|William A. Shaffer posted|
Barrett's Tunnel was the first railroad tunnel constructed west of the Mississippi River. This photo was taken at the National Museum of Transport in Kirkwood, MO. (Photo by William A. Shaffer)
The two Barretts Railroad Tunnels are notable as the first railroad tunnels west of the Mississippi River. Situated off Barrett Station Road near Kirkwood, they were part of the route laid out for the Pacific Railroad by Chief Engineer James P. Kirkwood to link St. Louis to the West. The first trains ran to Franklin County in1853, but the line did not reach Kansas City until 1865. The railroad, recently acquired by Union Pacific, has been entirely rebuilt over the years, leaving the tunnels as the only structural reminder of the original line left in Missouri. The west tunnel is now on the grounds of the national Museum of Transport, while the east one is still owned by the railroad. [StLouisCo]
When I worked at MOT (over 10 years) I had several opportunities to go into the tunnel and have walked its entire length several times. It was built in the 1850s through a limestone ridge. Much reinforcement work was done by the MP over the years and there are concrete support piers in part of it. But when the railroad relocated its tracks in 1945 the tracks in the tunnel were removed and all maintenance ended. As the museum grew at this location new track was eventually run through the tunnel and there are films of the Illinois Terminal railbus going all the wa through it. But as was mentioned there was a partial collapse of a side wall that crushed a streetcar that was among the things stored on that track when there was no other overhead cover available. Once the tunnel was cleared from that it was found that the drainage had become blocked, being partly the cause of the collapse. Remember that the tunnel is on a grade with the east end being higher than the west. For whatever reason the track was removed. Later there was a reallignment of much of the track as part of the work being done when the larger shed was being built in the early 1990s. A contractor installed new track about half way into the tunnel by just pushing ballast in ahead of the work and then putting the track on it. This process raised this track a foot or two above the historic level it was at in the east half, there being none in the west half. That is where it remains today. A few things are stored in the tunnel most of the time, and when they are removed there are small pieces of the roof limestone found all over them. The drainage has never been restored and it will be very, very expensive to make the tunnel usable for passenger carrying trains in the future. Running a caboose or two up to its gate is no problem, but it isn't safe to go inside at present and isn't being done. [Ron Goldfeder, rypn]
More St Louis area tunnel background .....
There is a ridge running along the southwest corner of the greater St Louis area - the first evidence of the upcoming Ozark "mountains" as you continue to travel southwest. This ridge blocked both the MoPac, and later, the Frisco rail lines as they headed out of St Louis.
The MoPac, as the Pacific Railroad originally, tunneled through the ridge with the two Barretts tunnels. The west Barretts tunnel is the one on the grounds of the National Museum of Transport. This makes our museum one of the few in the world to have a railroad tunnel in their collection!
During WW2, the Barretts tunnels caused unacceptable clearance restrictions, so the MoP took them out of service, relocating their line to a new series of cuts through the ridge on the southeast side of the two Barretts tunnels. Both tunnels still exist.
The Frisco had a similar problem with the ridge blocking them as they built their new line to connect St Louis with the start of the "Southwest Branch" in Pacific, MO, which ran down through Rolla to Springfield. Prior to this, the Frisco ran over the MoP line to Pacific, then took off on their own. The Frisco also solved the ridge problem by boring a tunnel at Meramec Highlands, just west of the Meramec Highlands/Osage Hills depot. This area is about a mile or so south of the MoP tunnels.
As old tunnels usually do, clearance troubles resulted at Meramec Highlands. In the late 1920's the Frisco relocated their line slightly to the southeast, running the track through a new cut in the ridge. I have an article around here somewhere describing the relocation project. The Meramec Highlands tunnel also still exists.
ps: Further on down the MoPac (now UP), there is a much longer tunnel just before the RR reaches Pacific, MO. That tunnel is still in service. You can see the east portal from I-44 if you look quickly. [meteor910, frisco]
More pictures are in a blog.
You can see the tunnel entrance near the top of this view. Note how vertical the walls of the replacement cut are. That must be strong rock to have vertical walls that high.