Barretts Tunnel

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The Barretts Tunnels, of which the western one is shown in these photographs, lie in West St. Louis County, just west of Kirkwood. The first tunnels west of the Mississippi, the tracks through here were part of the Pacific Railroad, and had the backing of leading Missouri politicians. Completed in 1853 with the use of grunt force and explosives, the tunnels were designed by James Kirkwood, after which the nearby railroad suburb would be named.

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The tunnels sit in silence nowadays, too narrow to handle the rail traffic through here. Below, a house remains from what was Barrett’s Station, sitting in between the two tunnels.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    Chris – are the views of the tunnel actually from each end of the West one? Or is the second photo the long-abandoned-for-storage East tunnel?

    I grew up not far from the Museum and recall many happy days of exploring there in the late ’40s and early ’50s when it was not so organized; a kid could actually climb all over the pieces and was actually encouraged to do so by the owner, a Dr. Roberts (name?).

    Its very first acquired piece was a wooden-framed flatbed wrecker car (yes-wood!) in 1948 or so. I can recall its faded red color to this day. The last time I saw it was in 1981, after the County had taken the place over (I think). It was sitting forlorn in the West tunnel with its back broken and much rot. That really disturbed me. I wonder if it was ever rescued?

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Both are of the west tunnel, according to the sign.

      1. Shop says:

        What sign are you talking about, Chris?

  2. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    I just found this FASCINATING listing of the tunnels from the 1978 National Register of Historic Places! The first part is mostly about the Museum’s collection, but scroll down about 1/3rd of the way to read about the difficulties in constructing (word?) the tunnels themselves.

    This work took place during the cholera epidemic, and riots even took place at the work site!

    Barrett’s Station Road actually stands on spoil from the tunnels!

    There are even photos of both tunnels from 1972!

  3. MODiesel says:

    You can find a lot of COLOR photos of these rail lines in the 1950’s including some more of the tunnels here:

    1. Chris Naffziger says:


    2. Tom Maher - Kirkwood MO says:

      Thanks for that link! Growing up (and still living) just East of the Museum and its tunnels, MANY of these photos are familiar to me.
      An unexpected benefit was the inclusion of pictures showing the runaway box car on S. Kingshighway in 1954! This occurred on a siding at the old Blanke-Baer flavoring plant. This was next door to my long-time employer, American Can Company. While my first year there was 1959, I recall some of the older hands talking about this incident, but had never seen pictures of it until now.
      While OT, my late Grandfather (1870-1948) was an engineer for the MOP from the 1890s until 1935. He was called back for the war, but groused because he was relegated to switch engines, being “too old” to return to being a driver on the road runs.

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