THE DINGESS TUNNEL
In 1892, the Norfolk & Western Railway realized the coal industry was exploding with growth and decided to expand a rail line between Lenore and Wayne, West Virginia. The railway brought in many Chinese & African American workers to construct the tunnel and along with them came their families to the area of "Twelve Pole Creek". The locals didn't take kindly to the influx of foreign people and this lack of tolerance resulted in a history of abuse and murder.
According to several stories, bands of angry locals would wait at the entrance and exit of the tunnel with guns and would "pick off" anyone that did not fit their target description. While no official records exist, its estimated hundreds of victims were killed in this ambush style murder. There were even tales of masked men who would stop trains, remove passengers in the middle of the night and kill them. The crimes against outsiders certainly contributed to the county's nickname "Bloody Mingo".
As the railway came through town, Dingess became a busy place as goods were unloaded there and hauled to other remote towns by wagonload.
In 1898, a fatal train wreck in the tunnel killed seven people and then in 1905 a head-on collision occurred between a fully loaded freight train and a work train which resulted in the deaths of 3 people.
The tracks began to fall silent around 1905. At that time, The Norfolk & Western Railway built a new line running along the Tug Fork River, utilizing a more gentle grade and perhaps a "safer route" for its engineers to be operating on.
By 1913, the tunnel was inactive for rail traffic and folks began traveling through the tunnel by horses, buggies, and later cars. The rail lines were torn up and a new "road deck" was paved through the nearly mile-long tunnel.
To this day, the tunnel's single lane road serves as a main highway in and out of the community of Dingess and provides visitor's with one of southern West Virginia's best "Thrill Rides". If you visit Mingo County, this is a "Must See" stop.