The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Stretchers Neck Tunnel

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East portal of Stretchers Neck Tunnel
Map showing Stretchers Neck and vicinity

Stretchers Neck Tunnel is a railroad tunnel on the CSX rail line through the New River Gorge, just west of Prince, WV, in Fayette County. The tunnel is about 1,600 feet in length and was completed in 1873 by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O). The tunnel was built to avoid a four mile long loop around Stretcher's Neck, a salient spur, or a neck of land, southwest of Highland Mountain. The tunnel was built with a three degree curve and has a .44-percent grade sloping to the east.

Trains were run through this tunnel by means of signals know as the "block system," there being a telegraph station at either end of the tunnel in charge of an operator, whose duty it was, by signals, to notify trains when to stop, and when and at what rate to proceed. But at times during the early years the system failed.

On December 8, 1882, deadly wreck occurred at Stretchers Neck Tunnel, caused by a head-end collision in that tunnel between train No. 4, a passenger train, with a freight train. Henry Ancarrow, engineer, and Patrick Goheen, fireman, of Hinton, were instantly killed. Frank Kennedy, conductor on the Pullman, had both legs broken. Benton Thompson, baggageman, back and arm broken; John J. Madden, engineer on No. 4 passenger train, killed. Andrew Cash, a newsboy, had his ankle broken; Robert Dickinson, brakeman, slightly hurt; Stephen Coleman, porter, slightly injured.

On March 17, 1896, a freight train became uncoupled in Stretchers Neck tunnel. The train's conductor sent the rear brakeman back to flag any approaching train. The engineer of a passenger train, R.P.O. train No. 2, bearing down the line could not see the brakeman, as the engineer was on the wrong side of the engine, owing to the curvature of the road, to see the flagman. The rear end of the freight train was about three hundred and fifty feet from the west end of the tunnel when struck, which occurred but a few minutes—an uncertain time—after it became uncoupled. The operator at the west end had given the passenger train the wrong signal—being that for a clear track— and allowed it to proceed at full speed, when she should have stopped it.

A 1998 edition of Goldenseal magazine contained the article, The Ghosts of Stretcher's Neck, that recalls various ghost stories and macabre anecdotes associated with Stretchers Neck Tunnel.