The Williams Creek Tunnel is located on the former Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Lexington Subdivision (C&O) in Carter County, Kentucky. The tunnel was completed in 1881 by the Newport News & Mississippi Valley Railroad (NN&MV), a railroad that operated in conjunction with the C&O, both owned by Collis P. Huntington. 2 It was one of several on the Ashland to Lexington segment, a distance of 109 miles.
The NN&MV was folded into the C&O in 1892. 1 3
The Chessie System Railroad (Chessie), a holding company, was formed in February 1973 by the C&O. Its roster included the C&O, the Baltimore & Ohio and the Western Maryland. The Chessie merged with Seaboard Coast Line, which had previously merged with the Seaboard Air Line and the Louisville & Nashville, to form CSX Corporation in November 1980. The C&O was not merged out of existence until July 1986 when CSX Transportation (CSXT) was founded.
The C&O had previously operated through freight trains between Ashland and Louisville via trackage rights over the L&N between Lexington and Louisville. Between 1981 and 1985, the C&O operated trains 391 and 392 between Russell Yard near Ashland and Patio Yard at Winchester, but did not continue west to Lexington and Louisville on the L&N.
In 1982, Chessie notified the Interstate Commerce Commission that it intended to seek to abandon its line between Winchester and Rush within three years. 4 About four cars per mile per year originate on the line, far below the 50 to 100 cars per mile per year that was needed to be profitable, according to Chessie. The company filed preliminary paperwork to abandon those 93 miles on September 11, 1984. It was formally abandoned in June 1985.
The remnant between Rush and Ashland was left in place to serve Kentucky Electric Steel at Coalton, a brick kiln at Princess and an Armco pipe fabrication shop at Summit. The line from Coalton to Rush was to serve a proposed landfill that never came to fruition and was later scrapped.