N&W in 1911--Tunnel wall

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Sun Jul 10 19:38:23 EDT 2011

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
November 28, 1911

Section Foreman at Coaldale Sends Alarming Report to Railroad Offices Here
Yesterday morning the Norfolk and Western section foreman, J. H. Longworth, while working in the Elkhorn tunnel at Coaldale, which is a part of the section of his track, reported to the head officials at Bluefield that he distinctly heard coal miners' picks digging in the bowels of the earth about four hundred feet west of the east portal of the tunnel, on the south side of the track. Mr. Longworth at once realized the danger of the coal miners tunneling out the coal so close to the big tunnel and lost no time in making a report of the matter to the railroad headquarters here.
When the fact is taken into consideration that the tunnel is lightly lined with brick, and cement, it can be realized that the process of taking the coal out of the mountain is being allowed to approach dangerously close to the Elkhorn tunnel, and it is believed a thorough investigation of the matter will be had at once with the view of determining just how close to the tunnel the miners are being permitted to work.
The mine is operated by the Mill Creek and Coaldale works. If the section foreman is not mistaken in what he believed to have been the sound of coal diggers' picks it would appear that the railroad right-of-way is being all but undermined by the miners.
When the Coaldale tunnel, or Elkhorn tunnel, as it is more familiarly known, was put through the job was regarded as the greatest engineering feat of that time. It has been claimed that the coal taken from the tunnel by the contractors almost paid for the digging of the tunnel. The older railroad men here recall that during the process of putting the tunnel through many men lost their lives in one way or another during the several years that the work was in progress. The tunnel lacks a few hundred feet of being one mile long and at the time of its construction it was the biggest job that had up to that time been undertaken by the Norfolk and Western.
Gordon Hamilton
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