Hagan tunnel (L&N)

This is the Hagan tunnel southern portal about 10 miles west of Pennington Gap at 36.706559, -83.288597  in Lee County VA.  The tunnel, over 6,000′ long, runs from Hagan through Cumberland Mountain to Chevrolet KY, originally as part of L&N’s Cumberland Division.  The tunnel was constructed in the late 1920s.  There is also a single reference to another tunnel here at Hagan breaching the mountain higher up in a private or community effort back around the turn of the 20th century.  It was used by wagons for commerce between the states (we couldn’t find it).
This place is also interesting in that there are the two wyes (I was corrected on this…it’s a switchback) near this portal.  The CSX train comes over the top of the tunnel entrance going in a westerly direction, moves off to the first switchback, then backs down to the other one, which allows it to head into the tunnel going more or less northward.  All very complicated and a headache, I’ve read, for CSX, but since this is a lightly used, low speed line, they feel the cost of clearing all this up would not be profitable.  It takes about an hour for the train we observed to make the complete transition.  This was (I’m guessing) a 90-car unit.  At that length, it was completely in the tunnel before it came out the other side (math – coal car: about 50′ or so and the two engines about 75′ each…making the train about .8 mile in length).

13 thoughts on “Hagan tunnel (L&N)

  1. Anonymous January 3, 2018 / 6:41 pm

    Why is there only a short stretch of line below the tunnel? All that work to build that tunnel and it doesn’t even have a decent way to get into it from the south.

      • Paul May 22, 2018 / 10:31 am

        First of all, it’s not a wye it’s the only mainline switchback still in use in the United States, I live 12 miles from the switchback and tunnel it still sees approximately 8 trains per week of coal and scrubber stone.

  2. Warren nottingham February 16, 2018 / 9:04 pm

    My grandfather help build this tunnel. His name was p.e. pace. He worked on the ky side. The Powell valley new done to story’s on him. The other tunnel you spoke of is on top of the mountain. Stone mountain we call it. Cumberland mountain. Its a old trade trail. There’s another trail over top of the tunnel called the Hagen trail it was a trade route also.

  3. Bob Lawrence May 22, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    Thank you! I’ve corrected the post and appreciate your input.

  4. Anonymous February 6, 2020 / 9:35 pm

    Is the other tunnel you mentioned a man-made one that is called “the hole in the wall” ?? It is further up the mountain, but in the same general area. Wagons could pass through it going from KY to VA or from Va to Ky. This blog may get you on the right trail —
    http://www.kywilderness.com/forum/index.php?topic=456.0

    • Bob Lawrence February 7, 2020 / 5:49 am

      Yes, I think so. The sources on this upper tunnel were rather vague.

  5. Anonymous March 1, 2021 / 10:02 am

    Tunnel actually goes from Hagen Virginia to Smith Kentucky

  6. Michael October 24, 2021 / 11:34 pm

    I have lived in Hagan since 1985, Have walked up to the tunnel several times. Not sure where you got your info at about the number of trains that go through it. It’s definately more than 1 a week. Try one a day. Also it doesn’t take the train an Hour to get lined up to go through the tunnel. Unless you count the amount of time using the rose hill switchback also. when first moved here it was several trains all during the day and night every day that used it. there was even once that a passenger train made its way through here. I am glad that you wrote about it. Just please in the future get your facts straight. Also please ask your readers if any do plan on visiting the tunnel to be respectful of the area and those that live in Hagan, an not to park in the road when walking up to it. Had several people over the years parking along the road making it hard to get in and out of Hagan. If you have any other information about Hagan I would love to hear about it. Especially the Hagan Depot. I have yet to find any pictures of it. I know exactly where the Hagan post office was, the building is still standing, and also know where the Hagan school building is. In My years of living here I have discovered some interesting things. some that well intrigues and confuses me.

    • Bob Lawrence October 25, 2021 / 6:26 am

      Thank you for your information! I’ll try to be more accurate in the future!

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