Letter from Claudius Crozet to the Board of Public Works, January 17, 1854

Under pressure from the legislature to complete the Blue Ridge Tunnel project as soon as possible and at reasonable cost, Claudius Crozet outlined the progress on the construction for the Board of Public Works.

To the Board of Public Works


I received yesterday evening your resolution asking for the information in my possession, in answer to the resolution of the House of Delegates copy of which was forwarded to me, and I hastened to forward the following.


Ten miles on the East side of the mountain are completed; and on the West side, the track is being laid on three miles, which will take as many weeks, so that there will be early in February 13 miles in operation; leaving 3 miles, including the main tunnel yet unfinished, all of which except this Tunnel will be completed during the year 1854.

There are four tunnels on the Blue Ridge Rail road; The Greenwood Tunnel, which is now completed, is 538 ft. long and being made through dangerous ground requiring a heavy arch, it has cost including the two portals $105 per linear foot.

The second tunnel which will be from portal to portal about 830 ft long is in progress of construction.

The third through excessively hard rock is 100 feet long and not quite completed but will be very shortly; it will cost very nearly $80 per linear foot.

Finally the main tunnel 4,248 ft long, upwards of 2,400 ft are now quite completed, including portal and an arch of nearly 600 ft at the western entrance. In the report I addressed to your Honble [sic] Board last meeting, I stated that until the month of April last (1853) the cost of excavation had been $5.60 per cubic yard which is $59.73 per linear foot. But since that time the excessive accumulation of water and the rise of the price of labor, together with the scarcity of hands have raised the cost to $7.50 per yard which is $80 per linear foot. These prices do not include the section of arc at the beginning nor the portal, which constitute a unit not divisible by the length. The rock is excessively hard.

There remains 1800 ft of the main Tunnel to be excavated. The probability is that in 2 years or at most 2 years the whole will be completed for reasons explained in preceding reports. The commencement of the excavation should be reckoned only from the 1st. February 1851; the average progress, since then has been 820 ft annually; and there appears no reason why less should be done, because the present year, which has lessened the average has been very unfavorable, strikes unexpected inroads of water requiring part of the force to be withdrawn from the drills until machinery could be procured, and the unusual scarcity of hands have united in lessening the progress; every efficient measure has now been taken and it may reasonably be expected that we shall not fall short in future of the average ventilation water & additional hauling will not influence the progress as all for increased distance.

The Contractors Kelly & Co. had taken the Tunnel excavation at $3.50 per cubic yard: But finding that they were losing largely by that price, they abandoned their contract and on the 15th of March 1851, a new arrangement was entered into with two of the firm Kelly & Larquey, constituting them virtually Superintendents of the work; the Board defraying all the expenses and allowing them in lieu of salary 10 per cent on the cost of $200,000, with a sliding scale deducting 2 per cent on all excess above $200,000; the amount to be paid on the completion of the tunnel; thus making economy and diligence to the interest of the contractors.

The payments to laborers or others, have been in current funds, the following salaries are paid: to the Chief Engineer $3,000 per annum; to the principal assistant $1,200; to Leveller [?]Transit Engineer $2 per day; to Rodmen $40 per month. By resolution of 17 the Decr. 1851, the assistants are allowed the [board] of a horse. In addition to the above the Board have employed a clerk to supervise the tunnel accounts at a salary $1000 per annum.

This, Gentlemen, is all the information I am possessed of in reply to the enquiries of the Resolution of the house of Delegates. I am very respectfully your most obt.

C. Crozet
Chf. Engineer B r. r. road

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Claudius Crozet to the Board of Public Works, January 17, 1854
  • Source: Letter from Claudius Crozet to the Board of Public Works, January 17, 1854
  • Author: Claudius Crozet
  • Author: Claudius Crozet
  • Extent: 3 pages
  • Extent: 3 pages
  • Citation: Archives, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, Virginia Board of Public Works, Entry 125 "Blue Ridge Railroad", Box RG 57, Box 216, Box RG 57, Box 216, Folder 3, Folder 3
  • Date: January 17, 1854