Editor's Note: This is the 304th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - Early steam locomotives normally traveled forward only. Although reverse operations capabilities were soon built into locomotive mechanisms, the controls were normally optimized for forward travel, and the locomotives often could not operate as well in reverse.
Turntables allowed locomotives or other rolling stock to be turned around for the return journey, and roundhouses, designed to radiate around the turntables, were built where locomotives could be stored and serviced.
Today's diesel locomotives run equally well in either direction, so turntables and roundhouses are no longer needed. A few are still standing, but most have been demolished. That was the fate of the old roundhouse at CSX's Huntington Shops.
When rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington, then president of the Chesapeake & Ohio, built his new town on the banks of the Ohio River, he hired noted Boston civil engineer Rufus Cook to draw up a town plan so lots could be offered for sale to new businesses and residents. Cook's plan reserved part of the land for the C&O for the construction of right of way, passenger and freight depots, extensive machines and car shops and, understandably, a roundhouse.
"From the very sketchy data available, it appears the first roundhouse at the Huntington Shops was completed in 1873," said Thomas W. Dixon Jr., founder, chairman and president emeritus of the C&O Historical Society (COHS). "A new building was built, it seems, in 1883, enlarged in 1905 and enlarged again in 1929, when the Huntington Shops were virtually rebuilt."
With the coming of diesel locomotives, the old roundhouse no longer served any purpose and was demolished.
The COHS archives include no information on the exact date of its demolition, Dixon said.