N&W in 1910--Tunnel

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Fri Apr 9 17:17:12 EDT 2010

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
October 25, 1910

Norfolk and Western Said to be Considering Letting of Huge Contrct [sic]
If Road Issue Sells at Favorable Price Mountain Will Probably be Cut Through Between Maybeury and Barlow's Hollow
It is reported here that the Norfolk and Western is waiting to see with what avidity investors take up the issue of bonds which the stockholders of the road recently authorized before awarding the biggest contract it has ever given for a tunnel. It is said that the Norfolk and Western is considering very seriously the letting of a contract for the construction of a tunnel between Maybeury and Barlow's hollow near Coopers. The proposed tunnel will be about two and a half miles long and will do away with the stiffest grade on the Pocahontas division which leads to the Coaldale tunnel. This grade is so steep that a rise of 123 feet has to be made within a mile and a quarter to span the distance between Coopers and Ruth, at the entrance to the tunnel from the east.
On the west side of the tunnel there is also a stiff grade leading up to Coaldale which is 2,267 feet above sea level.
The route for the proposed tunnel has been surveyed a number of times and it has been frequently reported that the road would undertake the construction of it. The Coaldale tunnel is about seven-tenths of a mile long and was cut through a solid vein of coal reaching from the top of the tunnel to the floor. The contractors who built the tunnel are reported to have made a fortune from the coal they took out of the hole while the tunnel was being built. During the early years of the road several men were killed in the Coaldale tunnel by smoke and gases but several years ago a large fan was installed which carries out the foul gases and smoke. The tunnel is the longest on the system at this time, although the Cedar Bluff tunnel, now under construction, will be longer as when it is finished it will be 4700 feet long exclusive of approaches. The construction of the propose tunnel would be one of the biggest investments the road ever made, according to a railroad man. In addition to the present heavy haul up to and through the tunnel as well as the danger of wrecks after leaving the tunnel coming east the road by the construction of a new tunnel would be able to save a great deal of time. At present many trains are held up every day waiting for a clearance through the single track Coaldale tunnel. Sidings have been extended and re-extended and plans are under consideration for a further extension of the sidings at Coaldale so trains can be accommodated. The dispatchers have to continually time trains so they can make the single-track tunnel and these savings as well as the saving of the equipment and power, it is believe, would be a big thing for the road from a financial standpoint.

It is not known what method of hauling trains through the proposed new tunnel will be adopted but many railroad men are inclined to believe that the fan system will be used, although many think that the road would prefer two or three of the big electric locomotive for doing the work. The coming of the Mallet engines to this road and the larger loads which they can carry make some change necessary and it is likely that the tunnel will be built if the bonds sell at a favorable price.
[It is interesting to speculate whether this base tunnel would have been constructed if the electricification of 1915 had not been adopted.]

Gordon Hamilton
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