West Virginia Railroad Museum/Darden Mill
The West Virginia Railroad Museum gathers, conserves, restores, and interprets the history of the railroad in West Virginia. The Museum is dedicated to educating visitors and the community about West Virginia's railroad industry. With the arrival of the railroad, Elkins became a huge commercial center. Elkins' population skyrocketed from a few hundred to several thousand in about 20 years. The West Virginia Railroad Museum is located in Elkins, WV on the second floor of an old mill building. The Darden Mill, the building where the museum is housed, was conveniently located in the rail yard for easy loading and unloading of goods. The West Virginia Railroad Museum has both physical and virtual exhibits.
Backstory and Context
Elkins was able to experience the luxury of passenger train service due to railroad expansion. "In 1930, eighteen passenger trains were arriving and leaving Elkins daily."3 But in the late 1950s, the passenger service was discontinued and by the end of the 1980s, all the rail service ended. At the turn of the 21st Century, the rail yard began to become alive again. Now there is a redeveloped depot area and tourist train service in Elkins.2
The West Virginia Railroad Museum is a small museum dedicated to preserving and archiving the history of the railroad and its workers in West Virginia. The purpose of the West Virginia Railroad Museum is to educate visitors and the community about West Virginia's railroad history. The museum's mission is achieved through the collection and preservation of significant locomotives, artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia that related to the railroads and railroading in West Virginia. In addition to these exhibits, select pieces of equipment in the collection were restored. Now they are operated throughout the year to demonstrate steam, gasoline, and diesel technology. Also, visitors are provided with a first-hand experience of their railroad history with a train ride.1
The Darden Mill, the only remaining original building on the railyard other than the depot, was built in 1902 and was used as a grain mill until 1943. After 1943, the Darden Mill building was used for various businesses such as a farm supply store, a furniture store, and a junk shop. The Darden Mill was purchased by C-Hope, Citizens for Historical Opportunity, Preservation, and Education, and the organization has put forth endless efforts to restore the Mill to it's current state.