Submission: Moonville Tunnel

Orig. Published 10/18/03:  Fast-Freight ecently conducted an investigation of Moonville with his wife, and uncovers a little-known death at Moonville Tunnel.  Here are the gruesome (and fascinating) details:

My wife and I did a spur of the moment trip down to Moonville on October 16th, 2003.  It was my 4th trip to the tunnel.  We arrived around 5:45pm.  I first had to walk back through the rock cut site of the Dec. 26 1939 wreck.  Whenever I come to this wreck site, the temperature seems to drop at least 15 degrees.

I then walked down to Raccoon Creek, which would be the second stream crossing just West of the tunnel. I have been mystified by a large rock that is submerged down in the middle of the creek.  Carved into this rock in the middle of the creek are the letters MOON.  There seemed to be additional carvings, but they were hard to read, and the depth and current of the creek made it difficult for me to feel the rest of the letters.  After getting all wet, I decided to put this off until we get warmer weather, when the creek is low.

My wife and I reached the tunnel at about 6:10pm.  It was still daylight but was a bit overcast. I had my digital camera with me and wanted to take some pictures. As we walked up to the tunnel opening, about 4-5 wild turkeys that had settled in the trees to roost above the tunnel went flying out of the trees making somewhat of a disturbance. My wife then said, “I’m not going in there, no way!”

 Well, I managed to drag her in thru to the other side, taking pictures of the openings and inside and of the 1903 reconstruction plaque covered with graffiti near the one end. We then decided to walk back out, and about midway, Ipulled out a homemade pipe train whistle out of my pocket when she wasn’t looking.  I gave gave 2 long short and one long blast on the whistle, which echoed in the tunnel. I thought it sounded pretty cool in the tunnel, but the noise did not go over very well with the wife.

I picked up an interesting 1989 out of print book on the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad And its Successor The Baltimore & Ohio : A study of this once great route across Ohio 1851-1988 by John R. Grabb .  While reading, I i found mention of this Dec. 26th 1938 wreck by Moonville, and am surprised that no Moonville web site mentions this particular wreck. Kind of eerie if you ask me. Here’s the article, as it appears on pages 102-103 in the book.

Rock slide near Moonville kills engineer Charles “Red” Landrum It was during a driving rain on the night of December 26,1939 ,at 11:55pm,that Engineer Charles “Red” Landrum met his fate.He was on the lead engine of double header freight No.88 east-bound as it sped through a bleak section of the B&O near Moonville Tunnel.Suddenly,as his engine swung around a curve, he saw in the gleam of the headlight a huge rock in the middle of the right of way. The rock was estimated to weigh 100 tons. By then, it was too late to stop the speeding merchandise train.

In the ensuing crash, Landrum was pinned in the cab. Scalded by steam he died almost instantly. Engineer Landrum was 54 years of age and lived at 670 East Second Street Chilicothe.  George Burke, his fireman had his leg caught in the wreckage of the cab, and for 15 minutes, he faced death from the hissing steam, before he was able to free himself. He suffered burns from the steam and was considerably bruised. Engineer William T. Diehl and Fireman Earl Brandenburg manned the second engine. Henry Dullmeyer was the conductor. Their engine was derailed as were 12 of the reported 63 cars of the train. Head brakeman Charles F. “Pipe” Lewis 225 East Main Street, was knocked to his feet. In a dazed condition he took off running up the hillside. His nickname came from the fact that a pipe he held in his mouth was never removed. Maynard Thomas, retired B&O engineer ,told the author that at the time of the wreck he was living at Moonville, and when he heard the deafening crash echoing through the hilly countryside, he was one of the first persons to arrive at the scene. He stated that as he viewed this terrible wreck he never dreamed he would some day work for the B&O and fire both of these engines.  Lead engine No.4509 had its pilot wheels torn off and the cylinder sheared off.  Second engine No.4535 was damaged to a lesser extent. It was the opinion of some railroad men that the passing of the National Limited No.2 Passenger train about two hours earlier, had loosened the ledge of rocks causing them to slide down into the cut in front of No.88 This wreck was long remembered by the five surviving all-hilicothe train crew, as well as by many other railroaders.

The author also writes, “Picture yourself in Engineer Landrum’s place on that dark, ghostly, rainy night as you cross the trestle and round the curve near Moonville. Visibility is poor as you peer out the cab window. The beam of the engine’s headlight, reflecting off the sheeting rain ,shines straight ahead. The train rapidly takes the curve to the right and the rock slide does not show up in the path of the light until you are almost upon it. Then you are caught helpless for it is to late to stop the train.”

 What a frightening experience!

5/30/02: Here’s a ghostly photo of the Moonville Tunnel, taken on January 1st, 2002, by Fast-Freight:

2 thoughts on “Submission: Moonville Tunnel

  1. I took pictures of my boyfriend in this tunnel. When we looked through the pictures on the way home there was something lingering on his back. I would like to post these pics.

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