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UP - Tunnel 17


West Portal Of Tunnel 17, Contextual View To Northeast, 135mm Lens. The Tunnel Penetrates The Toe Of Dorris Hill, Which Rises To The Left

Photo taken by Ed Anderson for the Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #299223



The Southern Pacific Railroad Cascade Route, built as the Natron Cutoff between Black Butte, California and Natron, Oregon was one of a series of major rebuildings and realignments of the original Central Pacific Railroad. Begun in 1905 under railroad magnate E.H. Harriman to replace the original Central Pacific route over the Siskiyour Mountains into Oregon, the Natron Cutoff had to overcome both natural and political obstacles. Stalled by government anti-trust lawsuits against Harriman, by World War I and the ensuing federal takeover of the nation's railroads, the Natron Cutoff finally overcame the rugged Cascade Mountains of Oregon to reach completion in 1927, at an ultimate cost of nearly $40 million. For the purpose of the current project, the Natron Cutoff was found likely to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places at the state level of significance under Criterion A for its significance in engineering, transportation history, and the economic history of central Oregon, and in the development of the West, and under criterion B for its association with E.H. Harriman. The Natron Cutoff's period of significance is 1905 to 1945, from the beginning of construction in 1905, through the years of its role in the economic development of the central Oregon, to the conclusion of the railroad's achievements in World War II. Built in 1909, Tunnel 17 is a contributive element of this property.

Tunnel 17 is a 2,076-foot, single track railroad tunnel, with concrete portal faces and wingwalls. The semi-circular arched opening is framed in dressed stone masonry voussoirs, the portal has a dressed stone parapet atop a stone masonry belt course and topped by a dressed stone masonry coping. A coping of dressed stone masonry blocks tops the stepped wingwalls. As-built, the tunnel was concrete-lined for the first fifty feet in from each portal, with the remainder lined in redwood timber; the railroad has subsequently covered the timbering with shotcrete. The tunnel is on a left-hand curved alignment, and carries the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad's (formerly Southern Pacific) Cascade Route line.

-- Historic American Engineering Record


Tunnel under Under Dorris Hill on Union Pacific Railroad
Siskiyou County, California
Open to traffic
Built 1909
Total length: 2,076.0 ft. (0.4 mi.)
Also called
Dorris Tunnel
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.97468, -121.91029   (decimal degrees)
41°58'29" N, 121°54'37" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/590283/4647538 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 63450 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • October 9, 2014: Added by Dave King


  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • HAER CA-218 - Southern Pacific Railroad Natron Cutoff, Tunnel No. 17, Milepost 408, Dorris, Siskiyou County, CA