The Natural Bridge Tunnel is an abandoned tunnel along the Kentucky Union Railway (KU) at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky. It was in use from 1890 to 1942.
The segment of the KU was extended east from Clay City to Jackson in 1890 and included numerous tunnels and bridges.2 In 1891, the KU went into receivership.1, 2, 3.1 It was sold for $1 million at public auction and on October 16, 1894, it emerged as the Lexington & Eastern Railway (L&E).2 In 1910, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) acquired the L&E’s entire capital stock of 5,000 shares.1 The company then invested $5 million to improve the L&E.
The KU’s alignment between Winchester and Maloney east of Beattyville consisted of numerous steep grades and tunnels.2 The L&N saw the alignment as a determinant as a heavy coal hauling route, and in 1916, a new alignment was constructed from Winchester and Irvine. Traffic between Winchester and Maloney declined substantially, and in 1942, a 46.6-mile section of the KU from North Winchester and Fincastle was abandoned. Another six miles between Fincastle and Maloney was abandoned in 1947.