Railroads Tag

Exploring the CNO&TP Tunnels

The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP) is a railroad that runs from Cincinnati, Ohio south to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The railroad it operates, the Cincinnati Southern Railway, was constructed to Chattanooga and is owned by the city of Cincinnati and leased to the CNO&TP under a long-term agreement.

When completed in 1879, the route contained 27 tunnels, most of them concentrated in “The Rathole” between Danville, Kentucky and Oakdale, Tennessee. The tunnels, designed to be approximately 15 feet wide and 20 feet high, included:

  • Tunnel no. 2 at King’s Mountain, which was 3,992-feet long.
  • Tunnel no. 3 and 4 at Burnside.
  • Tunnel no. 5 north of Sloans Valley.

The tunnels were originally lined with timber, but most were eventually relined with stone and brick unless they went through solid rock.

In the 1940’s, when the Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River in Kentucky was planned, the high water level in the new reservoir would flood a portion of the Pittman’s Creek bridge at the portal to tunnel no. 4. Work began in the late 1940’s to reroute the railroad and on August 3, 1950, tunnels nos. 3 and 4 were closed to northbound traffic; southbound traffic began using the new bridge on August 8.

The CNO&TP undertook a massive construction project between 1961 and 1963 that saw many tunnels bypassed with cuts and the reduction of steep grades and curves at a cost of $32 million. Included in the project was the bypass of tunnel nos. 2 and 5. Project 1 of the massive project removed tunnel no. 2 at King’s Mountain, Kentucky with a cut that was at most 140-feet deep. Project 2 removed tunnel no. 5 with fills as high as 215 feet and cuts as deep as 160 feet.

The completion of the project was heralded on July 10, 1963, when the New River bridge near Robbins, Tennessee was opened.

Last weekend, I set about to explore tunnels nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 as they were within close proximity to each other and generally accessibly when dry. Tunnel no. 2, at King’s Mountain, was the easiest to access from a local roadway and from the railroad. It diverges from the mainline and proceeds into the narrow tunnel for nearly 4,000 feet. The ends are flooded but the tunnel itself remains dry and navigable.


Tunnels nos. 3 and 4 were bypassed with a major line change due to the damming of the Cumberland River. Accessed off of Richardson Road, a graded path along the old right-of-way leads into tunnel no. 3 and then tunnel no. 4. Both were bore through solid rock and were never lined.

Tunnel no. 4’s southern portal put out onto a major bridge over Pittman’s Creek, although no traces of the crossing remains today.

Tunnel no. 5, located south of Burnside, was relined and later improved with concrete walls to contain some slippage. It was inaccessible from the southern portal due to excessive water on the old right-of-way, but the northern portal was very much visible and open throughout.


Check out more of the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway and explore it’s other abandoned alignments »

Vintage Electric Streetcar Company
Vintage Electric Streetcars

I’ve been sworn to secrecy about the location of these vintage electric streetcars. But I cannot resist my excitement about these old trolleys that were once transportation staples in the United States and elsewhere.

Located in rural Pennsylvania, the these mothballed streetcars comprise a collection of over fifty, some in stages of rehabilitation, others in a state of decay. Founded in 1986, the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company began salvaging old trolleys with the eventual goal of restoration and reuse as tourist attractions and pubic transportation. Read More

Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad
Chicago, St. Louis & New Orlean’s Paducah-East Cairo Line

The Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad’s 34-mile Paducah-East Cairo line was constructed in 1902 and 1903 between East Cairo and Paducah, Kentucky. At the time of its construction, the Illinois Central operated two major north-south routes which converged at Fulton, Kentucky. Forming a “V” through Kentucky and Illinois, the western line passed through Cairo, Illinois while the eastern line went through Paducah. The completion of the Paducah-East Cairo route allowed trains to travel east to west and west to east without having to tour through Fulton. Read More

Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Hawks Nest Branch
Two West Virginia Rail Trails

West Virginia has many miles of fantastic rail-to-trails, or railroads that have been abandoned and converted into recreational corridors. Most of the trails are not paved, and many contain impressive bridges and tunnels that make any trip exciting. And quite a few of them have remnants of their coal mining past remaining, whether it is abandoned mine portals or discarded equipment.

Several years ago, I traveled to Hawks Nest State Park along the US 60, the Midland Trail, to hike along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) Hawks Nest Subdivision. The 3.4-mile line was originally as a narrow-gauge railroad alongside Mill Creek in Fayette County, connecting the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) at Hawks Nest Station to Ansted and is today a rail-to-trail. Read More

Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad
DT&I and B&O Oak Hill, Ohio Updates

The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I) is a defunct railroad that had its beginnings in southern Ohio as the Iron Railroad Company, which connected Ironton to the coal and timber reserves in the southern part of the state. Through acquisitions and mergers, the DT&I stretched for over 370 miles from Ironton to the automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan. Between Jackson and Bloom Junction, the DT&I had trackage rights along the Scioto & Hocking Valley, later part of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O), a distance of 23.4 miles. Read More