Duffields Depot, Shenandoah Junction West Virginia

Date added: October 24, 2022 Categories: West Virginia Train Station

The B&O Railroad, the first class one, common-carrier railroad in the then-young United States, was incorporated under Maryland State charter in 1827, and began construction westward from Baltimore, Maryland in 1828, when the first stone was laid on July 4. The goal of the company was to reach the Ohio River, to bring the commerce of that region to Baltimore City and its port, and to carry goods and commodities as well as passengers inland to the Ohio River region, and beyond (the B&O reached Pittsburg-as it was then spelled--Pennsylvania in 1871, Chicago in 1875).

By 1836 the B&O had reached Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Between 1836 and 1842, the portion of the railroad between that location and Cumberland, Maryland on the upper Potomac River was under construction. During this early period, the B&O found it financially expedient, whenever and wherever possible, to use existing structures like inns and hotels as station stops by mutual agreement with the owners, or to make contractual arrangements with adjacent landowners like Richard Duffield, for provision of suitable depot facilities for freight and passengers.

It was during this time that the B&O paid Duffield $2500 as compensation for the portion of his land used for the railroad's double-track right-of-way. With the money, Duffield constructed the extant stone-and-wood structure, which served as both a house for the B&O station master (the stone portion), and as a storage depot for incoming and outgoing goods and commodities (the wooden portion, on the western end of the structure).

In addition to the depot, a rectangular water tank was also located on the property close to the tracks to provide water for the steam locomotives, and there was also an elevator building adjacent, where grain was stored for shipment (both of these structures are long gone, only foundation stones remain). A small stream nearby along the B&O right-of-way, Elk Run, a tributary of the Potomac River, supplied water.

When completed in 1839 Duffields Depot was one of five station stops located between Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, Virginia (as it then was). Baltimore to Martinsburg was the first Division of the B&O, a hundred miles of travel on the line, which was then considered a day's work for a typical railroad operating crew of conductor, baggage porter, engineer, and brakeman.

The B&O reached its original goal, the Ohio River, at Wheeling, Virginia on Christmas Eve, 1852 (the formal opening of the line to Wheeling occurred on January 1, 1853, with a special train and ceremonies in Wheeling). Later, after the Civil War, the B&O was able to afford to build and man its own company-owned facilities, and thus the privately-owned Duffields Depot, and similar depots, were replaced with newer stations, designed mostly by the B&O house architect, E. Francis Baldwin of Baltimore.

Duffields, West Virginia received such a structure, a small Victorian station located to the West of the 1839 station, and on the other side of the tracks (about where the MCI compound is located today, within the present bounds of the MARC commuter station facility opened for commuters in 1986); that 1883-1884 vintage station was apparently razed in 1942 when Duffields disappears from the B&O schedules as a regular station stop, reverting to flag-stop status.

Duffields Depot is purported to be the second oldest extant B&O Railroad Depot, after the B&O Depot in Ellicott City, Maryland, built in 1829-30.

From 1839 to 1883 Duffields Depot served local farmers and railroad passengers on a daily basis. Grain and other agricultural produce was shipped from Duffields, and goods and commodities were received and shipped at the station, along with passengers arriving and departing on the regularly-scheduled B&O trains along the B&O mainline. In addition, the B&O carried coal, iron ore, and other commodities. Trains became larger, longer, and heavier and locomotives steadily more powerful as improvements in technology were made throughout the nineteenth century.

When the B&O reached Wheeling, shippers were able to obtain a freight rate of $5/ton for a shipment to or from Baltimore, a vast improvement over the $100/ton rate prevailing on the competing National Road, where both goods and passengers traveled more slowly by horse-drawn conveyances at an average speed of about 5 to 10 miles per hour, versus an average speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour on the railroad. Traveling west from Baltimore, Wheeling was an overnight train ride for passengers from 1853 onward. As the railroad advanced, stage-coach lines terminated their services at the newest railroad junction, as most passengers wanted to ride the faster, larger, more comfortable train cars, the latest technology.

