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Richmond Enquirer, Volume 47, Number 95, 28 March 1851, pg 4


We yesterday published an interesting letter from Governor Floyd, detailing the difficulties of preparation and construction, and the present condition of that mighty work, the Blue Ridge Tunnel. A friend who has recently paid a short visit to Lynchburg, has given us a few items in regard to the tunnel just out of Lynchburg, which, being the commencement of the great Railroad in Virginia, may not be without interest. He has placed upon our table a piece of gneiss, which forms nearly the entire mass of the solid rocky hill, through which the tunnel passes. This gneiss is lead-colored, and is one of the hardest, toughest rocks for blasting. It is a species of aggregated rock, composed of quartz, feldspar and mica, of a structure more or less distinctly slaty. The layers, whether straight or curved, are frequently thick, but often vary considerably in the same specimen. It passes on one side into granite, from which it differs in its slaty structure, and on the other into mica-slate. It often contains hornblende, as is strikingly the case with the rock which is perforated by the Lynchburg Tunnel. In view of the difficulty of working through it, it may properly be called iron-rock. In several portions of the tunnel, large veins of milk-white quartz run vertically along the natural walls of the tunnel, which are so compact as not to require any artificial walling up. Tunnelling in Virginia is a new business, and we may therefore congratulate the contractors, engineers and officers of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Company upon the success which has marked their exertions in perforating the mountain of rock for the Tunnel at Lynchburg.

Our informant assures us that, without a personal inspection, no idea could be formed of the difficulty of the work or the success of the enterprise thus far. The railroad runs along the beetling crags, which hang over the tortuous Black Water Creek. The defile is precipitous, deep and terrific--and as the visitor approaches, on the lower side, the cavern cut into the solid rock, sees the lamps of the 100 miners twinkling in the distant darkness, and hears the sharp reverberations of the drills, the echoes of the falling rocks, or the roaring thunders of the blast-explosions, he is forcibly reminded of the fabled caverns of the Cyclops, the giant blacksmiths and thunder-forgers for Jove, or the entrance to the gloomy tenements of Hades:

"Beneath the silent chambers of the Earth,
Where the sun's fruitful beams give metals birth,
There is a place deep, wondrous deep below,
Which genuine Night and Horror does overflow.
Here no dear glimpse of the sun's lovely face
Strikes through the solid darkness of the place,
A dreadful silence filled the horrid place --
No dawning Morn does her kind red display;
One slight, weak beam would here be thought the day.''

But, in downright earnest, this tunnel, which is 510 feet through the solid rock, does great credit to the enterprise of the contractors. Heavy excavations, at each end, have been made into the bowels of the rock. Only about 60 feet remain to overcome, and it will be completed by the middle of May, it is confidently hoped. The material has turned out to be of so much more "impenetrable stuff" than was anticipated, that the contractors will lose money, but they will make reputation.

We are glad to hear of the energy shown by the excellent President, officers, engineers and contractors on this important Railroad to the West. Some 2,000 hands are now employed a long the whole line, and the work is being prosecuted with great vigor. On the first division, from Lynchburg to Salem, (60 miles,) the grade is neatly all completed, and it is expected that the cars will be running at the close of this year.

The 2d division, from Salem to Wytheville, is now nearly all under contract, and it will be in operation by the close of 1852.

The 3d division, from Wytheville to the Tennessee line, will be put under contract in the latter part of this year, and is expected to be in operation by the end of 1853.

When this result shall have been consummated, and particularly when the railroad shall have been completed to the Mississippi river, benefits will be showered upon the whole State of Virginia, which we have not now the time or apace to enlarge upon. Lynchburg, which has taken a new bound forward, and is destined to become a large and important place, will feel the influence of the stream of commerce -- then Richmond, and lastly Norfolk, which, with the aid of direct ocean navigation and the disemboguing of vast internal improvements, must attain a size and a prominence, worthy of her unequalled position. With prudent wisdom, harmonious counsels, and well directed energies, Virginia must reap a vast portion of the commercial flood from the West. Her prospects were never brighter, if she be true to her integrity as a State, to the boundless resources Nature has thrown at her feet.

But it is said that the route by this Virginia and Tennessee Railroad to the Ohio River is some 16 or 20 miles shorter, by measured distance, than by any other. The following estimate is believed to be correct:

From Richmond to Burk's, on the Danville Railroad 52 miles.
From Burk's to Lynchburg 63 "
From Lynchburg to the Summit in Montgomery county 85 "
From the Summit to the mouth of Greenbrier river
(a part of this distance not actually measured,
but not exceeding 70 miles,)
70 "
From Greenbrier river to the mouth of Big Sandy 165 "
435 "

Moreover, the grades on the Virginia and Tennessee Rail Road are said to be no where over 60 feet per mile, while on other routes they are often from 90 to 105 feet per mile. By equating these grades, or reducing the excess of grades, or heights, to equivalent lengths or distance, it is said that the line by the Lynchburg and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad is shorter than any other, by some 60 or 80 miles--and, as regards Petersburg and Norfolk, the distance is 25 miles less in its favor. It is calculated that each 20 feet of height, in the grades, are equivalent to one mile of road in length added, so far as cost of construction and working, and maintaining and time of running, are concerned.

