South portal of the Paw Paw Tunnel on December 27th, 2016. The walk through the tunnel on the old towpath is a little over one-half mile. A flashlight is required.
Across the Potomac river from Paw Paw, West Virginia, a landmark canal tunnel stands which is also associated with the early years of railroading. The largest structure on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the 3,118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel was built at the height of the race between the C&O canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to reach the Ohio River. Construction of the tunnel began in 1836, but labor disputes, unexpected construction difficulties and lack of funds delayed completion until 1848. The C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad were both born on July 4th, 1828. In Georgetown (Washington, DC) the C&O Canal held an elaborate ceremony with President John Quincy Adams in attendance. In Baltimore the groundbreaking for the B&O railroad was more modest. Charles Carroll, the last remaining signer of the Declaration of Independence dug the first shovel-full of dirt to begin the construction of the railway. As the two companies made their way westward disputes over property were inevitable. At Point of Rocks, Maryland, competing claims to the narrow right of way resulted in a four year delay in construction until the courts ruled in the canal's favor. In the end, of course, the railroad won out. The Baltimore and Ohio reached Cumberland, Maryland in 1842, eight years ahead of the canal. After a disastrous flood in 1889 bankrupted the C&O, the canal came under the control of the Consolidation Coal Company, which was principally owned by the B&O. The canal closed in 1924.
The Center for Railroad Photography & Art recently published The Railroad and the Art of Place, by David Kahler, who is a contributor to The Trackside Photographer. It is an evocative look at how railroads shape the visual and cultural landscape. We will have an in-depth article about the book in March. In the meantime you may learn more and order here. 

4 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook

  1. Every year, 1st weekend in June, about 15 of us camp in Paw Paw before starting our annual canoe trip. The Friday night we are there, it is tradition for us to walk the Paw Paw tunnel. Any new persons in the group have to read the signs describing the building of, and statistics of the tunnel. Then we walk to the south side of the tunnel in the dark. On the return flashlights are ok. Tricky walk, especially with all the dips and water dripping. Good thing there is a handrail on the canal side.

    1. JD, it is a very interesting place. I came unprepared and had only the “flashlight” on my phone, which was barely adequate. There was a family ahead of me with a real flashlight and I followed them. At one point they stood aside to let me pass. I said, “No, I will stay behind–that way if you disappear off the end of something I will know to stop.”

      1. Yes, i agree, it is a very interesting place. I have seen people ride horseback through the tunnel. I always enjoy the time there.

        By the way, and I was remiss of mentioning this in my prior comment, I absolutely love and enjoy The Trackside Photographer. I know and understand the challenges of producing a publication, and you do an amazing job. Please keep up the great work you and your contributing authors do. Just fantastic!

        JD ( Loggin’ Locos)
        Editor-in-Chief
        YouTube Model Builders eMag

        1. Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it and I think there is a significant overlap in the interests of YouTube Model Builders and The Trackside Photographer. Perhaps we can get together on something. I would love to have an article related to model railroading. If you’re interested, let’s talk–email me at tracksidephotographer@embarqmail.com. Edd

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