3IYT: Tunnel Through History
In the northwest corner of Georgia you can explore a true engineering marvel: the Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel.
"They began in late June of 1848, two crews, Irish immigrants working from each end of the mountain," explains tour guide, David Thomas. "And they meet on October 31, 1849. And very amazing to me, when the two crews meet they are only off by a fourth of an inch."
Completed in 1850, the W&A Tunnel was the first major railroad tunnel south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the first through the Appalachian Mountains. The tunnel allowed trade between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tennessee River.
Today you can take a guided tour to see some of the original drill marks made during the construction of the tunnel and see where the Civil War's "Great Locomotive Chase" came through in 1862.
You can walk in the footsteps of Union and Confederate soldiers as you step into the historic Clisby Austin House which was used as a Confederate field hospital in 1862-1863 and as a headquarters for Union General William T. Sherman in May of 1864 as he planned his famous Atlanta Campaign.
As the demand for more railways grew, so did the trains themselves and by 1926, so many train cars were getting stuck in the tunnel that the decision was made to build a larger parallel tunnel through the mountain, ending the use of the W&A tunnel in 1928. The tunnel was re-opened to the public in 2000, just in time for its 150th anniversary.
For more information about times, tours and prices, visit their website at www.civilwarrailroadtunnel.com.