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Dingess Tunnel


The Dingess Tunnel is a 3,327-foot tunnel in northwestern Mingo County that 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. Since 1913, the Dingess Tunnel has been used as a highway tunnel. In 2019 the tunnel underwent a $5.5 million rehabilitation, including adding LED lighting, improved drainage, paving and striping and replacing the steel liner. The tunnel has been the subject of tales about Mingo County’s violent past. Writer Huey Perry described it as a notorious ambush site in his 1972 memoir of the Poverty War, They’ll Cut Off Your Project.

Written by Robert Y. Spence