Near Glenita in Scott County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Natural Tunnel Route
The South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad began laying tracks through Natural Tunnel in 1882, connecting Bristol, Tennessee, with the coalfields of southwestern Virginia. The route became knows as the “Natural Tunnel Route” when the Virginia and Southwestern Railroad took over the line in 1899.
The trains carried passengers between Bristol, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky. Because of the tunnelís uniqueness, most trains stopped and allowed passengers to visit the tunnel.
The pavilion depicted in the photograph was constructed to accommodate train passengers and other visitors to the tunnel. Over the years, everything from picnics to weddings to gambling took place here.
In 1905, President Roosevelt rode this route while researching the Wilderness Road for his book, The Winning of the West.
Use of the track for passenger trains ceased in the late 1940s. Today the line is owned
Location. 36° 42.082′ N, 82° 44.68′ W. Marker is near Glenita, Virginia, in Scott County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Sunbright Highway (County Route 871) and County Route 646. It is in Natural Tunnel State Park, at the kiosk at the viewing platform at the southern entrance to the tunnel on the floor of the natural amphitheatre. It can be reached on foot hiking down the footpath from the visitorís center, or by taking the chair lift. There is a charge to park your car and a separate charge to use the chair lift. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Duffield VA 24244, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Carterís Fort (approx. 0.7 miles away); a different marker also named Carterís Fort (approx. 1.4 miles away); Speers Ferry (approx. 3.2 miles away); Natural Tunnel: Railroading and Recreation (approx. 3.2 miles away); The Copper Creek Railroad Trestles (approx. 3.2 miles away); The Wilderness Road Crossing of the Clinch River (approx. 3.2 miles away); Scott County / Lee County (approx. 7.3 miles away); Donelsonís Indian Line (approx. 8 miles away).
More about this marker. At the bottom of this interpretive panel are two photographs. The one on the left is captioned, “the first passenger coach over the Natural Tunnel Route between Bristol and Big Stone Gap, Virginia. This photograph was taken in March 1890 in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.” The second photograph is captioned, “Pavilion at Natural Tunnel, 1938.”
Regarding The Natural Tunnel Route.
Also see . . .
1. Video of Norfolk Southern Train at Natural Tunnel. Train is heading north, with a string of empty coal hoppers. (Submitted on August 20, 2011.)
2. Natural Tunnel: Natureís Marvel in Stone. 2004 book by Tony Scales on Amazon.com. “As evinced by old postcards, at least by 1906 a pavilion had been built at the South Portal of the Tunnel. ... with the pavilion, the South Portal became the party place and center for dances and galas. ... In these early tourist years, Natural Tunnel had a bit of a risquť reputation and apparently attracted rowdy crowds. The Ďrefreshments on the train and at the Tunnelí also included demijohns of the more potent variety, distilled in the surrounding hills and hollows, albeit they were supplied by some of the passengers.” (Submitted on August 20, 2011.)
1. 1925 Southern Railway Timetable
Southern Railway was in charge of this line for passenger service in 1925. The June 28 timetable showed two passenger trains through the tunnel in each direction. Train No. 1 left Bristol at 7:45 a.m. and passed through the tunnel at around 9:55 on its way to Appalachia, Virginia, where it arrived
Train No. 2 was Appalachia to Bristol, leaving Appalachia at 7:25 a.m., through the tunnel at 8:15 and arriving at Bristol at 10:35. It turned around as Train No. 3, leaving Bristol at 3:15 p.m., through the tunnel at around 5:30 and arrived at Appalachia at 6:30 p.m.
In Appalachia, arriving passengers could walk to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad station to continue their trip to Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio. In Bristol the Southern had trains with through cars north to Washington and New York and south to Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Birmingham, and New Orleans, while the Norfolk and Western could get you to Roanoke and other points in the Shenandoah Valley and into Maryland and Pennsylvania; to Lynchburg, Richmond and Norfolk; and to Salem and Durham in North Carolina. On any of those connecting lines, passengers originating on The Natural Tunnel Route could change trains for any other destination
— Submitted August 21, 2011, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
Categories. • Railroads & Streetcars •
More. Search the internet for The Natural Tunnel Route.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 20, 2011, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 1,105 times since then and 38 times this year. This page was the Marker of the Week May 19, 2013. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 20, 2011, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on October 3, 2014, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.