The search for the lost Ark. The Holy Grail. Buried pirate treasure. The perfect cup of coffee. No matter what it is, humans love the intrigue of finding those things which have presumably been lost. That is exactly what happened in the early part of the new millennium when a buried treasure, thought to have been lost forever, was dug up and polished, and displayed as one of the most interesting experiences in Northwest Georgia. I speak of course about the Historic Railroad Tunnel in Tunnel Hill, Georgia.
The Historic Railroad Tunnel is currently operated by the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau who give tours Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm. The tour will take you on a nearly 1,500 foot adventure through an engineering marvel of its time. As you approach the entrance of the tunnel on one of the comfortable golf carts used by the CVB to give tours, you can’t help but imagine that you are entering a portal to travel back in time. The tunnel opens up to another world, a world cut through earth and rock, and when you see the inside of the tunnel you will understand what I mean. As you traverse the 168 year old railroad tunnel the air inside becomes much cooler, so you might want to bring a light jacket depending on what time of year you visit. Your guide will explain some interesting facts about the tunnel, however the sights, smells and feelings you have inside the tunnel will dominate your mind. The bricks that line the ceiling and walls will turn into boulders and you will even see where workman placed sticks of dynamite to blow through the boulders as they came upon them as they dug. Your guide will also show you areas on the ceiling which were stained by the steam of locomotives from the 1800’s.
Your guide will also tell you some interesting stories about the tunnel itself and the part it played during historic episodes of our nations past. Particularly during the Civil War. In the early 1860’s a team of Union spies from Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) stole a Confederate Locomotive and commenced driving it north to Union occupied Chattanooga. The General, as the train was called, passed through several Northwest Georgia towns such as, Adairsville, Calhoun, Dalton and Tunnel Hill where it slowed down to pass the Railroad tunnel which runs through the Chetoogeta Mountain. A fire fight between Union Soldiers in possession of the General and perusing Confederates opened up which frightened local resident Clisby Austin so much that he uprooted his family and never returned. Shortly after passing through the Railroad Tunnel, the General was captured by the Confederates in Ringgold, Georgia. So popular has this story about the Great Locomotive Chase become that several films have been made about it. In 1926 Buster Keaton starred in a silent movie about the chase titled “The General.” And Walt Disney featured a movie called “The Great Locomotive Chase” starring Fess Parker as James Andrews in 1956.
Speaking of film, the Historic Railroad Tunnel has been used in the past as a filming location for movies. Jeff Burr’s 1987 horror film titled “From a Whisper to a Scream” starring Vincent Price was partly filmed at the nearby Clisby-Austin House, which is also featured on the extended tunnel tour. Recently, Legendary took over the Historic Railroad Tunnel to film scenes from a Major Motion picture that I unfortunately cannot name right at this moment. However, the movie is set to be released in March of 2019 and stars a very Strange Thing. (Hint)
The Tunnel Tour costs $6 however to experience everything the tour has to offer, which includes the tunnel, the Clisby-Austin house, the early 1900’s general store and the Historic Railroad Tunnel museum, the cost is $10 per person. The tour can either be guided, which you ride comfortably on a 7 passenger luxury golf cart, or self guided which allows you to walk the site at your own pace.
Needless to say there is a ton of history located within the Historic Tunnel area and you can read all about that history by visiting www.civilwarrailroadtunnel.com
Tunnel Hill, Georgia is located in Northwest Georgia just off Interstate 75 at the 336 Dalton-Rocky Face Exit. The Historic Railroad Tunnel is around 6 miles from exit.