The observant Editor of the Wytheviile Republican, whose article we publish below, has anticipated much that we intended to have said in regard to Lynchburg, with its six to-bacco-warehouses and active industry. He does full justice to the enterprise of her merchants, but fails to notice the warm-hearted hospitality of her citizens, and the beauty and elegance of her daughters, of whom our own city boasts several bright specimens, and in referring to whom, with all respect, we claim a bachelor's privilege, an empty honor, it must be confessed, after all. Lynchburg is not a pretty town, and it is not a little singular that such a location, on the steep side of a rocky hill, should have been selected for a town. The inhabitants seen to have turned their attention more to the substantial than to the elegant, with few exceptions. The community, however, is marked by intelligence and true Virginia feeling. The progress of the town is manifested in the many improvements introduced. Among them is the "Warwick House," a hotel well and neatly kept by a former worthy citizen of Richmond, Wm. McCreery, (or, we should rather say, his excellent better half, Mrs. McC.) In the march of improvements, Lynchburg is brought comparatively near lo Richmond. By the Central Railroad and the stage from Charlottesville, travellers and the mails, are landed in Lynchburg the next morning, in 26 hours from Richmond. When the Danville Railroad shall this fall be completed to Burk's, a traveller may leave Richmond in the morning and be in Lynchburg the same evening. Considering the growing importance of both these places, the improvement in communication is a striking sign of the times, a new augury of the development of the State's resources and the union of the various sections of Virginia :


Being in Lynchburg recently, we had the pleasure to form some acquaintance in that town, and to learn something of the energy, industry, perseverance and capital of her citizens. The great business of Lynchburg is in Tobacco. Located, as Lynchburg is, here is the market of the planters of some of the best tobacco growing counties of the State--and here is prepared the best chewing tobacco to be had in all the Union. We were informed that there are forty-three extensive factories in the place--that many large fortunes have been made from perseverance in the tobacco trade, in manufacturing it, and sending it out to all the world. Lynchburg brands go to California, to Cuba, Canada, to the Western States and Northern Stales--and all the South. The South cashes and consumes the best quality. Northern men have less knowledge of taste, (or probably it may be said with truth,) prefer to chew the cheaper article--somewhat frosted will suit them--small plugs, small price, small heart.

We were in the factory of Mr. David Booker, who explained to us much of the operation of manufacturing tobacco, from the time it is received from the planter at the warehouse until it is closely boxed for market. Powerful machinery is used in pressing the plugs into shape and packing it away into boxes. In these factories slave-labor shows its value, and the high comfort and happiness of the laborer. In all these factories the masters and hirers pay to the hands at the close of each week more or less money for extra work--much of which is done, for there are few soulless task masters in Virginia. We tasted some of Mr. Booker's best chewing tobacco and although not not professing to be a finished judge, we undertake to commend his manufacture to customers in the Southwest.

We were told of several millionaire tobacco men in Lynchburg--of more reaching into the hundred thousands and of much individual prosperity in every department of business in Lynchburg. One fact related to us serves to exhibit in proper light the enterprise and energy of the tobacco manufacturers of the town of Lynchburg. The markets of Richmond and Petersburg are often called by Lynchburg men for the best crops and these are brought to Lynchburg and manufactured, and sent back to be chewed in those towns. For its population Lynchburg has exhibited a public spirit much beyond that of any town of the same size in the Union. Her liberal subscription of half million to the Virginia and Tennessee Rail Road, added to other large debts for water works and other improvements, is evidence of the bold spirit with which her men march into business.

We visited the Tunnel of the Railroad near Lynchburg--this great work is progressing rapidly to completion we understood that six more weeks would end that job. The location of Lynchburg is on the side of a steep hill that foots right on the river on its whole length in passing the place--the approach by the railway is over difficult ground and the tunnel is about three-fourths of a mile from the Depot. The cost of the depot and the first mile of the road including the tunnel must be very heavy--yet it will be done and well done in a short time. The work on the railroad from Lynchburg to Salem is pushing on with a vigor which only such a President as General Oden G. Clay could command. This capital officer is enlisted, soul, body, and spirit in the work; his days, and hours, and minutes, and seconds, are all devoted to the road; he sees, and knows, and watches everything, in office, and out of office, and all along the line of the road there he is. Would that all public officers were Oden G. Clays. Subscribers will see another call for money, in another part of this paper. Come up to the scratch -- don't fear, for an honest man heads the company and the money will all go for the work. By the bye, this error of the first act of incorporation was corrected this winter, and the state is now in for three-fifths, which adds much to the strength of the company and ensures the work's completion--early completion to the Tennessee line.

Tennessee is coming on with her part of this great iron band --forty miles of the road has been let from a point on the river commencing thirteen miles East of Knoxville and running Eastward. Who shall be on the line first? We go on Gen. Clay. Tennessee is a "go-ahead" State, but Clay and Virginia will beat her, notwithstanding that one has two hundred and ten miles, the other not more than one hundred and twenty.