The Big Bend Tunnel was a major railway passage underneath the Appalachians, allowing direct transit beneath the rock of the mountain. Although rail transportation was extinguished after the Great War, it still served the same role in the meantime, doubling as a shelter for those fleeing the carnage outside. The first permanent inhabitants arrived at the western end of the tunnel in January 2083. Some members of the Cutthroats, a raider warband from the Savage Divide, abandoned David Thorpe's banner in the wake of the Charleston Flood. The savagery was too much even for them to handle. At first, the raiders stayed around the Ash Heap, salvaging Lewisburg and other nearby spots, until they finally stepped into the tunnels around September 2085 and started exploring them. At that point, the scorchbeasts already started emerging in the Cranberry Bog and their first encounters scared them off from exploring the Bog.
By May 2088, supplies began to dry up on the west end of the tunnel, forcing the former raiders to explore the eastern end. They immediately encountered the Brotherhood, which set up a control perimeter at the eastern end to watch for traffic entering the region and help contain the scorchbeasts. Although the encounter was a shock at first, the Brotherhood was friendly and watched the eastern end, helping keep the tunnels safe. Furthermore, they revealed that some of the Responders survived the Charleston flood, lifting the spirits of the former highwaymen. By 2093, the west end turned into a bona fide community, developing some small scale farming and trading with the Brotherhood for supplies. The relations were positively cordial at that point, as the Brotherhood was interested in making their allied community prosper, oblivious to their background. Even the once-bloodthirsty raiders were surprised at how they adapted to the new life they led.
The lucky streak ended in the summer of 2095 when the Brotherhood realized that they were losing the war and made a desperate gambit to defeat the scorchbeasts. Melissa, the leader of the Brotherhood detachment, picked up and left without so much as saying goodbye, answering Knight Wilson's last call. This was an unpleasant surprise to the Benders, who soon realized that they needed to pick up the slack and fortified the eastern end with traps and killing zones to stave off the Scorched.
The end came in the spring of 2097, following on the heels of two refugee raiders from the mountains. Broken and traumatized, they revealed that the Scorched overwhelmed and wiped out the raider gangs in the region. For the Benders, this spelled doom: They had barely hours to prepare for the Scorched flooding the tunnels. Strangely enough, the leaders of the community saw it as a form of justice, payback for the sins they committed as raiders. They faced their death with dignity, wiped out to the last man. The story of the Big Bend tunnel continued, however, as the Fire Breathers under Melody Larkin attempted to seal off the tunnel and reduce the influx of Scorched into the western parts of Appalachia. Unfortunately for them all, the task proved too daunting - or the Scorched too numerous for the veterans of the wastelands to accomplish.
The Big Bend Tunnel is a long straight railroad tunnel running east to west, underneath the Savage Divide mountain range above. A service and storage area which contains crafting workbenches at the midway point. The storage area requires a key which can be found in the side tunnel, south from the storage area.
It is a mostly linear location with two tracks running in parallel west to east, with loot on both ends. The tunnels have a limited number of dead-end side tunnels accessible through holes in the wall that offer minor loot and some brain fungus to harvest.
The important part lies in the middle of the tunnel, which contains a large maintenance junction for trains traveling through. The junction occupies the entire cavern, although the upper levels won't be accessible until the player acquires the key to the locked doors. The key is located down the tunnel to the south, excavated before the Great War. The key's located on the body of Sgt. Cominsky of the Fire Breathers, near the explosives crate. On several playthroughs, the key was on the body of an unnamed corpse on a large piece of yellow mining equipment in the cavern just outside where Cominsky can be found.
The locked sections contain a vast array of items, including a power armor station and a random power armor set in the maintenance warehouse, a potential Vault-Tec bobblehead at the clerk's desk, a potential magazine upstairs in the office pods (southeast), and a steamer trunk. The locked area can be accessed without the key by climbing a series of boxes and jumping over the railing onto the catwalk that goes over the tracks.
- Cominsky's code - Note, on Sgt. Cominsky's corpse, near the end of the side tunnel running south at a right angle to the east-west tunnel.
- Orders from Melody - Note, on Sgts. Cominsky, Allemane and Holstein's corpses.
- Scattered journal pages - Notes, found throughout the tunnel:
- Scattered journal page 1 - On a metal barrel along the southern track, just past the large central room.
- Scattered journal page 2 - On a table in a USA train car, just past a Blue Ridge gate, near the center of the tunnel.
- Scattered journal page 3 - On a metal shelf in the large central room. It is next to a military trunk in the last blue pod room, along the upper catwalks.
- Scattered journal page 4 - On a table inside a wooden shack along the northern track. The shack is connected to a Blue Ridge checkpoint, the first from the west entrance.
- Scattered journal page 5 - On a barrel next to a lit lantern, at the first Blue Ridge checkpoint from the east entrance.
- Scattered journal page 6 - On a wooden box near the western exit/entrance, along the northern track.
- Big Bend Tunnel door key - On a corpse sitting on an excavation machine. Go south from the cavern with the buildings using the same route as for Sgt. Cominsky.
- East Bridge key - Inside the flooded side room near the exit, on a desk, in a lunch pail.
- Potential Vault-Tec bobblehead - In the clerk's office, on a filing cabinet across from a terminal, past the locked blue double doors.
- Potential magazine - In the main tunnel, among the stilted cabins above the train tracks with catwalks, in a room accessed through a locked double door, on a metal desk across from an orange tool case.
- Potential power armor mod plan - Inside the main tunnel, on a yellow recharging table in the storage room.
- Potential armor mod - To the left of an armor workbench inside the main tunnel, on a wooden box.
- Potential weapon mod - On a small table to the left of a weapons workbench, in the large room before the east entrance/exit.
- Power armor chassis with T-series armor pieces - In the locked storage room, across from the fusion generator.
- Fusion core - In a fusion generator in the storage room with the mole rats.
- Stealth Boy - Inside a side tunnel near the tunnel system's east exit/entrance, on the right, near a skeleton.
With the Blue Ridge Caravan Company taking over control of the tunnel entrances, the bodies of Sgt. Allemane and Sgt. Holstein of the Fire Breathers have been moved to the boxcars before the entrances.
Behind the scenes
The Big Bend Tunnel is based on the real world location of the Big Bend Tunnel, a location that is a celebrated part of Appalachian folklore.