Editor's note: This is the 213th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - Engine 490 was constructed by the American Locomotive Co. in 1926 as one of five "Pacific" locomotives built for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Initially, the five were used by the C&O on its crack passenger trains, including "The Sportsman" and the "George Washington." Later, when the railroad acquired newer locomotives, they were relegated to secondary passenger trains.
Railway passenger traffic boomed during the World War II years. C&O Chairman Robert R. Young was convinced that heavy traffic would continue and so drafted an ambitious plan to upgrade the C&O's passenger service.
It ordered cars for a new luxury train, "The Chessie," to be hauled by a radically new steam-turbine locomotive. A prototype of a new passenger station of modern Art Deco design was built at Prince, West Virginia. Young envisioned that the design would be replicated all along the railroad's route.
At the same time, the C&O's Huntington Shops upgraded the mechanics of the 490 and the other "Pacific" locomotives, which were redesignated as "Hudsons." The old locomotives were encased in new shells that gave them a modern, streamlined look.
But Young had miscalculated badly, With auto sales booming, new highways being built, and the airlines boarding more and more flyers, the C&O's passenger traffic plummeted. The "Chessie" never ran. Many of the new cars ordered for it were diverted to other railroads. The new steam-turbine locomotive proved a dud. No more Art Deco stations were built. And the rebuilt "Hudsons" were used only briefly.
In 1953, Engine 490 became the last passenger steam locomotive to operate in scheduled service on the C&O. It was stored in the Huntington Roundhouse until 1968 when it was moved to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.