You know about Natural Tunnel, right? If not, here’s the Wiki. And here’s a picture of same, complete with the N&S track that’s been there for over a hundred years:
But, wait! There’s more! Because, in railroad design thinking, it’s usually better, more costly, but better to ram through than go around, there’s another tunnel just a little bit south of the main, naturally formed (of course) one. Here ’tis (this is the northern portal…(kinda looks like they just sawed through the rock, no?):
N&W always called the tunnel “Cooper”, but it’s located at Coopers, a small community that was once a busy junction on the N&W. The company store is still intact, as are several other structures. People still live here. Coming out of this tunnel and flying over both the Bluestone River and County Highway 120 is a massive deck truss trestle. Between 1919 and the early 50s, this line was operated by electricity. The tunnel, just a few miles from Bramwell WVA, is centered at 37.320506, -82.326452 and is about 758′ or so (measured on Google Earth). The date on this NW portal is 1902. The tunnel goes through Laurel Ridge.
This is Pounding Mill tunnel #2, looking easterly. It’s centered at 37.078653, -81.738603 and is about 377′ long. A straight line distance from tunnel #1 is a little over a mile, but probably along the line of 2 miles if you walked the track, which we didn’t. And we had a very hard time finding this tunnel and #3, since Google Earth, of which we are not worthy, made a teensy error, labeling Estates Street as Ash Street and we were totally lost. Lee was hungry, it was nearing noon, so he suggested we give it up and head over to a nearby Wendy’s so he could get one of their baked potatoes. I rarely eat potatoes, so I stayed outside, propped up against the car, looking at the topo map to see if there were any other way to get down to where those tunnels are. An SUV pulled up. The driver, a man, leaned over his passenger, a women, and asked, “What are you looking for? I might be able to help you.” I took the topo over and was pointing out where we needed to go to both the man and, as it turned out, his wife. She took one look at the map and said, “That’s where my parents live.” As I batted away the angels singing around my head, I explained that we needed to find Ash Street. The man said that they’d changed the name of it to Estates Street. Problem solved. He called ahead, got permission for us to cross his father-in-law’s land to get to the railroad and the tunnels. When Lee came out of Wendy’s with his food, I told him what was going on and he just laughed and shook his head. “Who would believe it!”
So, here’s tunnel #2. It probably looks pretty much as it did 120 or so years ago.
We’re about halfway between Cedar Bluff and Claypool Hill in Tazewell County VA. This is on an N&S line from Bluefield to Norton. It’s the first of three. It’s centered at 37.078360, -81.746409 and is about 545′ long. This line came through between 1887 and 1890. We’re heading up to the UrCoal region: Pocahontas, but we’ve got a couple more tunnels to check out.