The story of Deepwater….

Here begins the story of Deepwater, West Virginia. Located in Fayette County, the most recent census shows a population of 280. There are several stories as to how Deepwater derived its name. One story goes that this is the last navigable spot on the Kanawha River, with Kanawha Falls being just upstream. Another story is that the spot was named by Squire James G Kincaid and other locals on a rainy day in 1871 as a remark to the standing water outside the new post office along Loup Creek.

Deepwater is also known as the starting point of the Deepwater Railway, founded in 1898 by William Page, (of which Page, West Virginia is named), which later became part of the Virginian Railway. Thus Deepwater eventually became the far western end of the Virginian, a railway built specifically to funnel coal to the docks at Norfolk, Virginia. In the early 1930’s the long, impressive span was built by the Virginian over the Kanawha River at Deepwater, to connect to the New York Central, running up the length of the valley to Charleston.

In addition, until December 2, 1933, the Virginian Railway ran a daily passenger train from Princeton to Mullens, Pemberton, Raleigh “Y” and Beckley. The return trip ran Beckley to Pemberton, then to Fireco and back to Pemberton, then on through Sophia and Amigo to Mullens. On September 8, 1933, the eastbound trip suffered a collision at Amigo which resulted in the death of the engineer. After discontinuance of the Pemberton to Beckley leg, this train continued to operate from Mullens to Fireco until December 21, 1940. It also served the Wyco and Winding Gulf branches. Until 1937 it connected with a mixed train from Princewick to Amigo. In earlier years, as many as three round trips per day ran the Mullens to Fireco line. Service wilted with the coming of paved roads and the vigorous competition of the Consolidated Bus Lines.

The last regularly scheduled passenger train through Raleigh County ran on the Virginian Railway between Roanoke and Charleston. This train, #’s 3-4, entered Raleigh County near Hotchkiss, ran through Slab Fork, Lester, Surveyor, Eccles, Harper, Cirtsville and into Fayette County near Pax. Through train service began on the Virginian in 1909. It was discontinued incrementally as follows:

1) Ran Roanoke to Charleston until January 25, 1952.
2) Ran Roanoke to Deepwater Bridge, West Virginia until June 20, 1952.
3) Ran Roanoke to Page, West Virginia until December 31, 1954.
4) Ran from the West Virginia state line near Oney’s Gap in Mercer County to Page in Fayette County, West Virginia until July 11, 1955.

Prior to the completion of the Deepwater Bridge over the Kanawha River, cars from this train ran via C. & O. trains #33-34 from Deepwater to Huntington, West Virginia and/or Ashland, Kentucky. Beginning on March 16, 1931 this train was rerouted via Deepwater Bridge and the Ohio Central Division of the New York Central to Charleston. This train carried a club car with parlor seating, a diner, and an observation car until the early 1930’s. Train #3 wrecked at Lester, killing the fireman, on December 13, 1935. A companion train, #5-6 ran from Princeton to Deepwater, and for a short time to Charleston, from the early 1920’s until its discontinuance about 1932.

Some of these trains carried Railway Post Office cars which provided for the sorting and handling of mail. The postmarks used for the C&O trains were “Quinnimont & Lester R.P.O.”, for the Virginian on the Winding Gulf was “Fireco & Mullens R.P.O.” and on the mainline of the Virginian was “Roanoke & Charleston R.P.O.” All of these trains were powered by steam locomotives until their last runs.

Run through agreements were also in place between the Virginian and NYC for traffic flowing through Deepwater up to Dickinson yard, about 15-17 miles downstream from Charleston. Pooled crews and locomotives ran through in both directions, with NYC crews and locos running through to either Elmore or Mullens. This arrangement lasted until the late 1960’s, ending through service on this part of the Virginian/N&W. Time freights 71 and 72 ran over this line from Dickinson to Norfolk. I also have listed freights CN-2 and NT-5 which ran through to Elmore.

In place at this NYC/Virginian connection was DB Tower. In actuality not a tower at all, but a block station, DB was as I understand named for “Deepwater Bridge”, the “tower” sitting just west off the end of the bridge, right at the connection onto the NYC. The tower (as shown on the prototype photos page in a photo by friend Doug Bess, sported a train order semaphore). A lead took the Virginian/N&W over to the NYC, while another track at the tower went into the huge Electro-Met plant of Union Carbide, located in Alloy. This plant was a substantial source of traffic for both NYC and later Penn Central, despite N&W competition. The tower alas is long gone, but current owner Norfolk Southern still swings coal drags off the Kanawha River bridge and up what is now the West Virginia Secondary.

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