The Dingess Tunnel is a lengthy one-lane tunnel built along the former Norfolk & Western Railway Twelvepole alignment in Dingess, West Virginia.
The Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W), formed in 1881 to connect Norfolk to Bristol, Virginia, had a self-vested interest in accessing vast underground coal deposits in the Flat Top Mountain region along the Virginia and West Virginia border. 1 It constructed the 75-mile New River Extension between Radford and Pocahontas, Virginia by 1883, and the Bluestone Extension to Elkhorn, West Virginia by 1887. North of Elkhorn, the N&W constructed the Ohio Extension to the Ohio River via the Elkhorn Creek, Tug River, and Twelvepole Creek.
The Dingess Tunnel, a 3,327-foot-long bore in Dingess, was opened on September 25, 1891.
Confronted with the need for double-tracking, the Big Sandy Low-Grade Line, a new 59-mile single-track alignment along the Big Sandy River between Naugatuck and the Ohio River at Ceredo, was built and opened in December 1904. 1 The original Twelvepole alignment was used as an eastbound track for empty coal cars and local freight and passenger traffic while the new Big Sandy Extension was used for loaded cars heading westbound and through freight and passenger traffic. Many of the lightweight bridges along the Twelvepole route were built in the early 1910s.
In 1925, the N&W added a second track along its Big Sandy River alignment and in 1933, the railroad petitioned to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to abandon its Twelvepole track between Lenore and Wayne, keeping intact the remainder north of Ceredo to serve coal mines primarily at East Lynn. 1 The tracks were removed later in the year and much of the roadbed was converted for roadway use.
In 2019, the Dingess Tunnel underwent a $5.5 million rehabilitation that required the replacement of the steel liner, adding new drains, repaving the roadway, and installing LED lighting. 2
- State: West Virginia
- Route: WV County Route 3/05
- Type: Tunnel
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 3,327 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- Bakic, Tracy D. “Fleming Thru Girder.” West Virginia Historic Bridge Inventory, 4 Apr. 2013.
- Spence, Robert Y. “Dingess Tunnel.” West Virginia Encyclopedia, 20 Nov. 2019.