Editor’s Note: This is the 331st in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — Many people looking at the accompanying photograph will immediately recognize it as Heritage Station, long a local landmark. A close look at the photo reveals a sign on the structure identifying it as the Ohio River Railroad Passenger Station. The building behind it is the railroad’s freight depot.
The story of the Ohio River Railroad is an all-but-forgotten chapter in Huntington’s history. Looking back, it seems inevitable that a railroad would be built that followed the Ohio River as it borders West Virginia. A group of Wheeling businessmen set out to build such a railroad, chartering it in 1881 as the Wheeling, Parkersburg and Charleston Railroad.
A year later, the charter was changed and it was renamed the Ohio River Railroad (ORRR).
In 1883, construction gangs began work on the new railroad, pushing its track down the river. The ORRR reached Parkersburg in 1884, Point Pleasant in 1886 and Guyandotte in 1888. From there, its trains traveled over the tracks of the Chesapeake and Ohio for the three-mile trip into Huntington.
Four years later, in 1892, the ORRR took over the locally developed Huntington & Big Sandy Railroad. By buying the small local railroad, the ORRR acquired track that ran from Guyandotte to Huntington and then on to Kenova.
In 1890, the Big Sandy had built a handsome two-story passenger station and freight depot in Huntington. These became the property of the ORRR. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad took over the ORRR in 1912, and the B&O became affiliated with the C&O Railroad in 1962. The old ORRR station — known for most of its life as the B&O depot — was no longer needed and so was closed in 1965.
Saved from the wrecking ball, the old passenger station and freight depot were fashioned into Heritage Village in 1978.
The former passenger station is now home to the Cabell-Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau while the freight depot houses a variety of shops and businesses.