Prince Depot

Covered railroad platform with an attached station that says Prince next to railroad tracks with green mountains in the background.
Prince Station, the first passenger depot in New River Gorge.



The opening of Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad mainline in 1873 also opened up New River Gorge to the world. Freight trains began carrying coal out of the gorge to cities across the United States. But there was a need for passenger service. Whether for business, new opportunities, or visits, people began to flock to the area. There were few roads and river travel in most of the gorge was dangerous. The only practical way in or out was by train.

A large crowd of people on a hill outside a train station with a steam locomotive at it. A band playing music is next to the station.
Crowd and band at the Grand Opening of the new Art Deco Prince Station.


The First Station

The town of Prince was an ideal place to build a passenger depot. Its location near many coal mining towns made it the perfect spot. In 1880, the first passenger depot in New River Gorge opened. The depot was very strategic and efficient for both Fayette and Raleigh counties. Soon other passenger depots opened in Quinnimont and Thurmond. Passenger service was booming with thousands arriving in the gorge. In 1891, the C&O enlarged the depot to manage the large volume of passengers and freight. In 1917, the original Prince depot burned down. It was rebuilt the very same year to continue service in the gorge.

As the coal industry began to decline, so did the demand for passenger trains. Prince remained an active station despite the decline. In 1946, the C&O Railway built a new brick station at Prince for $200,000. The unique Art Deco style was unlike many other stations featuring large window walls. On June 26, 1946, the grand opening of the new station had 2,000 people in attendance. A marching band, speeches, and refreshments completed the ceremony.

floor tile design of sleeping kitten's head and paw poking out of a blanket
Chessie's image in the floor at the Prince Station.


Prince Station Today

The Art Deco depot still stands today as an active train station for Amtrak. About 1,200 passengers use the station every year. The Cardinal Line runs every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Passengers can board at Prince and take a train to Chicago or New York City with many stops between. Although travelers cannot buy tickets at the station anymore, the waiting area is still used.

Lucky visitors that visit when the waiting area is open may spot Chessie in the floor tiles. Created in 1933, Chessie is the kitten mascot of the C&O Railway. She first appeared in a C&O passenger service ad with the slogan "Sleep Like a Kitten". Chessie became the darling of millions of people and is still loved today.


More Places in New River Gorge

  • A cement railroad tunnel through a rocky mountainside

    Learn about the town of Prince, one of the few towns never owned by a coal company in New River Gorge.

  • historic photo of people in a store
    Prince Brothers Store

    Discover the story of what early newspapers called "the most important store in the county".

  • A yellow wooden building next to two railroad tracks

    Learn about the historic railroad town of Thurmond, one of the few towns in New River Gorge that was not a mining town.

Last updated: August 24, 2023

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