That’s Not a Train Coming at You

Paw Paw Tunnel – Paw Paw, West Virginia

If you like dark places, really dark places – scratch that – I mean really freaking dark and downright spooky places, then this post is for you. This is the famous Paw Paw Tunnel on the C&O Canal tow path in Paw Paw, West Virginia. And yes – it’s about as dark as they come. The tunnel is a 3,118-feet-long (950 m) engineering marvel of more than six million bricks, which took some 14 years to build (1836-1850) and cost nearly 18 times more than initially estimated. To this day, it’s still considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 1800s.

And the tunnel is dark. Think pitch black. Other than the sunlight filtering in through the thick foliage at either end of the passage, there is no light whatsoever, because the tunnel has no artificial illumination in it, period. The top photo is actually a timed exposure at a high ISO, which is part of the reason why it looks grainy. In reality, when viewing the same scene with human eyes, there was just a dim dot in the distance, and absolutely nothing else. The only way one can see anything while traversing the length of the tunnel is to use flashlights or headlamps, which is highly recommended.

A hole in the side of the tunnel – Paw Paw, West Virginia

The photo of the hole in the side of the tunnel is interesting, because it illustrates just how many layers of brick were used in the construction of the tunnel. We used both of our flashlights to illuminate it enough for the camera to take a photo.


Photo info:
Paw Paw Tunnel
Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Tow Path
Paw Paw, West Virginia
September 2015
Zeiss Sonnar 24-70/1.8-2.8 ASPH zoom lens
Sony RX100 IV digicam

2 thoughts on “That’s Not a Train Coming at You

    1. It’s unnerving to be in there, especially if you turn off your flashlight.

      The C&O canal itself is directly alongside the tow path, so if you get disoriented it’s possible to fall into it, though I think it’s only knee-to-waist deep in the tunnel these days. There’s a wooden handrail to keep people out of the water in the canal, but it’s not particularly sturdy and has been known to fall apart on occasion.

      People try to ride their bikes in the tunnel (Cindy and I did that once), but it’s so dark you generally fall against the wall or the handrail at some point and have to walk the bike the rest of the way to the exit.

      Liked by 1 person

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