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Stumphouse Tunnel



Entrance to Stumphouse Tunnel

Photo taken by Adrienne Boland

BH Photo #151057



Some railroads are built and have a long, useful life and then for whatever reasons are abandoned. Others are abandoned while being built. The latter was the case for the never-to-be railroad tunnel called Stumphouse Tunnel near Walhalla, South Carolina. Lack of funds and an approaching war caused workers to leave the tunnel unfinished on their quest to build a rail route connecting Charleston, SC to Knoxville, TN and eventually Cincinnati, OH.

Some important dates on the road to Stumphouse Tunnel:

1836 -- Former Vice-President John C. Calhoun leads a group of businessmen (including prominent German immigrant and Charleston merchant J.A. Wagener whose son George would build the original Blackville to Seivern railroad line fifty years later) in plotting what they call the "Cincinnati, Louisville, and Charleston Railroad" that would ultimately link Charleston, SC, with Knoxville, TN and Cincinnati, OH.

Travel from Ohio to the seaside city of Charleston is long and hard so to avoid the Blue Ridge Mountains, many folks go around the mountain instead.

1852 -- Planning begins on the tunnel project.

1856 -- Actual hands on work begins on the tunnel using, well, hands as well as chisels, hammers and black powder. Some fifteen hundred Irish immigrants are among those working on the construction of the tunnel hired by the state of South Carolina. It proves dangerous and many men lose their lives. Unmarked graves atop the tunnel stand as a testament to the danger these men faced.

1859 -- Work is suspended on the tunnel. The State of South Carolina has spent over a million dollars on the project and refuses to spend any more. Workers have finished just over 1,600 feet of the 5,800 feet needed to clear the mountain.

1869 -- The railroad has been completed to the town of Walhalla by this time and officials want to complete the tunnel project. But funds prove hard to come by in an unstable post-war economy and the entire project is aborted for all intents and purposes.

1940/41 -- Clemson A&M College begins clearing out debris from the tunnel. A professor at the college has come up with the idea that the constant 50 degree temperature and 85% humidity inside the mountain would be wonderful for storing and curing blue cheese made by the College Dairy Department.

1944 -- The blue cheese operation stops in part because of the ongoing World War II, but also because Clemson does not own the tunnel and some folks are ticked that they have pretty much taken over.

1951 -- Clemson A&M purchases the tunnel and the blue cheese project resumes once again.

1953 -- By October of this year, some 2500 pounds of blue cheese is curing in the depths of Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel.

1958 -- All manufacturing and curing of blue cheese is now conducted on campus inside the Agricultural Center in Newman Hall.

1970 -- Clemson leases the tunnel to the Pendleton Historical District Commission, which converts the area into a picnic spot and tourist attraction.

1971 -- Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

1999 -- An air shaft built when the tunnel was being constructed is impacted by a rock slide and the tunnel is closed. Work begins on clearing the rocks and accessing the integrity of the structure.

2000 -- The tunnel reopens for pedestrian use.

2007 -- A developer proposes to buy the land to build houses. Conservation groups would have none of that and a movement is formed to block this from happening.

2013 -- The tunnel is still open to the public.

The tunnel measures 17 feet wide by 25 feet high. About mid-way in, there is a 16 x 20 foot airshaft that extends 60 feet upwards to the surface, causing a consistent cool breeze to flow out of the tunnel. It also produces condensation and the tunnel is usually wet. Although the tunnel was set to be more than a mile long, they only got approximately 1,600 feet before they stopped construction.

The Origin of Stumphouse Tunnel 


There are many theories of how Stumphouse Tunnel got its name. Here are two:

From a large popular tree stump that civil war bootleggers once used to store their liquor in when it rained.

From the Cherokees when they saw a couple that lived nearby in a stump over which they put a roof. The Cherokees saw it and said, "Stumphouse." The mountain has been called that ever since.


Never finished pre-Civil War railroad tunnel
Walhalla, Oconee County, South Carolina
Open to pedestrians, bring a flash light!
contruction began in 1856, abandoned 1859
- Bangs, Anson, & Co.
- Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad (LC&C)
Total length: 1,687.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 1971
Approximate latitude, longitude
+34.81077, -83.12373   (decimal degrees)
34°48'39" N, 83°07'25" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/305745/3854114 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory numbers
NRHP 71000793 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 43789 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • September 9, 2013: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "GPS Coordinates"
  • August 15, 2013: New photos from Michael Miller
  • April 9, 2013: Photo imported by Joseph Hinson
  • April 8, 2013: Updated by Joseph Hinson: Changed ownership to Clemson University, changed length to 1,600+/- ft. to show length of actual tunnel, not the proposed length.
  • May 17, 2010: Updated by Bill Eichelberger: Tunnel, not a covered bridge.
  • December 28, 2009: Added by Adrienne Boland



Stumphouse Tunnel in South Carolina
Posted April 8, 2013, by Joseph Hinson (joethephotog [at] yahoo [dot] com)


I have added a history to this wonderful treasure in South Carolina as well as one of my own photographs. Please click on this and see what is so cool about a never-used, mostly incomplete railroad tunnel in South Carolina.