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A Normal Safety Alcove

Blandville, WV, United States
25 Kudos
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I love to study historical sites. When I visit such a location, I always think about who built it and why they made certain decisions. In an upcoming story, I am going to write about a hand-carved safety alcove in the Central Station Tunnel on the North Bend Rail Trail in West Virginia. First however, I am going to post about a "normal" safety alcove - that is a safety alcove that was designed and engineered by the railroad company.

Technically speaking, none of the stone and brick lining in these tunnels is original. The lining that we observe today was installed in the 1860s, shortly after the Civil War. The tunnels themselves were bored through the hills in the late 1850s. Up through the Civil War, the B&O Railroad lined the tunnels with wood. This wooden liner helped to prevent mud and rocks from caving in on trains as they passed through the tunnels.

As trains became larger, the bores needed to be enlarged as well. Still, there was little clearance between the walls of the tunnels and the trains. Thus, the railroad needed to create safe spaces where workers could seek shelter from passing trains. Because local residents often walked through these tunnels before the days of the automobile, countless pedestrians surely needed to use the safety alcoves when trains came through. (Keep in mind that West Virginia is an extremely hilly place and the tunnels provided some of the few easy passages through the hills).

Over the years, I have documented all of the remaining tunnels from the Parkersburg Branch of the B&O Railroad (save for the Lodgepole Tunnel which is inaccessible). I have tried to evaluate all of the construction practices that I have noted in the tunnels. The fact that my 2X Great-Great Grandfather worked on the tunnels (and discussed them in his memoir) only adds to my curiosity about them. The safety alcove in this image is located in Tunnel #3 near the townsite of Blandville, West Virginia. This safety alcove is a classic example of a brick lined safety alcove. There are many alcoves just like it in almost all of the tunnels. This design was clearly a standardized design. Compare it to the hand carved example in my next story...
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2 Comments

by SouthernWriter

01-30-2019

Thanks, BelfryBat. I always learn something when I read your pieces. :-)

by BelfryBat

01-30-2019

Thank you SouthernWriter. I have learned so much from your stories as well. Your stories today are definitely Kudo-worthy, but I am in Kudos Jail right now. Will have to wait until tomorrow...