In the early 20th century the B&O began the task of straightening its main line through the hills and mountains of the Appalachians. A few years before the railroad began its Magnolia Cutoff project it had completed the Patterson Creek Cutoff several miles east near Cumberland, mostly to alleviate congestion and bypass the city's busy yards. The B&O began the Magnolia project in 1910 officially starting at the main line near Orleans Cross Roads, West Virginia along milepost 233.3, where the railroad would construct the Orleans Road Tower protecting the "Highline" and original "Lowline". Intended to shave off mileage and grades the project used tunnels and bridges to increase efficiency by no longer following the winding Potomac River. The project also called for a double-tracked main line, which is still in place today under CSX ownership.
Randolph Tunnel: Constructed in 1914 it is located 2.8 miles west of Orleans Road and carries 4 degrees of curve throughout its length. It is a total of 1,014.9-feet long, 24' 6" wide, and 31' high.
Stuart Tunnel: Constructed between 1913 and 1914 it is located 5.0 miles west of Orleans Road and carries 2.3 degrees of curve for a distance of 381.6 feet. It is a total of 3,355.4-feet long, 24' 6" wide, and 31' high.
Graham Tunnel: The only tunnel located in Maryland it was constructed between 1913 and 1914 and is located 4.1 miles east of Little Cacapon. It is a tangent (straight) 1,592 feet in length, 24' 6" wide, and 31' high.
Carothers Tunnel: Constructed between 1913 and 1914 it is located 3.2 miles east of Little Cacapon and carries 2.3 degrees of curve throughout its length. It is a total of 995.9-feet long, 24' 6" wide, and 31' high.
Moving eastward the cutoff ended just east of Paw Paw, West Virginia at the Okonoko Tower, which protected the western convergence of the "Highline" and "Lowline" at milepost 252.2. Most of the new line was located in West Virginia but one small section did cross over into Maryland. The cutoff was completed in four years and opened to traffic in 1914. While freight traffic used the much faster route along the cutoff passenger trains continued to use the original main line until 1961 when the B&O officially closed the circuitous line along the Potomac River.
Of note was the fact that the cutoff did include two additional connections prior to the B&O abandoning the original main line through the area: first, there was additional connection to the "Lowline" at Doe Gully, West Virginia; additionally the railroad had a connection with the Western Maryland (upon whose main line it crossed at Magnolia) at milepost 239.7. While the Magnolia Cutoff's most spectacular bridge (there were only two), the Magnolia Bridge, spans the Potomac River at 50-feet high and about 1,000-feet long its most impressive features are its four tunnels, more information about which is listed below (this information comes directly from the B&O's "Official List #29" dated January 1, 1948). The tunnels were constructed entirely of concrete and are listed here heading from east to west: To read more about the building of the cut-off please click here.
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