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Construction began on the tunnel in 1848, during which time the population of Tunnel Hill grew due to the influx of railway workers. The tunnel, which spans 1,477 feet, was dug through the base of Chetoogeta Mountain.

On May 9, 1850, the first Western and Atlantic locomotive passed through the tunnel and the new town of Atlanta became one of the railroad's major hubs. 

The tunnel became part of several historical events during the Civil War (one of which was the Great Locomotive Chase) before heavy railroad traffic and larger train cars getting stuck in the tunnel led to the building of a larger parallel tunnel, ending the use of the tunnel in 1928.

The tunnel faced possible destruction from 70 years of neglect until, in 1992, steps were taken to preserve it. After a lengthy period of restoration and rehabilitation, the tunnel was opened to the public in 2000, just in time for its 150th anniversary. 

The Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel