A disastrous collapse
Workers entombed in Church Hill railroad tunnel
|BY CALVIN R. TRICE
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Efforts to restore
and re-open a 4,000-foot railroad tunnel built during Reconstruction met
with disaster in October 1925 when the man-made cavern collapsed,
killing at least three people.
The Church Hill
Tunnel had been built in 1873 as a joint venture between the city and
the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Co. to connect the central city with the
riverfront. It extended from 18th and Marshall streets to a point near
30th and Grace.
|Oct 15, 2000
In October 1925, workers sank a rescue shaft at the site
of a Chesapeake and Ohio Railway tunnel in the East End of Richmond.
employed crews to restore and clean the tunnel and the stretch of
railway. More than 200 men were working on the tunnel the afternoon of
Oct. 2. About 3:30, a laborer noticed bricks falling from the roof and
heard a cracking noise. He bolted for the western entrance as the roof
fell behind him, pushing a powerful gust of air westward and sending
other workers scurrying for daylight.
Nearly all the
workers escaped with their lives. Among those who didn't was train
engineer Tom Mason, who'd just parked 10 empty flatcars in the tunnel.
He was buried alive in his locomotive. Also trapped was at least one
black laborer. Another train operator, Benjamin Mosby, suffered serious
burns and died hours later at Grace Hospital.
A man who
tended the park on a hill above the tunnel made his way toward some
nearby houses as the cracking sound began. The grass where he had stood
just minutes before sank 20 feet into a crater of red dirt.
the following days, newspaper reports at first reflected the hope that
rescue workers might find the buried laborers alive. But it was soon
clear to reporters and throngs of Richmonders who watched the efforts
that any discoveries would be grim.
body was recovered more than a week later after workers sank a vertical
shaft to the locomotive. At least one black laborer's body was left
entombed in the collapsed tunnel. Some speculation puts the number of
those left at two or higher.
Contact Calvin R. Trice at (540) 574-9977 or email@example.com
gratefully reproduced from the Richmond Times Dispatch:
© 2000, Richmond Newspapers Inc.