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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Afton in Nelson County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

East Trailhead

Blue Ridge Tunnel

 
 
East Trailhead Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
1. East Trailhead Marker
Inscription.  
The Blue Ridge Tunnel was constructed between 1849 and 1859 beneath Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. The tunnel first opened in 1858 to allow rail access through Afton Mountain. It was designed by French immigrant Claudius Crozet (1789 - 1864), its chief engineer. The 4,273-foot-long passage took nearly nine years to construct, employing mostly Irish immigrant laborers, and was the longest tunnel in North America at the time it was constructed. The tunnel is approximately 700 feet below the surface at its deepest point. In 1944, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway replaced the 86-year-old Blue Ridge Tunnel with an adjacent tunnel at a slightly lower elevation that could accommodate larger locomotives.

In the 1950's, the Dixie Bottled Gas Corporation built massive concrete bulkheads in the tunnel with the intent to store propane in the chamber created between the bulkheads. The venture was unsuccessful. The bulkheads created a barrier for walking through the entire tunnel until 2019 when they were removed during Phase II of the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail Project.

In 2001 Nelson County undertook the project

East Trailhead Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, April 9, 2021
2. East Trailhead Marker
Click or scan to see
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that resulted in restoration of the historic tunnel, including plans for the tunnel to become an outdoor public trail. The County acquired the tunnel in 2007 from CSX Inc. and in 2013 purchased easements and land to construct the project's eastern trail in Nelson County and the western trail in Augusta County. The tunnel project was completed in three phases: eastern trail and parking lot, tunnel restoration and western trail and parking lot. Federal and state grant funding and local funding from Nelson County enabled the tunnel project to be completed and open to the public in 2020.

Nelson County was assisted by the following major partners: Virginia Department of Transportation, Commonwealth Transportation Board, City of Waynesboro, Wooolpert Inc, Fielder's Choice Enterprises Inc, Whitesell Group, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation.
 
Erected 2020 by Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation; Nelson County, Virginia; Nelson County Parks & Recreation.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Parks & Recreational AreasRailroads & Streetcars. A significant historical year for this entry is 1849.
 
Location. 38° 1.997′ N, 78° 50.552′ W. Marker is in Afton, Virginia, in Nelson County. Marker is on Blue Ridge

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Tunnel Trail just west of Afton Depot Lane, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 215 Afton Depot Ln, Afton VA 22920, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Virginia's Nineteenth-Century Transportation Challenges (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Claudius Crozet (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Blue Ridge Railroad (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Laborers (approx. 0.4 miles away); Flight of Richard C. duPont (approx. half a mile away); Rockfish Gap Meeting (approx. half a mile away); Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District (approx. half a mile away); Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Afton.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 9, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 10, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 50 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 10, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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May. 15, 2021