The Gun Creek Tunnel carried the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision and now a trail under a hill in Magoffin County, Kentucky.
The 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel at Ivyton, Kentucky, was constructed in 1919-21 as part of the Big Sandy & Kentucky River Railroad’s (BS&KR) extension from Riceville and Carver. 6 The line was incorporated in 1912 by the Dawkins Lumber Company who had envisioned constructing a 31-mile line to gain access to timberlands. 3 6 7 8 The first segment of the BS&KR, between West Van Lear and Riceville, was completed in 1913. 7
However, due to the stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, the BS&KR went bankrupt. 7 The 24.2-mile line was acquired by the C&O and leased to the BS&KR on September 20, 1930, leading to the C&O acquiring the BS&KR on December 19, 1933. This acquisition resulted in the branch being called the Dawkins Subdivision. 6
An extension into Breathitt County via the Carver Tunnel finished in 1951 greatly expanded the utilization of the Dawkins Subdivision. By 1953, seven active mines on the branch produced more than 2,000 cars a month. 8 9 This gradually decreased over the decades and in May 1990, there were only three active loading points on the line that produced 80 fifty-ton crs daily. 8 Of that, 93% were loaded at one tipple.
Movements over the Dawkins Subdivision dwindled further, partly by the closure of rail-served tipples and by the decision from shippers to truck coal to docks along the Big Sandy River near Catlettsburg. 8 The promotion of unit coal train service, which offered better rates, led to the elimination of smaller, less efficient rail operators. 10 In 2000, the branch line was closed by C&O’s successor, CSXT, to revenue traffic due to needed repairs. 1 In 2002, the R.J. Corman Company acquired the 36.13-mile Dawkins Subdivision between Dawkins and Evanston from CSXT and started interchanging with CSXT at Paintsville on February 4. 1 3 However, due to needed repairs on the rail line, RJ ceased operations in 2003 4 and filed to abandon the Dawkins Subdivision on November 6, 2004. 2 3
The Dawkins Subdivision was railbanked by the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council in preparation for its conversion into a rail trail. 4 This project was expected to cost $2.1 million. In May 2011, 6 the state purchased the branch for $500,000 using funds that had been appropriated by the General Assembly in 2006. 5 6 Additionally, $2 million was obtained from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and $500,000 from coal severance funds to fund the project.
The first 18½ miles of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail was opened on June 15, 2013. 4 6 9 As of 2023, the trail is 36 miles long, extending from Evanston in Breathitt County to Hagerhill in Johnson County. The only incomplete section of the trail is the Tip Top Tunnel.
- State: Kentucky
- Route: Dawkins Line Rail Trail, formerly Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision
- Type: Tunnel
- Status: Active - Pedestrian
- Total Length: 662'
- Pleasant, Bryan and Ron Stafford. “Dawkins Sub acquired by Corman.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine Mar 2002: 3. Print.
- “Proposed railroad abandonments.” 2004. 10 Nov. 2009 Listing.
- Big Lovely Mountain Trail Feasibility Report. N. pag. Summit Engineering, Inc., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. Report.
- Stambaugh, Carrie. “Rail-trail plans on track, state officials say.” Independent [Ashland] 4 Sept. 2011: n. pag. Independent Online. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. Article.
- “Gov. Beshear, First Lady announce latest adventure tourism attraction in Eastern Kentucky.” Kentucky.gov. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 9 Aug. 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. Article.
- Stambaugh, Carrie. “Abandoned rail could again help fuel parts of eastern Kentucky.” Independent [Ashland] 30 Aug. 2011: n. pag. Independent Online. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. Article.
- Huddleston, Eugene L. “Via Mixed Train Through Eastern Kentucky.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine Apr. 1991: 2-9. Print.
- Young, Everett N. “Days on the Dawkins.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine Apr. 1991: 10-14. Print.
- Lynch, Jake. “Rural Kentucky Primed for the Opening of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail.” Rails to Trails Conservancy, 30 May 2013. Web. 12 June 2013. Article.
- Young, Everett N. “The Big Sandy Subdivision.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Oct 1993: 16. Print.