Paw Paw Tunnel
The Paw Paw Tunnel is a canal tunnel constructed to bypass the Paw Paw bends portion of the Potomac River. While building started in 1836, it would not be completed until 1850 due to a series of miscalculations. Lee Montgomery, the engineer in charge, was forced to end the project far short of its goal and it nearly bankrupted Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Following its completion, the Paw Paw Tunnel would be in continuous use by Chesapeake & Ohio Canal until 1924. Now, it is part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
Backstory and Context
Lee Montgomery was a Methodist minister that had previous experience constructing a canal tunnel for the Union Canal. After the C&O decided to add the tunnel, Montgomery won the commission to build it on March 15, 1836. However, construction efforts were plagued by misfortune. Issues with funding and the workers hindered progress, averaging twelve feet per day. By the end, the project bankrupted Montgomery and nearly bankrupted the C&O.
Despite the setbacks, the tunnel went into operation in 1850 and saw continuous use until 1924 when C&O closed. The narrowness of the tunnel made it difficult to regulate traffic, requiring the installation of a semaphore signal. The Paw Paw tunnel is now included in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park as part of the two mile long Tunnel Hill Trail.