Trainmaster’s House History

Although Chesapeake & Ohio rails first reached what is now Kenova, (which takes its name from the juncture of “KEN”tucky, “O”hio and West “V”irgini”A,”) in 1879, it did not burgeon as a rail center until Norfolk & Western completed its Ohio Extension in 1892.  A Baltimore & Ohio branch line, which extended down from Pittsburgh/Wheeling, also terminated in the town.

However and early on, the N&W emerged as the dominant local transportation player.  Serving as a spawning point that converted the fledgling rail company from a sleepy, Confederate agrarian road into a major Atlantic-Midwest trunk route and Great “Pocahontas Coal Carrier,” the town – sporting a roundhouse, yards, running-repair car shops and division offices headquartered in the 1894-constructed Union Station –  further burgeoned when the Big Sandy Low Grade Line was opened to traffic in late 1904.

Down through the years, approximately 30 passenger trains (not to mention a multitude of freights) a day—from four railroads called or originated/terminated at the bi-level Union Station, at a point where more coal traditionally passes over than any other place in the world!  Anchoring the venue is the 3,886-foot-long Ohio River Bridge and approach viaduct that was said to be among the top 10 targets of the Germans during WWII.

From 1918 to at least 1954, two N&W assistant trainmasters, Dick Nelson and William Workman (Mrs. Workman was responsible for having the concrete fish pond constructed in the back yard), resided in the rambling four-square dwelling. Thus the catchy name of the elegant B&B that still provides old-fashioned, southern-style hospitality today.

Postcard images by Griffith & Feil Drugs, Kenova WV.  Sunset photo courtesy Chase Gunnoe.