You could easily consider Prince, West Virginia to be just another tiny community along railroad tracks in between some Appalachian hills — if not for its one claim to fame. Prince has a train station, and because it’s the closest station to Beckley on Amtrak’s Cardinal Line, it actually serves a few thousand passengers a year. That train station alone is a good enough reason to make a brief stop in Prince.
Prince, West Virginia is located on WV Route 41, better known locally as Stanaford Road. From Beckley, turn off of US 19 onto WV 41 and head east about 10 miles.
It’s worth noting, even though Prince is only about two miles from Grandview Park, getting from one point to the other requires a 22 mile drive through Beckley. Prince is at the bottom of the hill, Grandview is at the top, and there is no road that directly connects the two.
Perhaps the last thing you’d expect to find along a desolate two-lane road in the middle of the hills is a train station that’s actually a thing of beauty. But just like the name suggests, the Prince, West Virginia train station is a royal beauty. It isn’t big, and it certainly isn’t well-maintained, but it does demand respect from anyone who appreciates early to mid-century architecture.
Prince’s train station was built in 1946, replacing earlier facilities that dated back to the 1880’s. I can’t imagine what it was like to roll into southern West Virginia in the 1940’s, but stepping off at this station certainly must have been a highlight of the trip.
The station itself is small and quite narrow (only 22 feet wide — narrower than most double-wide trailers), with square window panels on both sides of the waiting area.
Prince, West Virginia’s Amtrak Station
The platform has a concrete-roofed shelter…
… that’s stylishly rounded at both ends, with the town’s name in three-dimensional letters. Time and neglect has allowed the “I” to become italicized, but hopefully, that’s as far as it goes.
It won’t take long before you see a CSX train rumble through here. There are plenty of them, still hauling coal out of the Mountain State. Amtrak trains are less frequent — the Cardinal Line stops here three times per week, in each direction, on its journey between Chicago and New York City.
Before it was a CSX line, it was the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. A gleaming porcelain C and O sign still adorns the highway side of the depot…
… and if you peer through those windows, you can see Chessie the cat in the middle of the floor. Chessie was introduced in 1933, in an ad campaign that promised C&O train passengers would “sleep like a kitten”. Chessie endured as a symbol of the rail line until the Chessie System merged with other railroads to become CSX in 1986.
If you’d like to step inside the station, your best bet is to arrive around the same time as an Amtrak train. Westbound trains arrive Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:31 p.m. Eastbound trails arrive on those same days at 9:53 a.m.
Across the street from the train station, there’s a mysterious Coca-Cola sign that’s been there as long as I can remember. It seems to advertise some kind of convenience store, but some other letters are faintly visible underneath, saying “Westmoreland Coal Company, Store 58, Maben”. (Maben is a community about 30 miles away.) I’m guessing it was there before it was here. But whatever nearby building it used to advertise has been overtaken by the West Virginia wilderness.
Here’s a look at the drive from Prince to Grandview:
The Bottom Line
The drive down to Prince can be a starting point for a leisurely drive through the mountains and tiny coal-towns of southern West Virginia. Is it worth a drive from Beckley just to see the train station? Probably not. But if you’re passing by, you should stop and check it out.