When I first posted Skaggs Hole tunnel, I didn’t know how much I wasn’t seeing. We had to be up in the Bartlick area anyway (my buddy had spotted some old mines on the topo and wanted to check them out…luckily, they were mostly intact and he got his pictures), so I took the chance to walk down and redo the tunnel. First, some maps show it as “Skegg’s Hole” and some “Skaggs Hole”. Let’s let the highway department decide the issue:
There now. On to the tunnel. This is the south face looking toward the bridge over the Russell Fork. The tunnel, 519′ long, centers at 37.256522, -82.327300.
Note the date on the lintel is 1931. This is when the railroad made some significant improvements to this tunnel. A culvert just behind where I’m standing has a set-in-concrete (seriously) date of 1913 and the bridge beyond also has a date set in the abutment concrete of 1913. This is when the tunnel was cut out and jibes with Goforth’s date range for the Elkhorn City extension of the Clinchfield. This is looking out of the north face of the tunnel to the bridge over the river.
Here’s the north portal, wide view, showing Skagg’s Hole, which I believe is a deep area in the river to the left at this bend. You can just see the river, about 30′ below.
This is the last tunnel in Tennessee as the CSX heads east to North Carolina. This is Indian Ridge tunnel, in Johnson City. It’s 1.023′ long and centers at 36.345467, -82.424185. This is looking westerly.
It was a sunny day, so the ballast and the ties (or “sleepers”, as they call them in the UK) overexposed a bit. Notice that the ties are concrete. And a fair number of them were badly cracked.
It was hard to get to this tunnel. We had to park about a half-mile away and carefully walk down the side of a fairly busy road that had no generous shoulders. Then we had to scramble (there’s a lot of scrambling when it comes to getting to tunnels and bridges) down to the cut. The date is 1912 on the facing. Squint hard, you can see it.
Callahan is a common name in this area. There’s a Callahan Avenue in Appalachia and a Callahan Creek that’s near here. I assume that is the origin of the name of this tunnel.
Anyway, this is the other tunnel on that old (1890) Fremont branch of the L&N line that ran from Appalachia to Big Stone Gap. It’s been unused since 1986 or so.
This is Callahan’s Nose tunnel from the Appalachia side:
The short, 135′ tunnel is centered at 36.884670, -82.786329.
This is the south face. The overpassing track is active N&S.
I took these when I was more interested in the pleasant hike from Appalachia to Big Stone Gap than I was the tunnels, but I took one picture because I was surprised at the brick interior of this tunnel (below). I suspected that it showed that the tunnel was an older one and, surprise, I was right. Bricking was an earlier technique of shoring up a tunnel. After the turn of the century, they generally used concrete to ensure the integrity of a tunnel. Enlarge the picture and you can clearly see the brick.
This is Blair tunnel on the N&S going north out of Richlands VA.
The junction is called Jewell (Jewell Ridge is just across Hyw. 67 to the right of this picture. This southern portal is at 37.179843, -81.796229. The tunnel is about 3,000′ or so long and comparatively new. Anecdotal evidence suggests it was built around 1967 or so. One person told us it dated “from the 60s” and the dates on the pony plate bridges leading up here are all 1968.
Here’s a closer look at the portal
There’s a sign that says “Blair” on the right. The large plaque thing below it is blank. The tunnel overhead is strongly supported by anchor bolts, but some of the concrete has broken away and there’s a fair amount of water leakage. The rails here are lightly used and the waiting tracks all were rusted.
From here, this line heads northwesterly to Vansant and points west.
In 1890, the Louisville & Nashville railway (L&N) pushed two tunnels through outcroppings of Stone Mountain between Appalachia and Big Stone Gap while creating its Cumberland Valley Division. This one, closest to Appalachia at 36.895712, -82.787822, is Bee Rock.
This is the view from the Appalachia side. The tracks are still in place, but they haven’t seen a train since around 1986. Bee Rock, at 47′ 7″ in length, enjoyed a brief fame as the “Shortest Railroad Tunnel in Use in the United States”, according to Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Soon (oops!), someone noticed that there was a tunnel a foot or so shorter over near Gallatin TN and that was that.
This is looking through the tunnel toward Callahan’s Nose tunnel (about 4,000′ ahead), which we’ll come to later (interesting tunnel, that).
The plans are, I believe, to turn this old railbed from Appalachia to Big Stone Gap into a trail for walking and biking. I hope so. I’ve walked it a couple of times. It’s very enjoyable, but, then, I’m easy. I’ve walked a lot worse rail lines, for sure.