During the Civil War, the B&O was an essential lifeline of communication and shipment for the Union Army, for Washington, DC, and for the northern states in general. Other railroads like the Pennsylvania and New York Central to the north competed with the B&O for commerce and passengers to and from the Midwest. The B&O rail line was very heavily damaged during the war years by frequent and often devastating Confederate raids all along the line (damage was quickly repaired in almost all cases).

One such raid was the infamous Greenback Raid on October 14, 1864, when Colonel John Singleton Mosby and his rangers cut the B&O tracks just west of the Duffields Depot. When the train derailed they took 20 prisoners and 15 horses. Among the prisoners were two paymasters with over $150,000 in Government funds. Four months earlier, on June 29, he attacked the actual depot and took fifty prisoners, including two lieutenants, before being forced to retreat by federal troops.

Union Army forces guarded the B&O line all during the war, and Duffields Depot was a key point of provisioning and resupply for the Union forces in the area of what became the eastern panhandle of the new state of West Virginia (whose establishment--and removal from the State of Virginia--was engineered by John Work Garrett, the B&O Railroad's President from 1858 to his death on 1884).

Many Union regiments and detachments were stationed at and around Duffields Depot during the Civil War, among them the 10th Maine regiment; the Sixth Virginia Cavalry (100 men); two companies of the First Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Volunteers; the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and other units.

Since its construction in 1839 the depot passed through the hands of a succession of private owners; at no time was the depot or the land it is built on owned either by the B&O Railroad Company, or by its successor, CSX Corporation.

Building Description

The Duffields Depot is located in the Northeastern Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia approximately five miles west of the Potomac River and the Blue Ridge Mountains in a rural part of central Jefferson County. The depot sits on a 0.35-acre ell-shaped lot and is bounded on the south side by the original main line of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad tracks and Elk Branch. The north facade fronts on Melvin Road (historically the Uvilla-Duffields Road), a two-lane, paved country road. The rural vernacular limestone bank building and its later wood frame addition suffers from years of neglect and is in fair to poor condition. Two buildings stand just east of the depot, one a Works Progress Administration (WPA) outhouse and the other a small shed built of stacked railroad ties. There are also the remnants of several other collapsed outbuildings and pens. The depot building is dominated on the north side by a large and impressive silver maple but the rest of the parcel has become overgrown with dense brush and small, invasive Ailanthus altissima trees (tree-of-heaven).

The Duffields Depot is a simple rectangular, gable-roofed building consisting of a one-and-one-half-story stone section plus a basement to the east and a one-and-one-half-story wooden addition to the west. The limestone bank building was constructed in a vernacular style common to the Shenandoah Valley. It was built into a rise located about 100 feet north of Elk Branch thereby according easy access to a water supply and direct access to the basement level from the south. The first floor is accessible from the north facade which is at grade at the top of the rise. Whether by natural silting or else by the railroad's deliberate elevation of the adjacent track bed, the current grade allows access to the first floor from the south facade as well. The basement has become a catch with no outlet and is now silted up to within two feet of the first-floor joists. The stone portion is two bays wide facing the railroad tracks and on the side facing the road, with windows in both eastern bays and doors in both western bays. The large interior chimney on the east gable end houses two flues that accommodate the two first-floor fireplaces. A single door opening directly below the chimney accesses the first floor's north room, and two small windows flank the gable chimney. The stone walls are 18 inches thick, built of rough-dressed local limestone and are laid up in irregular coursing.

The wooden addition on the west is a straightforward extension of the stone wings' walls and roofline and was built with sawn timbers and sided with horizontal clapboard, but without a basement.

The entire building is sheltered by a simple, moderate-pitch gable roof with narrow overhanging eaves covered with tin standing seam and steel panel roofing. Missing roof panels have contributed significantly to the rapid deterioration of the building. Damage is much worse over the wood section of the building.

