• Ghost Train

  • Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Discussion pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Moderator: therock

  by chefwrg
This thing has been a legend for years in Richmond. It looks like they are finally going to go and pull it out of the tunnel.

Train stuck in time
It may be removed from tunnel where it was crushed in 1925
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Locomotive 231 may finally finish its long-delayed run, nearly 81 years after it was trapped under the rubble of a Church Hill tunnel cave-in.

At a City Hall news conference, Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder said the Chesapeake & Ohio train may be removed from its Jefferson Hill Park tomb, where the engine and 10 flatcars have rested since 1925.

Joined by Pete Claussen, chairman and CEO of Gulf & Ohio Railways, and Charles F. Bryan Jr., president and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, Wilder said the locomotive is an important, if deadly, symbol of Richmond's past.

An engineer and two workers were killed when the Church Hill tunnel crumpled onto the train Oct. 2, 1925. During the tunnel's construction in the 1870s, it claimed a dozen more lives.

Because of the tunnel area's shaky history, a feasibility study will be conducted by Richmond contractor Wesley Blankenship to determine the suitability of the site before officials decide to extract the train.

Cameras will be inserted through 6-inch-wide holes drilled through the tunnel's roof to photograph the exact position and condition of the locomotive. Workers will also measure the stability of the tunnel's infrastructure.

Drilling will likely begin July 10 and will continue for several days depending on weather conditions, Claussen said.

Wilder said he is reasonably certain the locomotive will be uncovered.

"It's in pretty good shape," he said.

The engine is buried under about 20 to 30 feet of dirt near the west end of the 4,000-foot passage. The initial survey and possible recovery effort will be focused on a 150-foot stretch of land, Blankenship said.

To bring up the train, workers will clear out a section of the tunnel in front of the vehicle and then pull the locomotive forward and out of the hill, Claussen said.

The current landscape of Jefferson Hill Park will remain intact, Blankenship said. If the locomotive is removed, workers will build a retaining wall around the site to maintain the hill's slope.

Cost estimates for the project will be made once the study is completed, Claussen said. Some groups, including The History Channel, have already made donations toward the removal effort.

Officials said unearthing the locomotive from its relatively shallow location should not be too expensive. Wilder's press secretary, Linwood Norman, said the city will not be contributing public funds to the effort. "It's not real far down," Claussen said. "It's not an enormous amount of money that's necessary."

In addition to the body of the engine, excavators may end up removing the remains of the two workers believed to still be in the tunnel, officials said. The engineer's body was retrieved a few days after the accident.

After Wilder and Bryan reminisced yesterday about train-related ghost stories and legends from their youth, both promised that any human remains found during the project would be treated with dignity and given a proper burial.

The plan to retrieve the train was conceived by Claussen, who had heard about efforts several years ago to raise the Civil War submarine C.S.S. Hunley from the Charleston, S.C., harbor and to restore the "Glacier Girl," a WWII plane preserved in a Greenland icecap. If the Church Hill locomotive is successfully pulled out, the process might be chronicled in a TV documentary, officials said.

The engine would be exhibited on Virginia Historical Society property in Richmond, where it could represent a link between the city and state's pre- and post-Civil War history.

"There's a tendency in Virginia to forget that there's history after Appomattox," Bryan said. "To emphasize the importance of railroading . . . this object can tell that story."