Tunnel Nos. 3 and 4

The abandoned Tunnel Nos. 3 and 4 along the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railway is located near Burnside, Kentucky.

The Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP) is a railroad that runs from Cincinnati, Ohio south to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The railroad it operates, the Cincinnati Southern Railway, was constructed to Chattanooga and is owned by the city of Cincinnati and leased to the CNO&TP under a long-term agreement. Norfolk Southern is the operator of the CNO&TP.

The construction of the Cincinnati Southern was spurred by a shift of shipping preferences along the Ohio River, which at the time was the preferred mode of freight transport in Cincinnati. To remain competitive, the city formulated plans to develop its own railroad in 1835. 1 The first contract for excavation was awarded on December 12, 1873, for $5,000 for a tunnel at King’s Mountain in Kentucky. 2 On July 23, 1877, trains began using the completed Cincinnati Southern from Ludlow, Kentucky to Somerset. The last rail was spiked on December 10, 1879, within a few feet from the center of Tunnel No. 15 near Robbins, Tennessee. 3

On September 7, 1881, the Cincinnati Southern was leased to Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railroad (CN&TP) for 25 years. 2 With the lease, the CNO&TP had a direct route from Cincinnati to New Orleans, which became known as the “Queen and Crescent” route. The segment from Danville to Oakdale, Tennessee was nicknamed “The Rathole” for its steep grades, tight curves, and 27 tunnels, which included Tunnel Nos. 3 and 4 at Burnside.

Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the River Harbor Act of 1946 as part of a comprehensive plan to develop the Cumberland River basin, Wolf Creek Dam was constructed between 1941 and 1951 in Russell County. The damming of the Cumberland River formed Lake Cumberland and required the construction of seven new highway and railway bridges across the impoundment.

Work began in the late 1940s to reroute the railroad to build a higher-elevation bridge over the North Fork Cumberland River and to eliminate Tunnel Nos. 3 and 4, 3 and the new bridge over Lake Cumberland opened on August 8, 1950. 4 5

In 1970, all CNO&TP stock was purchased by Southern Railway. The line became known as the Southern Railway Western Division in 1972 and was purchased by Norfolk Southern seven years later.



  1. “The Birth of an Idea.” Cincinnati Southern Railway. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. Article.
  2. “Historical Timeline.” Cincinnati Southern Railway. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. Article.
  3. “90 Years to ‘Daylight.’” Ties Aug. 1963: n. pag. Print.
  4. Ties Oct. 1951: cover. Print.
  5. “New Cumberland River Bridge.’” Ties Sept. 1950: n. pag. Print.

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