Sunday, February 22, 2009


This one really is fascinating when you discover more about the cave-in on Church Hill in the older section of Virginia's capital in 1925! I've visited both portal areas, venturing into the west portion of the tunnel and have accumulated some good, detailed research....coming. Is anyone still entombed inside the narrow gauge train tunnel after 83 years! WHAT a true history mystery!

Locomotive 231 and 10 flatcars have rested inside the Churc Hill tunnel in Richmond since october 2, 1925. The engineer and two workers were killed when the tunnel crumbled on and around them. When the tunnel was constructed in the 1870s, after the end of the Civil War, a dozen more lives were lost. At times, over the years since, small cave-ins have occurred above.
If you are familiar with the Church Hill of Richmond, it is a like a steep monadnock between the eastern entrance way into the old downtown section of the Capital. As you reach the summit on Broad Street, you can look across the "valley" to the next hill where the Capital and other state buildings are located. Hundreds of fine old homes, once deteriorating and rental properties, are now being restored, with familes and professionals moving in. The church where Patrick henry spoke his famous "Give me liberty...." speech still stands as a monuent to the Revolution that began our country!

The engine is buried under about 20 to 30 feet of dirt near the west end of the 4,000-foot tunnel. After all fo these years, since 1925, the goal is bring up the engine. The engineer's body was retrieved a few days after the accident. The remains of the two workers is thought to still be buried with the engine and flatcars.

I have explored both portals of the tunnel. The east portal is sealed with concrete right up to a street. The west portal has the tunnel going in about 100-yards or so, then sealed by concrete. The top of the concert seal has shifted down enough for some adventurous person, I'm told, to actually crawl back a bit but not as far as the train. Even though I am a spelunker, this guy would NOT try that adventure! I did stop at a Police Precinct station on Church hill and talked with an officer. She told me about taking a well-known author, Richmond native, inside the open tunnel section. That's how I found it. It's hidden in a "wild" wooded section, and made me feel a bit useasy walking to it and into the grown-up, weedy tunnel. Gave me some of those funny shivers the entire time I explored and photographed. Slides were taken of both portals and the open tunnel portion on that west side for my research. I will add to this blog post on when and if the train is retrieved. If you see me in person, out and about town or at the Rec Center, you're welcome to ask me about the Church Hill tunnel cave-in.

The latest: after trying and trying to get someone, anyone, in the Richmond City government and news media to share info on the latest for trying to bring up the narrow gauge locomotive from the 1925 tunnel cave-in, someone from the Richmond Times-Dispatch came to my rescue! In 2006 water poured into the dig around the tunnel on Church Hill forcing the engineers to cease operations and NOT continue on with the project to bring out the small locomotive and possibly even the men trapped in there. I did read newspaper accounts in 1925 and later. Some, over the years, felt that bringing out the remains would not be a proper respect for their memories.

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