Saturday, March 11, 2017

B&O's 1914 Magnolia Cutoff

Because the Potomac River defines the border between Maryland and West Virginia from Paw Paw, WV north past Little Orleans, MD, it is easy to see the path of the Potomac River when the map is zoomed out.

This view makes the meandering of the river quite obvious. But I was taught that meandering rivers occur in flat lands where the fast currents on the outside of curves can easily eat away the river banks like we have seen seen in the Wabash and the Mackinaw Rivers. But these meanders have somehow developed in mountainous country. The original B&O route through this area followed the valley of the river. But that meant the route was long with sharp curves because of all of the lobes of the meanderings. So in 1914 the B&O built the Magnolia Cutoff in their Cumberland Subdivision. But they not only had to build bridges, Kessler and Magnolia, they had to dig tunnels. Note that the piers for those bridges are tall. This would shorten the tunnels and remove any threat of flooding.

I marked up the satellite image with red letters to show where to the two bridges are and with a blue line near the bottom left for the Carothers Tunnel, a yellow line for the Stuart Tunnel, and a purple line for the Randolph Tunnel. This is still be an important route because the bridges are double tracked and around 2010 all three tunnels were notched to accommodate double-stack containers while maintaining two track capacity.

Satellite plus Paint

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