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The Clinchfield Loops - A: Ridge Tunnel


Photo taken by Calvin Sneed in March 2012


BH Photo #226695



Ridge Tunnel is the beginning of the railroad's historic descent down the Blue Ridge, and as the first tunnel at the top of the ridge, is labeled "A" (the rest follow the alphabet, and the tunnels that have not been photographed yet, are skipped). This engineering feat was considered one of the best in the country at the beginning of the 19th century. The apex of the railroad before descending the Blue Ridge is 2,628 feet ASL at beginning of tunnel, and is clearly visible in the pictures of the tunnel entrance, which drops through the tunnel to end at 2,605 feet. From that apex, the rate of descent is 63.36 feet per mile (1.2% compensated grade)for 20 miles, until the tracks reach Ashford, NC in the valley, 1,000 feet below.


Tunnel under Blue Ridge, Eastern Continental Divide on Clinchfield Railroad (now CSX)
Altapass Community, Mitchell County, North Carolina, and McDowell County, North Carolina
Open to traffic
Built as part of the S & W's Altapass to Marion segment; rehabilitated 1958. The following tunnels are labeled beginning with "A" as the line descends the Blue Ridge.
- CSX Railroad (CSX)
- Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railroad (CCO; Clinchfield)
- South & Western Railway (S&W)
1 concrete portal,n then concrete lining extending 584 feet from north end, then 1,281 feet of unlined, rock-wall tunnel, for a total length of 1,865 feet (second longest of tunnel cluster)
Total length: 1.9 ft.
Deck width: 22.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 18.0 ft.
Also called
Blue Ridge Tunnel
Approximate latitude, longitude
+35.88527, -82.01826   (decimal degrees)
35°53'07" N, 82°01'06" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/408092/3971701 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Spruce Pine
2661 ft. above sea level
Inventory number
BH 51607 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 6, 2012: Updated by Daniel Hopkins: Added category "Railroad"
  • March 5, 2012: Added by Calvin Sneed


  • Calvin Sneed - us43137415 [at] yahoo [dot] com