Princeton Railroad Museum

With the addition of the Lonnie Cunter, Jr. Center for Culture & History, the city of Princeton is firmly establishing a Museum District for tourists and residents alike to share in the region’s history.

PRINCETON — On Saturday, October 8, the Princeton Railroad Museum will celebrate the 16th anniversary of its opening, albeit in a different way than first planned.

PRM Director Pat Smith said on Monday that concerns about the chilly weather forced the museum to cancel a planned street dance on Mercer Street next to the museum.

“We’ll have a birthday party in the museum with free birthday cake and drinks from 11-4,” she said. “We’ve changed the street dance to be included on the July 4, 2023 celebrations,” she continued.

The events which led to the establishment of the museum at 99 Mercer Street started in 1907, she said. That year, the Deepwater Railway and the Tidewater Railway merged to form the Virginian Railway.

The Virginian was designed by railroad engineer William Nelson Page and financed by Standard Oil Company executive Henry Huddleston Rogers almost exclusively from his own fortune.

It was designed to cross rivers and go through mountains to provide the most direct route possible from Sewell’s Point at Norfolk, Va., to Deepwater, W.Va.

The Virginian operated from 1909 to November 1959 when it merged with the Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern) Railroad.

For its entire existence, the Virginian followed Rogers’ philosophy and was profitable, earning the nickname “The Richest Little Railroad in the World”. It was known for having some of the largest, most powerful steam, electric and diesel locomotives.

The PRM stands on the former site of the Virginian Train Station, which served as a gateway for people and freight into Princeton from 1909 until its demolition in 1979.

Years later, NS donated the site of the depot to the City of Princeton after negotiations. The late Doug Freeman, Princeton’s City Manager at the time , enlisted the aid of Congressman Nick Rahall to obtain federal funding to pay for the majority of the construction of the museum which was designed by local architect Todd Boggess following the train station’s original blueprints.

Other funding and donations came from individuals and community organizations.

The old REA Express building was salvaged and relocated through the efforts of Frank Nash and the Mercer County Farm Bureau. It now serves as the Agricultural Museum.

A Virginian Railway caboose which was donated to the City by NS was repainted and repaired by the museum. It was one of 25 cabooses built in 1948-49 by the St. Louis Car Company.

The museum was opened on Oct. 8, 2006. It contains artifacts, photos and art from both the Virginian and N & W railroads.

— Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com,

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