The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway connected the rust belt during its glory days in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It brought prosperity and jobs all around the eastern United States, and this rail line was a godsend for the people of Virginia.
But on one October day, long ago, a terrible tragedy befell the Church Hill Tunnel line…
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Working Six Feet Under
The tunnel was completed in 1873, but not without its fair share of difficulty. Unlike most solid bedrock tunnels in Virginia, the Church Hill tunnel went through blue marl clay.
This stone disintegrates in water and expands and contracts with the changing seasons. As the calloused hands of the workers tore through the earth, there were several cave-ins — killing at least nine men.
These troubles during construction forbade a grim future.
A House Built on Sand
It was almost expected that frigid early morning on October 2nd, 1925. The whole history of the tunnel was leading up to this moment.
During routine repairs meant to keep the Church Hill tunnel safe, there was a massive cave-in. More than 150ft of tunnel blocked in hundreds of terrified workers.
Most of the men crawled underneath a train until they escaped out of the East exit. But not all were so lucky.
At least six laborers were confirmed dead, with their bodies pulled out of the mangled wreckage. But each rescue attempt caused more of the tunnel to collapse, preventing any more lives from being saved.
They never recovered the bodies of Richard Lewis and a man known only as H. Smith. Their bones remain stuck in the tunnel to this day, cemented in their final moments of horror. Their spirits are said to be spending eternity in limbo, never to move on without a proper burial.