The track-side facade (south elevation) when it was originally built would have presented itself as a two-bay, two-story stone building with a two-bay, one-and-one-half-story frame addition. The first east bay in the stone basement level has a wide doorway with no existing door. Directly above, on what would be the first floor, are the remains of a six-over-six, double-hung window. The second bay to the west has a door that historically would have had to have had a porch and stairs to reach the ground level, but which today, due to back filling or silting, is at grade. Directly below this door is a window opening. Its frame reveals that it originally had only vertical bars. The two bays of the frame portion are symmetrically arranged, having two six-over-six, double-hung windows on the first floor, and two six-light casement windows directly above. A 12-foot wide shed roof slopes off the wood gable end from the height of the eaves and is clad in rough vertical wood boards.

The stone gable end (east elevation), is dominated by a brick-topped interior chimney flanked by two small window openings that are missing their sashes. There is a shadow of a pre-existing, shorter and narrower, telescoping gable-roofed addition. A doorway was cut into the center of this wall to accommodate access to the north room of the first floor from the addition. There is no door there at this time.

The road-front facade (north elevation) presents itself as a four-bay facade. From east to west, stone to frame, left to right, there is a six-over-six, double-hung window, below which is a window opening to the basement level. The basement window is missing its sash, the outside lintel has rotted, and the stonework above has a slight sag. The next bay west has a replacement four-panel door with the two upper wood panels removed and refit with glass. Above the door is a narrow, single-pane transom inserted to retrofit this shorter, replacement door. The door is sheltered by a partially collapsed, dropped-shed roof supported by simple square posts. Directly below the door, but completely hidden under the existing porch is another window opening into the basement. The porch continues across the entire length of the wood portion but has been fully enclosed. A doorway opens onto this enclosed porch. Two six-pane casement windows are above the porch.

The wood gable end (west elevation), has two, two-over-two, double-hung windows on the top floor. Directly below the windows and at an even height with the eaves a shed roof covers a late addition which appears to have been used as a garage or a workshop. This shed roof addition is sided with vertical boards and is roofed with steel panels.

The interior of Duffields Depot appears to retain its historic floor plan on the first and attic level of the stone portion. Much of the historic building materials and trim work are still intact. The wooden frame portion is possibly of a later period. The trim work is much simpler in character, and the first-floor area appears to have been reworked with materials such as gypsum wallboard on walls and ceilings. Both portions have had losses of building materials. Most notably, the flat plaster has given way from the lathing of the walls and ceilings in several areas. Some window sashes are entirely missing, while others suffer from missing or damaged muntins and broken panes. Several doors are also missing from their frames, but a few orphan doors remain within the building so it is possible their rightful places might once again be found. Regarding the interior finishes, details, and decorative treatments, the stone portion has a number of surviving and most likely original elements. The walls and ceiling surfaces have a plaster-on-lath finish with varying layers of wallpaper and/or paint as the final decorative surface. The floor, where visible beneath various discarded items, is covered with modern linoleum and presumably has a wooden board surface underneath.

The stone portion's first-floor interior appears to have been originally two rooms deep with the dividing plank, lathe and plaster wall running more or less parallel and in line with the roof ridgeline, dividing the first floor into two relatively long narrow rooms. The stone portion's attic floor has one large finished space with short knee walls under the eaves. There are also several small storage areas, accessed by a narrow enclosed stairway and hall arrangement on the upper level. The basement level of the stone portion was not accessible due to the silting described above, but it appears to be essentially one room.

The south, track-side room of the stone portion is the fanciest architecturally appointed room of the depot. The eastern wall has a fireplace and mantle with flanking built-in cupboards. The mantle has a shelf over a wide board and is born on squared pilasters with molded trim work (the right pilaster is missing). The doors to the flanking cupboards are tall and narrow with two raised panels in each single door. There is a six over six double hung window set in a deep recess on the south wall On the same wall, the exterior door leading to trackside appears to have been altered with the two upper sets of panels replaced with glazed windows set within the stiles and rails. The lower panels remain as raised panels. This door is set within a recess with angled, plastered sides. Directly opposite the exterior door is an original six-panel door connecting to the north side room. All the door, window and cupboard surrounds are made from a simply beaded flat board with an applied ogee molding towards the outer edge. The baseboards have a simple bead along the top edge. The floorboards are narrow, tongue and grooved and appear to be heart pine.

