Deepwater, WV

Deepwater Bridge (DB) Tower. This was the western end of the Virginian Ry. New York Central line from Columbus, OH to Gauley Bridge, WV is to the left. Track next to building leads to the former VGN mainline which crosses the Kanawha River beyond the searchlight signal in the background. 

Deepwater was a fascinating place to photograph trains. Three different railroads met in this small Kanawha Valley community approximately 32 miles east of Charleston. The main line of the Cheaspeake & Ohio and a branch of the New York Central paralleled the Kanawha River on each side in this area while the former Virginian main line from Norfolk, VA crossed over the C&O and joined the NYC on the other side of the Kanawha from Deepwater. This became the western end of the VGN after 1931 when the bridge over the Kanawha was built.

The VGN had trackage rights from Deepwater Bridge (DB) Tower over the NYC to Dickinson Yard which is located approximately 15 miles east of Charleston. These trackage rights existed in the days of VGN passenger service when trains ran to Charleston. However it was cut back to Dickinson Yard when passenger service ended in the 1950’s.

When I became old enough to go out on my own to photograph trains, the VGN had been merged into the Norfolk and Western for about 8 years. The N&W continued operating VGN Time Freights 71 and 72 between Dickinson Yard and DB Tower but they were on borrowed time. Also the New York Central was in its last days before being merged with the Pennsylvania RR to form the ill-fated Penn Central Transportation Co. The C&O was the only railroad that was pretty much unchanged even though it had acquired control of the B&O in 1963.

By 1976, Penn Central and other bankrupt northeastern railroads were conveyed to Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), and by 1999, CR was split between NS and CSXT. The Conrail (NYC) West Virginia Secondary went to NS. Then in 2016, NS leased most of the Secondary and also the former Princeton-Deepwater District  of NS (VGN) from Deepwater to Maben, WV to the Kanawha River Railroad, LLC, a subsidiary of WATCO. I hope you enjoy the photos.

N&W Time Freight 72 chugging through crossover from the NYC to the lead track to the bridge over the Kanawha River. The lead track to the left went to the Union Carbide Metals plant located at Alloy about 0.5 miles from this point. 

Train 72 lead by Alco C628 #1122 heading across the Kanawha River and eventually over the C&O on the opposite side of the river. 

Rear of Train 72 with caboose 530322 ex-VGN 322. This is a rare sight now days.

Rear of Train 72. The Kanawha River at this point is unnavigable for barge traffic. The starting point for navigation is approximately a few hundred feet downstream to the right of the picture. 

East end of the Kanawha River bridge with the C&O running underneath. View is looking west toward Charleston.  The Virginian name is still highly visible 8 years after the merger of the VGN into the N&W.

Eastbound C&O coal drag headed by GP-9 6252 and 4 sister geeps. The sound of these 5 locomotives working together was quite awesome.

St Route 61 underpass looking west toward Charleston. This is a separate structure from the Kanawha River crossing. There is about 80 ft of fill between both bridges. Deepwater Tunnel is to the left out of the picture.

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  1. Great blog and great post on Deepwater — as many times as I’ve driven through there I never knew this much about the tracks there. You have a great collection of photos and are such a storehouse of information — you really should publish a book.

  2. Make sure you entered the link correctly. I just tried it, and it works for me.

  3. I just viewed it from my android and iPhone, and they both worked fine. It may be a problem with either your phone’s browser or browser settings.

  4. Doug,

    Found this page (and the page on Page) while trying to collect info to design a model track plan for the Page/Deepwater area for my Appalachian Railroad Modeling site. Great photos and info–thank you for sharing! I was wondering if you knew what loaders were active between Page and Deepwater in the ’60s-’70s. I know there was the Beards Fork Branch, but in Virginian Rails, Kurt Reisweber implies there was a loader at Page and mentions a loader at Alloy–wouldn’t that put it on NYC trackage?

    Also, he talks about NS crews backing trains all the way from Page to DB Tower to work the NYC/Conrail interchange yard or turning their trains using the C&O interchange tracks at Vaco. How did the NW trains you observed work DB Tower? Thanks again!

    • Thanks Dan for your comments. I don’t think there were any other active loaders in the 1960’s-70’s except on Beards Fork Branch but I am not sure it was active during my railfanning years. There is a loader that was built within the last 10 years at Page.

