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Railroad enthusiasts to gather in Huntington


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.  — About a hundred people from several states will arrive at the Pullman Plaza Hotel this week for the 48th annual conference of the C&O Historical Society, which is based in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

The society, which was organized in 1969, is one of the largest single-railroad historical societies in the world, according to Thomas W. Dixon Jr., its founder and former head who currently serves as its chief historian.

“We’re one of the few such societies that employs a full-time staff and operates one of the largest railroad archives that are open to the public,” Dixon says. “It consists of photographs, engineering and mechanical drawings, and documents pertaining to the C&O and its predecessors.”

The company started out as the Louisa Railroad in 1836, changed its name to Virginia Central in 1850, and became the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1868. It was built into Huntington in 1873 and became part of CSX Transportation in 1987.

“The society publishes a 48-page magazine devoted to C&O history six times a year, as well as an average of five books a year on C&O and related subjects,” Dixon says. “The society also publishes other materials, and many memorabilia items related to C&O and ‘Chessie,’ C&O’s famous sleepy kitten mascot, which was the line’s advertising symbol from 1934 to 1981.”

The society conducted its first Huntington conference in 1970 and has conducted them in the Huntington area three times since then.

“This fifth conference, which will be conducted between Wednesday and Sunday, Aug. 2-6, will include speakers on various C&O historical subjects and will have an extensive sales and display area,” Dixon says. “The public is welcome to visit between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday.”

Twenty presenters will explain everything from model railroading subjects to tunnels, Jim Crow rules, lineside industries and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Ohio River line to coal mine tipples, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society’s New River Train excursions and the 740th Railway Operating Battalion.

And Huntingtonian James E. Casto will do an “interpretation” of Collis P. Huntington, who extended the C&O to this point and built a city immodestly named for himself to receive it.

“I am thrilled to be asked to be a part of the event and be with so many people who are passionate about C&O’s history,” he says.

The non-profit C&O society features a museum in Clifton Forge that includes extensive displays and former C&O passenger and freight cars.

The society can be reached at or by calling 540-862-2210 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“People may use this website to search the society’s collection of more than 50,000 photographs, as well as drawings and other data,” Dixon says.

The society’s sales operation is at Information about the Clifton Forge museum is available at

“Inquiries and questions are welcome,” Dixon says.

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