EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifteenth in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON — When rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington bought a mostly vacant stretch of river bottom to be the western terminus of his Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, he ordered the immediate construction of extensive car and locomotive shop facilities, two rows of houses for the railroad's workers and a three-story passenger depot. This vintage postcard, postmarked in 1911, offers a good view of the ornate depot.
The depot was completed and ready for use in 1872, even before the new rail line was finished between Huntington and Richmond, Va. The first train from Richmond, carrying a number of VIPs, arrived in Huntington's new town on Jan. 29, 1873, setting off a wild celebration.
Reporting on the train's arrival, The Whig, a Richmond newspaper, wrote: "Punctual to the hour, the headlights of the engine appeared around the bend and she rushed screaming into the town. The first train from Richmond to Huntington! To say that the occupants of the train were welcomed would be a feeble way of expressing the enthusiastic display. A yell burst forth as they came up to the platform and the passengers were almost dragged out by eager hands."
The C&O's first Huntington depot would welcome passengers for the next 40 years. By 1913, the old depot was showing its age and so the railroad built a new depot of Georgian design, similar to stations it built in some of the other large communities it served. The old depot was then demolished.
For decades, the C&O's passenger trains were part of the daily fabric of life in Huntington. But in the years after World War II, growing competition from the airlines and the nation's new interstate highways wrote an end to railroad passenger service. The last C&O passenger train pulled out of the 1913 depot on April 30, 1971. Today, CSX Transportation, the corporate successor to the old C&O, uses the building to house various offices.