Princess Tunnel

Princess Tunnel

The Princess Tunnel was constructed by the Lexingt

The Princess Tunnel was constructed by the Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad, which was chartered in September 1852 with the goal of connecting Lexington with the Big Sandy River near Catlettsburg. 2 Between 1854 and 1857, twelve miles of track were completed from Ashland to Coalton at Mt. Savage iron furnace, including the 975-foot Princess Tunnel, but an economic panic caused the line to remain incomplete.

The Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad (EL&BS) was organized as the successor to the Lexington & Big Sandy in 1869 and by March 1872, the line had been completed from Lexington east to Mt. Sterling. 2 The Newport News & Mississippi Valley Railroad (NN&MV), owned by Collis P. Huntington, began surveying in June 1879 to complete the central section of the EL&BS. Huntington soon gained full control of the EL&BS. Flush with cash, construction resumed on the line in 1881, proceeding east from Mt. Sterling to Mt. Savage, and in December, the first train operated over the route from Ashland to Lexington. 3

In March 1979, an oversized car became stuck in the tunnel and damaged it structurally. 1 The Chessie System contracted with Paul Coffey Construction Company who was strip-mining coal in the area to excavate a portion of the tunnel to remediate the issue.

A plan for a regional landfill at Coalton in the 1990s called for it to be no larger than 7,000 tons over its lifetime. 4 The landfill was developed per plan but in 2005, it was amended to allow for as much as 43 million tons, with much of the waste deriving from New York and New Jersey via rail. To accommodate taller rail cars needed to serve the landfill, CSX hired LRL Construction to improve the vertical clearance of the tunnel by rock notching, arch liner removal, and the replacement of the liner with steel fibered reinforced shotcrete and rock dowels between April and October 2013. 5


  • State: Kentucky
  • Route: CSX Transportation
  • Type: Tunnel
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 975 feet


  1. Slone, Bill. “Princess Tunnel – March 1979.” Memories of the C&O Lexington Subdivision, 11 Jan. 2014.
  2. Lexington Transcript. 19 Dec. 1882: 1.
  3. Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad.” Lexington History Museum.
  4. Bruggers, James. “Trash trains bring stench, misery to Ky. county.”¬†Courier-Journal¬†[Louisville]. 15 May 2015. Print.
  5. Ashland & Princess Tunnel Project.” LRL Construction Co., Inc.

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