First it was timber that drove the railroads, narrow gauge lines, into Buchanan County VA. The timber baron W. M. Ritter ran Shay engines and a few passenger cars along with his freight cars, the Big Sandy & Cumberland Railroad, all over Knox Creek, up the hollows and, eventually, on into Grundy. When the N&W line took it all over in 1923, they had a problem. N&W was standard gauge. Shay engines can do a 6% grade, slowly, but the big non-geared wheels of the steam engines couldn’t. The N&W opened its company coffers and rebuilt the line to reach the rich coal beds in the area. They built a wye over the Tug Fork from the Pocahontas Main Line and constructed this tunnel, Devon Tunnel. This north portal is at 37.52763, -82.04658.
You can see in the above picture, on the left wall of the tunnel, a niche. Apparently, there was once a manual switching unit there. It’s all controlled now remotely. Here’s a better look at the mechanism.
And, my favorite picture, looking out of the portal to the deck girders forming the wye over the Tug Fork.
On the other side, about 1700′ back, is the south portal, a little more worse for wear. The date on both is 1930.