A Closer Look at Railroad Mishaps in Tunnel Hill

Tunnel Hill. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

TUNNEL HILL, Ga. — The North Georgia hamlet of Tunnel Hill is known for its namesake tunnel on the Western & Atlantic Railroad that opened to traffic in 1850.

But since that time, it has been the scene of some railroad calamities, mishaps and newsworthy happenings. Here are a few that made headlines over the years.

Heavy rain causes train to overturn

In April 1872, a train wrecked in Tunnel Hill when the track gave out following significant rainfall. The overturning train crushed and killed a “wood-passer,” according to a newspaper account.

The train, which left Chattanooga, at 5:30 a.m. did not arrive in Atlanta until 4 p.m.; it was to arrive at 1:20 p.m.

Landslides block tunnel

In February 1875, “heavy landslides” at Tunnel Hill blocked the tunnel, preventing trains from passing. “The rock work of the (tunnel) proper has escaped injury, but the track for a considerable distance on both sides is covered with earth and rubbish to a depth of five feet,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

Trains collide

On March 7, 1881, two freight trains collided in the mouth of the tunnel. An engineer aboard one of the trains, was not running the train at the time, was severely injured after he jumped from the train.

After jumping, the engineer hit the tunnel wall, sending him back toward the train, which ran over his legs, according to a newspaper account. He later died.

Construction train, handcar collide

In February 1892, a Western & Atlantic construction train crashed into the “section lever and handcar.” Foreman Patterson and his team of workers saw the train and jumped to safety before the collision. However, a flagman aboard the construction train was hurt in jumping from the train.

The mishap delayed the No. 6 passenger train for two hours.

Not worth the effort

On Oct. 31, 1892, a thief broke into the depot hoping to get rich but instead left disappointed. According to a newspaper account, the thief made off with $4.40 —$1.14 belonging to the Western & Atlantic and $3.26 from the Western Union Telegraph Co.

Hitching a ride proves deadly

In January 1911, a 20-year-old man died after he fell between the cars of a freight train as it passed through Tunnel Hill. The man was riding on top of the freight train from Chattanooga toward Atlanta and fell as he tried to go from one car to another.

His body was found on the side of the tracks in Tunnel Hill.

Protruding machinery causes derailment

On June 16, 1899, several cars of the northbound freight No. 8, from Atlanta, derailed in the tunnel. According to newspaper accounts, one of the train’s cars had heavy machinery and a part of which protruded and caught In the walls of the tunnel.

It took four hours to clear the derailment.

Robbers blow safe

In September 1912, robbers blew open the safe in the Tunnel Hill depot and made off with $20 in silver. It marked the second time in the year robbers targeted the depot.

According to a newspaper account, the robbers expected to make off with more loot. According to an agent, authorities could not determine which way the thieves went after blowing the safe.

Train hits wagon

In October 1913, a Western & Atlantic train crashed into a wagon carrying a family returning from Dalton. Two people were killed instantly, and several others seriously injured, including two fatally injured.

A newspaper account indicates the train was traveling at “an excessive rate of speed.”

Showman scalped

On March 27, 1916, an employee of the Con. T. Kennedy show fell asleep on top of a train as it approached the tunnel. He awoke after the train entered the tunnel, and when he went to sit up, struck his head on the ceiling of the tunnel.

“He was found in a semi-unconscious condition by a companion, and was taken from the train here for the at­tention of a surgeon,” The North Georgia Citizen reported.

“His scalp was almost stripped from his head, and his injuries were critical,” the report added. “It is believed he has a good chance to recover.”

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About Todd DeFeo 344 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.