      While is true Alloy was on the NYC, the VGN also owned trackage to the Union Carbide Alloy plant.

      After Time Freights #71 and #72 were discontinued in 1968, the operation between Mullens and Deepwater was more of a long switching move. This is described in detail in Reisweber’s book which I also have a copy. I don’t think the N&W would have made a reverse move for the 8 miles between Page and Deepwater. There were several highway crossings in that segment plus the curvature was so severe in places near Vaco Jct that it could cause a derailment. I believe the backing of the trains was from Vaco Jct to DB Tower. The times I was at DB Tower there was no switching going on so I can’t answer your last question authoritatively.

      • Thanks, Doug, that helps. Between the interchanges, Union Carbide, and the number of moves needed to turn trains to work DB Tower, I believe Deepwater has the makings of a great switching layout.

  5. These pictures of Alloy and Deepwater really take me back to a time of my life when all was right. My father was the Trainmaster on the Princeton-Deepwater district from 1985 to 2001. I learned how to run a train coming in and out from Alloy to Elmore at the young age of 11 from such greats as Bobby Graham and Wayne Shrewsbury. From the question above they would plan empty swaps with Conrail and Conrail would have power and a crew at Alloy to take over the westbound interchange after the NS crew would cut away and duck into the Hill or River track on the plant side. on the load side Conrail would call the yardmaster at Elmore and tell them they were departing the mine at Terry Eagle etc… and NS would put a crew on duty to run light to Alloy to fetch the loads off Conrail. first setting the pusher power over to the stub track at the time and then draging out the loads to double to the pusher power. This was pre 1999. if you have any other questions post 1999 please fell free to ask. Spent a lot of time at Alloy and the Deepwater side with dad during this time.

    • That was quite an exciting experience for an 11 year old. Thanks for describing the operations at Alloy and Deepwater. The grade from Deepwater to Oak Hill Jct is steeper than it looks. Also up until NS acquired its part of Conrail, the Elmore – Deepwater segment was operated only as necessary. Shortly after CSXT and NS announced they were splitting Conrail, the line was upgraded with welded rail. For a number of years I was afraid the line was going to be abandoned.

  6. Doug,

    Did you happen to take any pictures of a loaded NS U91 train coming out of Alloy around the first part of 1996 with solid ConRail loads and NS 8573 leading?

  7. Your photos of Deepwater and the Virginian brought back many memories. I was born there in 1950 and my father Bob Helton worked as agent operator at the depot there. I knew several people who worked there. Zeke Turley, Bill Hazelwood, Julian Hamm etc. unfortuately they are deceased. My father is 84 and is still living. We lived near the rr station and I enjoyed watching the trains come and go. If I recall correctly coal drags were in the morning and freight trains went by in the evening. It was a great time and I am stilla huge rr fan. My grandfather was a Section Forman on the C&O as well so I come from a railroading family.

    • Darrell,

      Thanks for your nice comments. I assume you mean the depot on the C&O side of the river. I’m glad your father is still living. Hopefully he can share his railroading stories experiences with you if he hasn’t done so.

    • Mr. Helton. My name is Sarah Dunbar and I am researching my ancestry.My grandmother Almeda Cruse was supposed to have died at the train station near Deepwater.She was very ill and was waiting for a train while trying to get to a doctor. I am curious if you had heard any stories, from your father or possible others,of a incident similar to this? Also I would love to get as much information regarding Deepwater. It is my understanding that during the 1920s the trail was used by locals for transportation. My Mother and Father have passed but it would be nice to have what ever you could give. It doesn’t have to be lengthy.I hope you are able to receive this. Thank you for any information you may contribute to my research.
      Sarah Dunbar

    • Darrell my name is Bobby Atha. My grandparents ran the store across for your house. My dad was Bob. Do you have any pictures of the old Deepwater?

  8. Doug,

    Back before the NW and NS moved all operations to Elmore. Did crews live in Page/Deepwater area and if so after operations ended what happened to these employees, did they move to Mullens?

    • I haven’t been on my blog in a while so I apologize for not replying earlier. The crews did live in Page like my grandfather did but I don’t believe they lived in Deepwater. Any switching done in Deepwater was done by the Page crews.

