Old Elkhorn tunnel

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Dec 27 15:26:30 EST 2021


Yes, looking at Google Maps/satellite, the west portal of the old 
Elkhorn Tunnel appears to be just to the right of the "graphical" 
junction of the two roads. Drag a distance measurement line from there 
south to the new tunnel's east portal and 0.58 miles should mark the 
vicinity of the old tunnel's east portal.

Winding northwest up Mill Creek from the Bluestone River at Coopers, the 
main line entered the east portal on a right curve that extended into 
the tunnel. However, most of the tunnel was on a north-northwest tangent 
to the west portal where the main entered a left curve to a tangent that 
is now marked as Coal Dale Mountain Road.

The Low-Grade Line was built later, bypassing the steep climb up Mill 
Creek. It left what became known as the "Old Main Line" at the east 
portal and stayed up on the northeast side of the hollow, crossed high 
over the Bluestone River on Cooper Trestle, entered Cooper Tunnel and 
joined back up with the Old Main Line at Bluestone Junction. This grade 
separation allowed the 1947 construction of the relocated (current) main 
on the Old Main Line's right-of-way while traffic continued to use the 
Low-Grade Line.

The old tunnel and the Low-Grade Line were abandoned after the new 
tunnel and relocated main were opened in 1950. Both portals were blown 
down to seal the tunnel, plus what may have been a third portal to the 
left of the east portal for the parallel ventilation shaft. When I was 
there many years ago, west portal remnants included the right side of 
the portal's brick face at the bottom of the arch. A few mainline 
crossties remained on the tunnel approach near the road junction.

Nothing remained of the east portal and it could only be located by a 
distinctive rock formation above it. From there down adjacent to the new 
east portal, the roadbed was obstructed by what appeared to be 
overburden from strip-mining activity.

 From adjacent to the new east portal down to the river, the upper 
portion of the Old Main roadbed was undercut for the approach cut to the 
new east portal and the lower portion was buried in fill. Much of the 
Low-Grade roadbed was left intact, including catenary bridge bases for 
the electrification.

Grant Carpenter

On 10/26/2021 2:57 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Can anyone overlay the route of the old Elkhorn tunnel onto current 
> Google Map of the area?  As near as i can tell, Coaldale would have 
> been at what is now shown as the SE terminus of the Coal Dale Mountain 
> Road where it joins with route 15/3 Bramwell Coaldale Road.  From this 
> point it would have headed SSE to a point that would have been Ruth 
> which it seems would have been almost straight North of the East 
> portal of the present-day tunnel.  What I am trying to reconcile is 
> that the cleared path following what I believe to be the old route 
> Westward to Ruth looks like it would have entered the East portal of 
> the old tunnel heading nearly due North.whereas getting from there to 
> Coaldale would have required a significant turn to the West.  Was the 
> old Elkhorn tunnel a straight shot or was there curvature inside?  
> Also, I am under the impression that the original single-track main up 
> to Ruth ran very close to the East portal of the present-day tunnel 
> and from that point Eastward the original line was fairly well wiped 
> out by the construction of the present-day line.  Is there anything 
> left to indicate the route the original line would have taken would 
> have taken from  the East portal of the present-day tunnel on up to Ruth?
> All information/speculation will be appreciated,
> Jim Cochran
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