big Bull tunnel

  1. Sam Palmer February 20, 2012 / 12:53 am

    Love the photos & write ups you have on this site, many of the tunnels I’ve never seen. I live in Washington state now, so I enjoy walking through memories via the Internet from time to time.

    Just wanted to clarify the order of these 3 tunnels in particular for you… Westward from St. Paul, 1st is Big Bull, then Little Bull, then Holbrook, then the trestle. The trestle crosses a hollow with a small stream/creek which has no name that I’m aware of. (There is no Bull River that I know of in SW VA.) That stream empties into Bull Run creek which flows alongside US Alt 58. I grew up just down the hill from the Big Bull & Little Bull and have walked through them countless times, and the Holbrook a lesser number.

    By the way, the water flowing out of the ground to the right of the Holbrook is fresh spring water. It is always cool and is SO good when one has been 4-wheeling or hiking all day, especially in the summer!

    Thanks for an interesting blog!

    • bobtricities2011 February 20, 2012 / 5:57 pm

      You’re absolutely correct and thank you for the information. I’ve been using the DeLorme Virginia Atlas and Gazetteer for this area and they have the tunnels mislabeled. We were working that area last year before I got the idea of the blog and wasn’t taking GPS readings and audio notes. We’ll be back up in that area in the next month or so so I’ll be able to update everything. Btw, if you use Google Earth, Big Bull is at 36.9176038, -82.3590344; Little Bull is at 36.9170482, -82.364868; Holbrook is at 36.924826, -82.3712573; and Little Tom is at 36.9445, -82.4163. Then it’s on to Coeburn. Again, thank you for your information and interest! bobl

      • Sam Palmer February 21, 2012 / 11:17 pm

        A little more trivia for you. Unless it’s been surfaced over, at the west end of the Little Bull (north side, I think), you’ll find my name carved into the stone, along with that of my future wife (now ex-wife). (sigh) I did that with some old spikes laying by the right-of-way. Took me several weeks of up & down the hill, but… young love… what can I say?

        Also, another thing I remember about the Holbrook is that, although the east end is faced, shortly inside there are breaks in that… parts are bare rock, apparently sprayed with cement… that makes for interesting “hiding places” if you will, which always spooked me as an adventurous kid exploring places I shouldn’t have been on my own… but I wasn’t watched closely. Good thing? I think so now! The west end has little to no facing, unless it’s been changed in the last few years.

        Finally, even though you seem to be focused on the engineering of the old CC&O, the N&W was also impressive, and one I see that isn’t included (yet) here is Natural Tunnel near Duffield. Some human engineering, but mostly Mother Nature. Perhaps you could expand your blog to include all of the rail lines of SW VA. Thank you again for your posts. Perhaps your audience is small, but some of us might just be a little sentimental and passionate! Thank you!

      • bobtricities2011 February 22, 2012 / 5:32 pm

        Again, thank you for the interesting information. We may be up in the St. Paul area within a month and I’ll check out the things you mentioned and report back. Actually, I had started to only blog the CSX (old Clinchfield, older CC&O) tunnels, but I’m working on the N&S ones, too. I just don’t have the information on the N&S that I have on the Clinchfield. There are at least two books that document the early days of the Clinchfield, none (that I can find) on the N&S. We’ve walked through Natural Tunnel, but I haven’t gotten around to posting much on that low line yet. I also post bridges in southwest Virginia on That’s another site that will bring back memories for you, I’m sure. bobl

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