Claudius Crozet and the Blue Ridge Tunnel
The name “Crozet” is pretty well-known around the area of Virginia, primarily for the local city, but also for the man to which the name belonged—Claudius Crozet. This French-born civil engineer not only helped to found the Virginia Military Institute, but also contributed to a variety of bridges, railroads, canals, turnpikes, and, of course, the Blue Ridge Tunnel. (Is it any wonder that he is called the “Pathfinder of the Blue Ridge”?)
The Blue Ridge Tunnel, with Claudius Crozet at the helm as Chief Engineer, was a great accomplishment of railroad technology that spanned 4,270 feet, making it the longest railroad tunnel in the U.S. at the time. “After eight years of difficult construction, the railroad opened the tracks to new steam locomotives with heavy loads of both freight and passengers” (Blue Ridge Tunnel). It was a long, grueling process, interrupted by cholera outbreaks, labor strikes, worker funerals, and frequent accidents, but eventually their efforts paid off. On April 13, 1858, the first train passed through the Blue Ridge Tunnel and into the Shenandoah Valley.
Photo License: "The records in HABS/HAER were created for the U.S. Government and are considered to be in the public domain."
Today the tunnel remains not only as a picture of historic endeavors but also as a future site for hikers and bicyclists once its restoration is completed. As of now, you can venture to the tunnel for yourself and explore this engineering achievement that is now included on the National Register of Historic Places. The Afton entrance is only a ten-minute drive from our bed & breakfast, and while it’s a bit of an overgrown adventure finding the tunnel, it’s well-worth it!