Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Cumberland Mountain Tunnel

On our drive back to Kentucky to catch the train, we decided to visit Cumberland Gap state park (I will post some pictures of Cumberland Gap park shortly). Cumberland Gap, of course, was a pass made famous by pioneer Daniel Boone that allowed passage and subsequent settlement past the Appalachian mountains.

Contrary to popular belief, Daniel Boone did not actually discover the pass. Cherokees and other Native Americans had used it for years. Even another white man had discovered it and had already named the region after the Duke of Cumberland, who was a British general who finally defeated the Stuart dynasty in Scotland at the Battle of Culloden. Ironically, many of the descendants of the defeated Scots found there way to the Appalachian mountains later on, only to find the region named for the infamous British lord who authorized a slaughter of wounded soldiers and civilians after the Battle of Culloden turned into a route. To this day, no British regiment claims the Battle of Culloden on its coat of arms or list of historic achievements because of the massacre.

What Daniel Boone did accomplish was widen the Cumberland Gap to make it accessible for wagons and horses. The winding gap was nonetheless treacherous, even in the modern era. Many a car crashed on the winding mountain road.

In the 1980s, plans were drawn up to make a safer route under the mountain. Construction began in 1991, and the Cumberland Mountain Tunnel was finished in 1992. A 4600 foot tunnel was created so that US 25E connected Tennessee and Kentucky. Engineers who had created the Chunnel between France and England were consulted.

The Cumberland Mountain Tunnel was was an engineering marvel at the time. They created escape hatches that exited out of the top of the mountain every 500 feet in an interlocking network of passageways in the event of a cave in. Also, because of several natural springs in the mountain, construction engineers also have to create a massive network of tubes and water channels to reroute the 450 gallons of water that would otherwise flood the tunnel.

For more on the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, check out this site.

I managed to film our drive through the Cumberland Mountain Tunnel. This starts on the Tennessee side and ends on the Kentucky side. Enjoy...

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