Cumberland Gap tunnel (the old one)

This is the last tunnel on the line coming out of Knoxville.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Knoxville Cumberland Gap Louisville railroad company blasted out this tunnel in 1888-1889, with a grade going up to the more or less center of the tunnel on both sides, so the cross-section of the mountain would reveal a tunnel that looks like an inverted “V”.  Smoke had a tendency to collect at the top and make breathing difficult for crews and passengers. Then, to add to the woes, the tunnel collapsed on July 4, 1894, and again in 1896.  Engineers didn’t like to go into the tunnel, so they’d push a string into the tunnel and have another locomotive pull it out from the other portal.  Passengers had to take a wagon ride through the gap.  This wasn’t a good situation.  When L&N gained control of the tunnel (KCGL had gone bust in 1892), they did a complete refurb ending in 1897, which is the date on this portal (this is mostly from “History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad” by Maury Klein). It’s also the date that “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, was published.  When the tunnel was begun, the Buffalo Soldiers were active in the West, just 7 years after the gunfight at OK Corral.







(I’m proud of this blog.  Someone came in and lifted a lot of the text above the picture.  The text ended up, with no credit, scrolled in purple (!) on another website.)
If you’d like to see a great video taken from a locomotive of a trip through this tunnel:
long and narrow


Here’s a closer look at the date on the lintel:


6 thoughts on “Cumberland Gap tunnel (the old one)

  1. David A Nelson Jr January 25, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    We are looking for someone to be part of our June 2017 8th – 10th Genealogy Jamboree and Pioneer Day in the Historic town of Cumberland Gap Tennessee to give history on the Railroad Tunnel and historic trains that passed thru Cumberland Mountain.

  2. Randy Bullen September 12, 2018 / 12:20 am

    I have pics of the fire in the tunnel in the mid 90s

    • Bob Lawrence September 12, 2018 / 4:49 pm

      Gosh! Make sure they get to your community’s library or archive.

  3. Kathy Chumley August 9, 2020 / 1:33 pm

    I have a couple of photos of my great-grandfather with many others who are working on a tunnel in the Gap, but I have no idea which tunnel or which end. Think you could take a look for me?

    • Bob Lawrence August 10, 2020 / 5:36 am

      I’m really not an authority on that tunnel, but I’m sure your local library will be able to find someone who is. Good luck!

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