For many years, the Little Rock-Fort Smith Railroad followed a different path, cutting through Cadron Gap (where the old Hwy. 25 turns to Wooster) and climbing over Cadron Ridge before heading west.
Difficulties hauling large loads over the two-percent grade led the rail line to cut a quarter-mile long tunnel through Cadron Ridge in 1902. The path of the rail line was then relocated, curving near Independence Street and heading westward until it reached the tunnel.
Arkansas prison system convicts were used to build the tunnel. A stockade was constructed on the south side of Cadron Ridge to house the inmates and guards with bloodhounds watched over them. Warden Hudson may be the second man from the right, sitting down. Convicts killed by accidents during the construction were reportedly buried along the right of way near the northern portal of the tunnel.
In mid-August 1903, the initial hole was finally blasted out using 1,000 sticks of one-half pound dynamite. The first person reported to go through the tunnel was Mont Stone, a three-year-old boy passed through by his father. Mont Stone was the father of Jim Stone, former Assistant Superintendent of Conway Public Schools, and grandfather of retired Conway Boys’ Basketball Coach Joe Graham. The tunnel was finally competed on January 9, 1904 and opened for traffic the next day.
This photograph is part of the P-4 Faulkner County Historical Society’s permanent photo collection. Photograph is courtesy of the FCHS held by UCA Archives. To see more Faulkner County historical photographs and artifacts, visit the museum, its Facebook page or its website www.faulknercountymuseum.org Help preserve the county’s history by supporting the museum!