Prince, West Virginia is a small community that is best known for its Art Moderne passenger depot for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.
Prince was founded in 1870 by William Prince, a businessman in nearby Beckley. 11 Upon hearing the news of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad’s (C&O) construction along the New River, he ventured down into the gorge to stake a claim along the river for the town, bargaining with his cousin, General Alfred Beckley, for the land.
Upon completion of the C&O in January 1873, area merchants began to use the town of Prince for freight shipment to destinations such as Marmet and Kanawha Falls. 3 Prince also established a ferry across the New River to connect Prince to Beckley. In 1881, the first mining operation in the county opened at Royal, which was located across the river from Prince. The mined coal, averaging 600 tons daily, was transported via an aerial tramway to Prince where it was loaded into awaiting C&O cars.
The first permanent depot at Prince was constructed in 1880 and enlarged in 1891. 3 A fire destroyed the station in 1917 but it was rebuilt shortly afterward.
In 1942, Robert R. Young became president of the C&O. His vision for the future was to create a high-class train that surpassed the competition from which the Chessie was born. 3 Considered ahead of its time in style, functionality, and efficiency, the new passenger cars utilized sleek steam turbine locomotives and were scheduled via a state-of-the-art central reservation system. Along with this vision came many upgrades to the C&O network, including tunnel improvements, curve reconstructions, and realignments to support higher track speeds.
The C&O dedicated a new Art Moderne styled passenger depot at Prince on June 26, 1946. 1 3 Designed by Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Schaffer of Cleveland, Ohio, 11 the 125-foot by 22-foot depot featured terrazzo floors with an embedded Chessie kitten symbol in the center, tall ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, a ladies’ lounge, freight, baggage, and express rooms, and radiant heating, where hot water from a coal-fired boiler piped heat through the floors and ceilings. 3 The 500-foot platform was designed to be oriented in reference to the meridional position of the sun. During the winter, the warming rays of the sun would warm the platform and depot while during the summer, it would provide shaded relief. 4 3
The Prince station was the only one of its kind to be constructed to serve the Chessie brand and was the second-to-last station to ever be constructed by the C&O. 3
Amtrak assumed control of the station on March 17, 1975, but it was closed in October 1981 with the elimination of the Cardinal line. 3 For the first time in 101 years, Prince was without passenger service. A large uprising of support throughout the nation, and support by Senator Robert C. Byrd, caused the Cardinal to be reinstated to three day per week service.
On June 30, 1996, members of the George Washington Chapter of the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society hosted an event at the Prince depot in remembrance and celebration of the 50 years of the Prince depot. 3