Deeply tucked into the mountains of Mingo County, the Dingess Tunnel is difficult to miss.
Stretching more than a half mile through the mountains of Mingo County, the Dingess Tunnel has been serving automobile traffic for more than a century.
The tunnel connects and creates a shortcut of sorts from the Dingess community to the nearby cities of Logan and Lenore.
According to an article in the West Virginia Encyclopedia (www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1926), the 3,327-foot tunnel was built for the original Twelvepole Creek route of the Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern) Railroad in 1892. That route was the N&W main line between 1892 and 1904, when a new rail line opened on better grades along the Big Sandy River. The Twelvepole Creek route later was abandoned. The town of Dingess was a busy place while the Twelvepole line was in use, because goods shipped on the N&W were unloaded there and hauled to other towns in the area by wagonloads. In June 1905, two trains collided in the tunnel and three people were killed. When the N&W changed its route, the Dingess Tunnel fell into disuse.
The tunnel has been used by automobiles since 1913. The one-lane tunnel can be intimidating for drivers who are new to it, and the history surrounding it has inspired several ghost stories.
At 127 years old, the Dingess Tunnel requires occasional maintenance, directing motorists through a winding, scenic detour toward Lenore.
On Wednesday, July 10, employees from Pritchard Light and Electric in St. Albans shuffle in and out, replacing the tunnel's lights and performing general maintenance. At the mouth of the tunnel, massive trucks and equipment line the blocked-off entrance.
According to a Pritchard employee, the project is expected to be completed at the end of next month.