Monday, November 1, 2010

Abandoned trail tunnel at Tunnel Springs is worth seeing

My brother-in-law and I visited a Monroe County landmark on Friday morning that I’ve always heard about and have always wanted to visit – the abandoned Louisville and Nashville Railroad Tunnel at Tunnel Springs.

You may remember that this tunnel was mentioned in a post here last Friday in which I named it one of the “Top 10 Spookiest Places in Monroe County.”

Completed in 1899, this 840-foot-long tunnel is said to have been built by four crews of 15 men each, who worked day and night using simple equipment.

One crew is said to have worked from the north end of the tunnel while the other worked from the south end. The story goes that when they met in the middle, they were only a half-inch off from each other. That’s not bad for the tools they would have had to work with during those days.

Before I ventured out to see this tunnel first hand, I was told by a reporter from one of our state’s largest newspapers that she’d heard that a number of workers died during the tunnel’s construciton.

My brother-in-law, Kenny Day of Huntsville, and I walked the tunnel from end to end. We took our time and tried to take in all aspects of the tunnel, keeping our eyes open especially for any snakes that call the tunnel home. We didn’t see any snakes, but the tunnel is home to literally thousands of bats. About halfway through the tunnel, you can’t help but hear them screetching from their roosts in the top of the tunnel. The bats were well behaved during our trip. We didn’t bother them, and they didn’t bother us.

If you’ve never been to the tunnel, it’s located between Tunnel Springs and Beatrice. Take State Highway 21 about 15 miles north of Monroeville. Once you cross what locals call Faulkenberry Hill, you’ll see a dirt road called Tunnel Hill Road on the left. Take that left and travel about 200 feet, where you’ll find the old rail bed.

The tracks have been taken up where they cross Tunnel Hill Road, but if you hunt around in the kudzu, you’ll find where the tracks run on the north and south of the road. Walk the tracks south (back toward Monroeville) for about half a mile, and you’ll come to the tunnel.

There appears to be a lot of foot traffic back to the old tunnel. In many places, you’ll see where there’s almost a cowtrail through the vegetation left by all the folks going to see the tunnel.

For those of you with a GPS, the tunnel is located at N 31° 40.055 W 087° 13.556.

In the end, I was glad to get the chance to go see a place that I’ve heard about many times but had never been to in person. How many of you have ventured out to see this old tunnel? What did you think about it?

If you plan to take this trip yourself, stay on the tracks for the property on each side of the track is private property, and you don’t want to be accused of trespassing.

Also, be aware of hunters who might be in the area and could mistake you for a deer or some other game.

Also, if you visit the tunnel during the winter, be careful not to disturb the bats. I’ve been told that they hibernate during the winter and if you wake them, they’ll starve to death because there won’t be any insects around for them to eat.

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