  9. Mr Bess, recently I have been on a quest of my ancestry and am researching my grandmothers history. She died in Jan.1921.When I was a child I was told a story that my grandmother tragically died at a train station while trying to reach the doctor. I recently found her death certificate and found she died at Deepwater, WV. I of coarse tried to locate the station and your photos on came up. My question is do you know if any of your pictures are of the station at or near Deepwater. It would be interesting to add to my summary. Also if so is it in the condition it would have been in 1921? Thank you for your time and the wonderful photos that allows me to go back in her time. Any additional information about that area during 1921 would be helpful if you have it.
    S Dunbar

    • Sarah,

      I’m sorry but I do not have any information on this incident at Deepwater but I am going to forward your comments to a man who is a historian of the area. Hopefully he might have some information. I do know there was a depot at Deepwater on the C&O where the Virginian Railway originally terminated and another at West Deepwater on the VGN but it did not exist until the bridge over the Kanawha River was built in 1931.

      My website has not been available until today which is why I have not responded until now.


      • Sarah

        I checked with the man I mentioned that is a historian of the area and he said that he had not heard nor does he have any information on your grandmother’s incident. I suggest you might check area newspaper archives or possibly records at the Fayette County Courthouse in Fayetteville, WV.


  10. Doug,
    First off, great site, on all railroads in this region, one that I’ve railfanned many times when I lived in Ohio. I have a request for you.
    I am modeling the NYC/PC “Hitop Branch” based on the MR project railroad of last year “The Virginian”. I have a FB page based on building and operation of my layout, and have some other historical info on the page, that I have been granted permission to use. Thus my request. I have just built a kit that resembles DB Tower, and your photo of the structure above, and just placed it on the layout. I would like to use your photo if permitted on my FB group page which is a closed group to show the actual tower, plus use the photo with credit of course given to you on Model Railroader’s forum thread called “The Virginian Build Thread” again, to show the similarities between the actual station and kit. Thanks, and keep posting! Everything has been very informative and interesting so far….:)
    One other request. Do you have any info and/or photos on which train symbols ran on the secondary, especially from Dickinson yard to Charleston, and any photos from the Hitop branch itself? I have a few already (recent pics) of the branch from a friend who lives in Nitro. Thanks!

  11. Doug,

    Thank you for the time you put into helping me.
    I will continue my search and will take your advice on the newspaper search.

    Sarah C.Dunbar

  12. Dwayne Bartley

    Wow, great site, brings back lots of memories.

    My grandfather Charles Bartley Sr. was born at Mt. Carbon. His first job was C&O yard clerk at Deepwater. After working as a signal helper & ass’t maintainer at Ronceverte, he took a job braking on the VGN at Princeton. In 1916 he went to Dickinson on the (then) K&M, later NYC.

    My father Charles Bartley Jr. was also a NYC conductor at Dickinson. He and my grandfather worked many many trips on the time freights, initially pulled by VGN’s US Mallets. My father died in 2013; he was a wealth of info on VGN and NYC operations in the area. I remember him mentioning at least 2 of the time freight symbols (at least in the old days)–CN-2 and NT-5.

    My grandfather’s brother-in-law was George Matheny, a C&O signal maintainer who built the brick home just east of the VGN bridge (at the photographer’s right in the image looking west at the VGN bridge/C&O mainline). My grandfather’s other brother-in-law was Bill Daniels, C&O operator at Deepwater. His wife was Sallie Daniels, postmistress at Deepwater for years. They lived in upper Deepwater, near where the water plant is now.

    Thanks for your work, great site.

    • Thank you Dwayne for sharing this wonderful heritage. It is interesting to note that my maternal grandmother Frankie Folsom Jett was postmistress at Boomer at one time. If you have more details of your father and grandfather please feel free to share. I will post it on the website.

    • Dwayne
      I’m Bobby Atha, I was raised on the mountain above Sallie Daniel. I remember her from when I was very young. Any pictures pertaining to early Deepwater would be appreciated

  13. Dwayne Bartley


    Sorry I hadn’t checked in on this site for a while. I don’t remember any pictures from Deepwater but if we’d come across any I’ll definitely post a note here.

  14. Hi, I was wondering if the railroad tracks are still active through the little town of Deepwater, WV. Thank You.

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