Group wants to restore old train station

April 23, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - You never know what historical site might be lurking in Jefferson County.

The Civil War battles that raged here have given rise to plenty of stories, not to mention the communities that have thrived over the years.

Take the area of Duffields for example.

Just east of Shenandoah Junction between Charles Town, W.Va., and Shepherdstown, W.Va., Duffields is probably most known today as a MARC train stop.

But Duffields was an "up-and-coming little incorporated community" in the mid-19th century and old buildings can still be seen along the railroad tracks, according to Jack Snyder, a local railroad history buff who was instrumental in restoring a train station in Shepherdstown.


One of the buildings holds a particularly interesting place in local history.

Motorists heading north to Shepherdstown on Flowing Springs Road can see the deteriorating building on the right as they cross the railroad tracks.

The half-stone, half-wooden building is the second oldest "purpose built" train station in the U.S., Snyder said.

The Duffields train station was built in 1839 and besides serving the local community, it supplied Union troops with supplies in the Civil War, Snyder said. A Union stockade operated across the tracks from the station and a water tower was near the station that was used to replenish water to steam engines, Snyder said.

"At the time I was working on the Shepherdstown station, I knew about the Duffields station. It was certainly an item of interest," Snyder said.

Mention of the station shows up in historical accounts.

James E. Taylor, who was a sketch artist during the Civil War, sketched several pictures of the building. One shows a porch on the side of the station facing the railroad while another depicts a group of boys around the station.

The pictures are contained in "The James E. Taylor Sketchbook," a published collection of Taylor's works.

The building is quickly succumbing to neglect, according to Snyder.

The sagging wood section is beyond repair and will have to be rebuilt and the stone section has a bulging wall and needs a new roof, Snyder said.

Drifters have stayed in the building periodically and it was recently boarded up to prevent anyone from being injured on the property, Snyder said.

Snyder is president of a group of local residents who are working to save the station and hopefully use it for a small museum.

After a long attempt at purchasing the building, Duffields Station Inc., was able to buy it after Arcadia Building Co., a residential construction firm from Purcellville, Va., donated $25,000 to Snyder's group for the purchase.

Arcadia is developing the Harvest Hills subdivision next to the station.

Snyder's group is applying for $8,558 in state funds to help stabilize the building and will be working to collect approximately $200,000 that will be needed to restore it, Snyder said.

Snyder recently discussed the project with the Jefferson County Commission, which agreed to supply a letter of support to Snyder's group to help secure the $8,558, Snyder said.

The reference to the building as a "purpose built" station means that it was built to be used as a train station, Snyder said. Like some stagecoach stations, there were some buildings at that time that served as train stations, but were not built for that purpose, Snyder said.

The oldest "purpose built" train station in the U.S. is in Ellicott City, Md., and that building - dating to 1831 - has been restored and is a museum, Snyder said.

To establish the Duffields station, the B&O railroad paid property owner Richard Duffield $2,500 for a right-of-way for the station, Snyder said. Duffield then constructed the station, Snyder said.

The stone section was the station master's house. There was a large living room for the station master and a narrow staircase led to sleeping quarters upstairs, Snyder said.

"I think it's great they're doing this," said Walter Washington, a member of the Jefferson County Historical Landmarks Commission.

Washington said he does not think the history of the Duffields station is well known. He said the local landmarks commission is completing a survey of historic structures in the county because it was difficult to know what historic sites were in existence.

A number of sites have been lost since 1973, many due to neglect, Washington said.

Want to donate?

Members of Duffields Station, Inc., are collecting donations for the restoration of the train station in Duffields, W.Va. Tax deductible donations may be sent to David P. Lubic, Secretary-Treasurer, Duffields Station, Inc. at 417 True Apple Way, Inwood, W.Va., 25428. Names of donors will be recorded for posterity at the station.

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