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Amtrak Rail Passenger Station (C&O Passenger Station)

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C&O Passenger Station
1945–1946, C&O staff architects and Garfield, Harris, Robinson and Schafer. South side of WV 41 at Prince
  • Amtrak Rail Passenger Station (C&O Passenger Station) (S. Allen Chambers, Jr.)

This small railroad station stands in virtual isolation, and the hamlet it ostensibly serves never had a population over fifty. It exists solely because Beckley, Raleigh County's seat of justice and the area's trading and commercial center, had no direct rail service. The closest approachable point was here, on the Fayette side of the New River, ten curving, downhill miles northeast of the city.

A dapper little frame station served until this streamlined Moderne confection replaced it. The new building was envisioned as a prototype to replace aging depots all along the C&O line, as the railroad launched a post–World War II campaign to attract passengers. The depot, measuring 25 by 125 feet, is faced with machine-cut red brick with limestone trim. Large windows line the long walls of the waiting room, and the roof is a flat, reinforced concrete slab. A 500-foot concrete canopy supported by a single row of columns covers the trackside platform. Each end of the canopy is rounded and topped with Moderne stainless steel lettering spelling out Prince.

Railway Age, which described the building in full in its July 13, 1946, issue, noted that the station “deliberately avoids exterior ornamentation in an effort to achieve a type of structure with more enduring popular appeal.” The interior achieved popular appeal with a large photo mural on one end wall showing railroad cars loaded with coal and with a terrazzo floor containing a circular panel depicting the familiar sleeping cat “Chessie.” Chessie, the C&O's logo from the 1930s through the 1970s, suggested that service was so smooth a passenger could “sleep like a kitten.” The New York Herald Tribune also reported on the station. Except for the original seating, described it in one account as “six streamlined wooden benches … with plastic-fabric back cushions,” which have been replaced by chairs, everything is still there, including Chessie. Closed except when the Cardinal, the Amtrak passenger train, comes through, the Prince Depot is a rare architectural treasure. Although intended to be a seminal building, it was the only one of its type ever constructed.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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