Natural Tunnel is a massive naturally formed limestone cave located in the Natural Tunnel State Park near Duffield, Virginia. The 850 foot long, 80 foot tall and up to 200 foot wide tunnel was carved over thousands of years as groundwater slowly dissolved the limestone.
The railroad has utilized this natural oddity to haul traffic through the mountain since 1893 when the South Atlantic and Ohio railroad constructed the first tracks through the tunnel. This line would be a connecter from Bristol, TN, to Big Stone Gap, VA and the coalfields of southwestern Virginia. The line was later assumed by the Virginia and Southwestern Railroad 1899 and was dubbed the “Natural Tunnel Route”. The Southern Railway would acquire controlling interest in the line in 1906 and would run the "Lonesome Pine Special" until passenger service ended in 1939. In 1967,
The Commonwealth of Virginia purchased the property and the Natural Tunnel State Park was opened to the public 1971.
Natural Tunnel has been a tourist attraction for over a century and is one of the most iconic shooting locations for railroad photographers in the Appalachian Mountains. Today it provides passage for NS and CSX trains via Norfolk Southern’s Appalachia District.
Here CSX empty coal E090 is framed as they exit the north portal of the tunnel parallel to the flooded Stock Creek, making their way north to Balkan Mine in Kentucky for loading.