The north, road-side room of the stone portion has on its north wall an exterior door to the west and window to the east, mirroring the south room's configuration. The door as described in the exterior description appears to be a replacement and the window is a six over six double hung. The east or gable end wall has a fireplace opening and the outline for the fireplace mantle, which has been removed but remains within the room. The mantle has a deep projecting shelf on top, mounted over a wide board which in turn bears on simple squared pilasters on piers. The applied capitals of the pilasters are missing on both sides. To the right or south of the fireplace is a narrow doorway cut through the stone gable wall to provide access to a no longer existing addition. The doorway was cut through what had been a fireplace cupboard; the shelf ends are visible where they were cut flush to the board on which they had been mounted. The cupboard has an upper shelf area that remains unaltered.

The south wall of the roadside room has a doorway to the south, track-side room.

On the north or right edge of the west wall of the roadside room there is a narrow doorway leading to the winder staircase to the attic. The stair is enclosed within plastered wall. The door is missing, but overhead is a three-light transom to provide some light to the staircase. To the left of the staircase doorway, an outline occurs in the wallpapered surface that indicates the location of what appears to have been a bracketed shelf. The shelf may still be within the building, but was not observed; however, the outline would give some indication of its appearance. To the left of this shelf outline and at the southwestern corner, is a short plank door that opens into a small space under the stairs. Due to the inaccessibility to the basement, it is unknown at this time, whether this space was originally opened to a set of stairs or a ladder so as to access the lower level from within.

As with the south room the door, window and cupboard surrounds are made from a simply beaded flat board with an applied ogee molding towards the outer edge. The baseboards have a simple bead along the top edge. The heart pine floorboards are narrow and tongue and grooved.

The attic level of the stone portion has essentially one finished space with a sloped ceiling room occupying most of the upper level to the east. The staircase from the first floor rises to an intermediate landing and a doorway to the right (or west) leads into the small anteroom/hallway in front of the two rooms on the wood frame portion's upper level. The stairway from the landing turns left to the east up a short flight of stairs with a plaster finished alcove open to the stairs on the left or north and a rough board finished attic storage area on the right accessible through a doorway. The finished alcove has a pegboard running along the upper edge of the wall that enclosed the staircase. The large room has knee walls under the eaves and the entire room has been finished with plaster on lathe. On either side of the chimney breast, there is a small floor-level window opening, but the sash for each opening is missing.

The first floor of the wood portion has one room running across the north, roadside half and two rooms on the track-side half, each accessible from the north common space. The track-side room (south) on the western side has a doorway into the garage/workshop addition at the west end of the wood frame portion. These three rooms have finished walls and ceilings, some plastered and others with gypsum wallboard. The trim work around doors and windows is all very simple, square boards with no decorative intent.

The upper level of the wood frame portion is only accessible from the interior stairs of the stone portion via a very small space off the first landing of the stairs that provides access to two rooms that are divided with a partition wall running parallel and beneath the ridgeline of the roof. The two rooms have knee walls, sloped ceiling, and are separated by a lathed and plastered, plank board partition wall. There is much plaster loss in this wing due to the failed roof. Each room has a two over two double hung window in the west gable wall. The low-knee wall in each room has two six-pane casement windows.

The enclosed porch of the wood frame portion is in deteriorated condition and its finish materials and windows are probably of the middle to later 20th century period. The shed portion on the west gable wall of the wooden frame portion is of simple, rough construction and was probably used as a garage/workshop.

An 8'x 15' shed is situated 30 feet east of the depot. It is a single-story, front gable building constructed of stacked railroad ties, sided with vertical boards and roofed with corrugated metal. The primary door is on the south gable end, but a smaller door can be found on the north side close to the peak.

A 4'x 4' Works Progress Administration (WPA) single-seat outhouse is just east of and adjacent to the shed. It is a typical example of a WPA outhouse with a single cast concrete seat and slab, a wood venting system running up and out the rear wall, and a simple shed roof. Its door faced north but is missing.