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Eastern Railroad Discussion > John Henry & Great Bend Tunnel, WV

Date: 06/28/09 15:27
John Henry & Great Bend Tunnel, WV
Author: cinder

Tucked away along a scenic stretch of river running between Hinton and White Sulphur Springs, WV, the CSX bores through Big (corrected to "Great") Bend Tunnel just west of Talcott along the Greenbrier River. It is here that big John Henry reputedly beat the steam drill.

1. A weather-worn statue of the "steel driving man" guards a wide spot in Rt. 3 atop the tunnel. A decaying caboose droops nearby lowlighting this supposed memorial.

2. The now-abandoned first Great Bend Tunnel acts as a giant air conditioner as air passing through the mile long bore is delightfully cooled on hot summer days. A cool blast of air could be felt 100 feet outside the portal on this breezy day.

3. Eastbound Amtrak P050 (Cardinal) pops out the east portal of the newer tunnel a week ago Sunday.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 06/29/09 08:43 by cinder.

Date: 06/28/09 15:30
Here's an annotated Mapquest aerial image.
Author: cinder

The tunnel is over a mile long.

Date: 06/28/09 18:09
Re: Here's an annotated Mapquest aerial image.
Author: africansteam

Thanks for that bit of history, Cinder.


Date: 06/28/09 18:53
Re: John Henry & Big Bend Tunnel, WV
Author: WOPRJim

Sorry,but I've gotta ask; it reads Great Bend Tunnel in the second photo. Did they downgrade it from "Great" to "Big" at some point?
Just an ignorant west coaster,

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/28/09 18:54 by WOPRJim.

Date: 06/28/09 19:42
Re: John Henry & Big Bend Tunnel, WV
Author: cinder

You are correct.....It's "great" not "big" .....No follow-on comments please.

Date: 06/28/09 19:45
John Henry Days....
Author: cinder

Date: 06/29/09 06:02
Re: John Henry Days....
Author: CShaveRR

The name of the tunnel refers to the bend in the river. I think "Big Bend" just rolls off the tongue more easily than "Great Bend". There used to be a "Little Bend" tunnel as well, but I believe that it was bypassed and sealed.

The statue was created and dedicated in the early 1970s, at a time when C&O still had its complete main line through the area. If I remember correctly, the statue was placed on a flat car and taken through the original bore before being unloaded and trucked to its destination atop the portal.

Is the caboose still there?

Date: 06/29/09 15:20
Re: John Henry & Great Bend Tunnel, WV
Author: EL3600

I was familiar with the area when I was a much younger hunter. The abandoned tunnel supposedly was notorious for filling with rain water. As you approach from the east on the old grade, you will notice that it is much higher than the tunnel entrance and there was quite a "dip" into the bore. The portal on the west end has the concrete fan housings (marked "Great Bend Tunnel Ventilation Plant 1917," if I remember correctly) to draw out smoke. Little Bend Tunnel was a bit farther west and was daylighted. One tunnel portal is buried in debris. There is quite a lot of concrete work to divert water and prevent ice from forming above the tunnel portals on the west end of Big Bend and Stretcher's Neck Tunnel. Also a lot of copperheads. (I've got pictures of this stuff somewhere.)

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