Black River Tunnel

Discussion in 'Tunnels' started by diesel shop, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. diesel shop

    diesel shop Member

    I read in " A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck" by Joel P. Rhodes, about a 800 foot tunnel. The tunnel was near Williamsville MO, "800 foot tunnel being blasted to assure a satisfactory grade from Otter Creek across the Black River vally." The book has the tunnel finished in1888 or 1889. This was on the CapeGirardeau & Southwestern, that eventually was sold to the Frisco around 1900 or 1901. The book says the tunnel had a "12 year run that ended with the tunnel's eventual collapse and condemnation. Anybody know about this?
    mountaincreekar likes this.
  2. Morailfan

    Morailfan Member

    Hi, Gary

    I don’t know where to start. I thought I knew just about everything about this line and every back-wood branch line off of it; So thank you! I’m quite surprised, and excited, because it looks like there very well could have been a tunnel there. About two and a half miles northeast of Williamsville, MO there is a cut about 80 to 100 feet deep, through the ridge between Otter and William Creek valleys. -Very suspicious. Such dramatic earthwork on a line there and then is cause for question. Anywho, a little history first, so everyone who reads this thread can start on the same page.

    In 1884, The Cape Girardeau & Southwestern Railway (CG&SWRwy. Co) began construction of a branch line from Mingo JCT (2.7 Miles southwest of Puxico) into the timber and mineral-rich hills of south-central Missouri. After some pauses in construction, the road continued building west from Chaonia station in March of 1888. By March of the following year, the road had completed an additional 28 miles of track and reached the town of Elsinore. It must have been during this twelve-month period that the tunnel was being dug, at approximately mile post 24.5 (from Puxico). The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the area is mostly composed of sandstone and dolomite formations, certainly not ideal for tunneling. This would explain why the tunnel would have been a bit problematic for the railroad, and why it most likely would have been dug out and ‘day-lighted’. What I wonder is why the line’s engineer didn’t route the road north through the pass where the Williamsville, Greenville and St. Louis Railway line would be built a decade later. Perhaps it was to avoid steeper grades, but with a climb of 1.8% for eastbounds, and 2.2% for westbounds, even the tunnel route was a bit difficult. Whatever the reason, it became Frisco’s concern after they bought the route's owner, the St. Louis, Memphis & Southeastern Rwy., on July 19th, 1907. As for the fate of the line, Construction of the Wappapello Dam and reservoir meant the section of mainline between Wappapello station and Ojibway would be submerged. The 'Daily except Sunday' train from Puxico to Willow Springs made its final run in the fall of 1938, and in June of the following year, Frisco crews pulled up the the rails through the tunnel site. The line was in service for exactly 50 years.

    It’s possible that the tunnel could have been removed before the line ended up on Frisco’s system map, but knowing for sure is the hard part. The road changed names and owners a few times before joining the Frisco family, and having passed through so many hands in such a short time, it’s easy to understand why records might be difficult to find. I’ve been able to dig up finance books from nearby logging camps and route maps of long-foreclosed tram routes, but it’s quite hard to find anything about the eastern portion of the mainline where this tunnel supposedly was. It was a curving, twisting route, more notorious for becoming a through route to Willow Springs and to the massive sawmill at Grandin than anything else. That is, besides for rumors, or the lost town of Chaonia and the numerous bridges and reverse curves nearby, where a train carrying Frisco superintendents once derailed and cost several lives. Anyhow, further information about the tunnel remains a mystery to me, but only for now. I’ll write again if I find anything more.

    If anyone wants to see the location where the tunnel would have been, these are the coordinates:

    36.9930586, -90.522623

    Hope this helps,
    -Brian |-|
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2012
    mountaincreekar and JimFisher like this.
  3. diesel shop

    diesel shop Member

    Thank you for more history of the area. I thought some would want to know about another tunnel on the Frisco.
    mountaincreekar likes this.

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