This is Hemphill tunnel #1 west portal, about 800′ long.
and this is Hemphill tunnel #2 east portal, about 1200′ long
If you’ve got Google Earth, set the options to “digital” and enter these coordinates:
Or just follow the N&S railroad line south of Capels WV and you’ll find where my buddy was standing when he took these pictures. He was sort of in between these two, with #1 being slightly to the SE of him.
There’s great history of these tunnels here <click>
Pictures courtesy of Lee Stone
This is the N&S’s Welch tunnel, located just north of Welch WV. It’s about 1300′ long.
Coordinates (decimal) 37.435642, -81.583812
No lie, this once was a busy tunnel…two tracks and all.
If you use Google Earth, check the Historic Imagery of this tunnel and dial it back as far as you can. That shot really shows the tunnel well.
This is what remains of Mudlick Junction, on the N&S. The coordinates are 36.94037, -82.79725. It must have been a busy place at one time. Now, however, the two lines on the left are dead. I think the main line, center, went to around Osaka VA. The line to the far right is live, bringing coal out from a strip mine up past Stonega. The junction is called Mudlick after Mudlick Creek, which flows nearby.
This was taken on a Sunday, but we saw many coal trucks moving in and out of the mine area and there was a N&S loco there with a string of hoppers getting loaded up.
Raus McDill Hanson writes in “Virginia Placenames and Derivations” that Stonega is just “Stone Gap” without the “p”. I’m not getting any love from any of my reference materials or the web on the origin of the name “Osaka”, which I’m told is pronounced “Osakie”, as Stonega is often said as “Stone-agie” (long a, hard g).
This triple overpass is over West Summer Street in Greeneville TN. This bridge closest to us is a dead siding, no longer connected to the main line.
Here’s what it looks like to the left:
And here we are up top. The dead siding is on the left, the main N&S line is on the right.
The third overpass is for Railroad Street:
There’re even steps coming up from Summer Street to Railroad Street; although, they appear to be lightly used.
The third tunnel between St. Paul and Coeburn is Holbrook. It centers at 36.924873, -82.372080 and is about 1,600′ long. A trestle begins 11′ or so inside the northwestern portal and extends 625′ over a valley. It’s dated 1947, but, since the tunnel was blasted out around 1905, we know it’s a replacement for the original timber trestle (and it must have been some trestle!). There are two more trestles before we get to Coeburn, both high and long.
After Big Bull tunnel going roughly northwestward on the N&S line from St. Paul to Coeburn is Little Bull tunnel. It centers at 36.916845, -82.364497 and is about 400′ long, on a curve.
Between 1924 and 1931, a narrow-gauge railroad hauled coal from the Crummies Creek mines to a prep plant on the other side of the mountain on Cemetery Road near Crummies, KY*. This portal, probably dynamited and then filled in, is near 36.78559, -83.21749. Good luck trying to find it on Google Earth. We nearly missed it ourselves. When I took this picture, I was standing on top of the fill looking into the tunnel right at the top. I could feel cool air blowing out, so the tunnel’s not completely filled in.
On the prep plant side, there were several L&N lines that used a double-track loader. The tracks are gone now.
*The Kentucky place name list tells me that a “crummy” or “crummie” refers to an animal that has crooked horns.
This is Dry Fork tunnel #1 (37.234365, -81.639281), about 470′ or so. This is looking north from the trestle over the Rift-Berwind Road and Dry Fork River in West Virginia. Bridge facing date is 1912, with a 1911 date on the trestle abutment. Pending further research, I’d say the line here dates to the late 1800s, when the coal mines began to open up. Our general theory with the lines in the area is that they blasted out the tunnels, leaving them unfinished if they were stable and ran the line over timber trestles until either the trains got heavier or the timber began to deteriorate, then they switched to the current configurations. It’s a theory.
Dry Fork tunnel #2, centered at 37.222078, -81.633671. It’s about 478′ long. 1912 date. Thanks go to Lee Stone for the picture…I was still fussing with my camera after taking the dusty slide…plus, I wasn’t interested in climbing a long fill again. Wonder why? As of this date, it doesn’t bother me at all.
Yeah, it’s not a tunnel, but I’ve gotten interested in documenting the remaining train stations in our area. Some are pretty tarted up and some are gone. Some have character.
This one, which appears to be on the road to renovation, is in Meadowview VA. It’s pretty much standard issue train station.
The railroad came to Meadowview around 1856 and kept the community prosperous until the 1950s. Meadowview, also known as Meadow View, is near Whitetop Mountain.
We’re just off Hwy. 627 about a mile south (as el cuervo flies) of Bandy VA. This tunnel is centered at 37.128412, -81.699718. It appears to be about 501′ long. There’s a trestle a little bit past this northern portal that goes over 627, but, since I lost my notes on this journey, I don’t recall the date on the trestle. Btw, I’ve replaced both the voice recorder and the eTrex with newer models. I tried them out last Sunday as we explored the old town of Bulls Gap…first railroad there was built by slave labor in 1857. I’ll be posting it to www.unclebobstravels.com soon.
We started in Cedar Bluff VA, working our way up the N&S line toward Rift WV. There are five tunnels along the way. It was a hot day. I ended up taking a belly slide down the shaley embankment off a rail line (I was nearly to the top of the 35′ embankment when the loose dirt crumbled away from my foot and down I went, clutching a small tree that I had grabbed, hoping for a little braking, but I got breaking) and getting a fair amount of scratches (two on the lens of my Nikon, prompting my buddy to remind me about, you know, a skylight filter to protect the lens…). Then, to top if off, a few tunnels on, I absent mindedly left my Olympus voice recorder and my eTrex on the trunk of my car and then drove away. God knows where they are. But, I’ve got replacements ordered. Paraphrasing a saying by my boss, “If you’re going to be stupid, you’ll have to pay.”
This is Dry Fork tunnel #5, centered at 37.109438, -81.723611. This is looking more or less south. By the Google Earth ruler, it appears to be about 790′ long. 1912 date, as you can see. This line could be far older than this date, since N&W could have done a full refurb of the line in 1911-1912 (there are these dates firmly on trestles and tunnels on this line), facing the tunnels and replacing old timber trestles. If further research shows this is true, I’ll update this.