Hinton was an important railroad community that linked the New River Valley with other towns across the east coast. Hinton has a rich cultural history with antique shops lining the streets, an authentic railroad museum, and an annual Railroad Days festival.
Hinton is a quaint, little railroad town
located in Summers County, West Virginia. The town was incorporated by John
Hinton on September 21st 1880 and is situated at the confluence of
the New and Greenbrier Rivers. According to National Coal Heritage, the C &
O connected the nation’s east coast with southern West Virginia,
via the towns of White Sulphur Springs, Hinton, and the city of Huntington. As
a result of the new railroad, small towns began to spring up to accommodate the
needs of workers. Thus, the town of Hinton was formed.
The Chesapeake and Ohio was the first
great railroad in southern West Virginia. Designed to link the Atlantic with
the Midwest farmland via the New, Kanawha, and Teays valleys, it grew out of
two older lines, the Virginia Central and the Covington and Ohio. The railroad
led to mine openings on the New River at Quinnimont, Stone Cliff, Fire Creek,
Sewell, Nutallburg, and Hawks Nest. By 1879 New River and upper Kanawha mines
were shipping 365,523 tons of coal and 19, 748 tons of coke to factories in the
east by rail. (Rice and Brown, West Virginia: A History, 185). As such,
the popularity of the C & O Railway allowed Hinton to economically prosper.
In 1892 the C & O completed the
construction of the Hinton roundhouse, which held 17 engine stalls and a car
repair shop that held 40 cars. The roundhouse employed 370 men and the
car shop 170 (Long, hintonwva.com). As
an important commercial and transportation center, Hinton underwent
construction in order to accommodate tourists and the new railroad workers. A
hospital, bank, hotel, newsstand, and numerous retail stores lined the streets.
Many of the buildings constructed resembled Victorian, American Gothic, and
Greek Revival architecture. However, by the 1940s, the railroad changed from
steam power to diesel power, and fewer workers were required to operate trains
from the Hinton terminal. As Hinton’s population declined, the town’s bustling
streets became less active and more sedentary.
Despite the town’s diminishing
population, Hinton still retains its rich cultural history. Museums and
antique shops line the streets with interesting tchotchkes inside their
windows. The Hinton Railroad Museum features historic C & O memorabilia
such as uniforms, tools, and model trains. The town celebrates its railroad
history with the annual Railroad Days, a festival featuring train excursions, local
artisans, and home-made food. Although Hinton is no longer a major terminal
point on the railroad, the importance of railroading has undoubtedly left its
mark on the once booming city.