The Rathole Division

For a while now I’ve been trying to determine exactly when the old railroad bed between Wilmore and High Bridge was abandoned. As I noted on the doubling the tracks page of my High Bridge history, I thought it was in 1929. I found a new source that seems to confirm that date.

The article 90 Years to “Daylight” in the August 1963 issue of Ties: the Southern Railway System Magazine is a fascinating look at the history of the section of the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific (CNO&TP) Railway that gained the nickname the “rathole division”:

“That nickname once aptly characterized the middle section of the CNO&TP, where 27 tunnels helped the line traverse 160 miles of rugged mountain country between Wilmore, Ky., and Emory Gap, Tenn., and kept an assortment of civil engineers busy almost from the day the line opened for traffic.

Tunnels were numbered 1 through 27 (running from north to south). They ranged in length from 3,992 feet (tunnel No.2–Kings Mountain) to 189 feet (tunnel No.6). Trains traveled underground for five miles through these 27 tunnels.

Tunnel openings were designed to be approximately 15* feet wide and 20 feet high at the top of the arch. Some of the arches appeared almost round, some resembled flat topped triangles, others were more jagged in appearance. The blasting techniques of the 1870’s left something to be desired.

Trains thundered through the tunnels for almost a decade before the next abandonment about 1930. This was tunnel No.1 and it too was bypassed as a result of installing double track, this time near Wilmore, Ky.…”

There’s also a beautiful cover picture of High Bridge on the April 1948 issue and a two page spread of High Bridge in 1905 in the January-February 1981 issue.

Kentucky Highway Markers

Kentucky has somewhere around 1,750 roadside markers that commemorate various historical events, places, and people throughout Kentucky. Last year I pointed you to Signs of History, a site that is working to get a picture of every marker in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Unfortunately, the site is incomplete, somewhat inconsistent, and varies widely in quality. As a labor of love worked on by volunteers in their spare time, it’s a nice resource I can appreciate, but I’ve wished for something more polished.

Today I found Roadside History: A Guide to Kentucky Highway Markers, a similar site that apparently lists all the Kentucky signs and is so beautifully indexed and organized that I fully expect it to disappear any day now. It says it’s being funded by a grant and is a site to test the database for the Kentucky Historical Society. The Kentucky Historical Society, which coordinates the Kentucky Historical Highway Marker Program, says “Later this year … a searchable list of historical highway markers will be added to the Kentucky Historical Society website.” I hope that Roadside History is a preview of the “searchable list” they’re talking about.

If only the sites would work together to have a complete database of all the markers as well as pictures of them and the places they mark, it’d be fabulous. I hope they also provide stable links to each of the markers so they can be referenced easily.