Princeton Railroad Museum, Princeton

4.5
#35 of 70 in Museums in West Virginia
Specialty Museum · Hidden Gem · Museum
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Welcome to the Princeton Railroad Museum, celebrating the growth of Princeton, WV, largely in part due to to Virginian Railroad, the “richest little railroad in America”.

I’m Patricia Smith, director, and I’d like to explain why the railroad is important enough to Princeton, that we should have to honor it by having a museum dedicated to it.

We have to go back to the founding of Mercer County on March 17, 1837, when a small settlement was named Princeton. Mercer county was named for General Hugh Mercer, a Scottish physician, who fought in the Revolutionary War. . He was a confidante of General George Washington and unfortunately, was killed in the Battle of Princeton, NJ. When our county was founded, it was felt that he could be further honored by naming the county seat, Princeton.

Now we jump forward to the Civil War, when Princeton, a Confederate-leaning town, was burned by Confederate forces to stop the approaching Union forces from gaining shelter and supplies from the town. There were only forty lots platted at the time and all the house were burned, except, the doctor’s and the house of a lawyer that had been used as a Confederate hospital. Even the Courthouse was burned, although some of the records were saved by a black slave.

Sadly, Princeton was slow to recover, yet it was still the county seat, when a Circuit Judge rode into town to hold court. He had been a Confederate, but had changed to the Union side, when he saw the war going the other way. The residents of Princeton spurned him. Angered by his treatment, he gathered all the records and moved to Athens, a settlement about seven miles away, where the residents welcomed him. After that, the Sheriff, a resident of Princeton, stole the records in a midnight raid. The disagreement was taken to the new WV legislature, who voted for Princeton.

Several years later, another problem arose. Ten miles away, the Town of Bluefield, who was older and had a larger population than Princeton, decided they had a better right to be the county seat. The dispute was once again taken to the legislature, who decided that the citizens of Mercer County should vote on the location of the county seat.

Now, we finally get to where the railroad comes in. IThe new Virginian Railroad, which had run its new track on the eastern edge of Princeton, decided to build a railroad station and a foundry here, to build and repair its locomotives and other railroad cars. This brought a large influx of employees to reside in Princeton. When the county seat election was held, Princeton officials encouraged these railroad employees to vote for Princeton; thus, Princeton prevailed and the county seat has remained here to this day. That Virginian Railroad station, which stood in this location, and the foundry brought growth and prosperity to Princeton.

The Princeton Railroad Museum is a recreation of that station, which was closed, when the Virginian was bought out by the Norfolk and Western Railroad and the passenger station moved to Bluefield.
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Princeton Railroad Museum reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
22 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • This was actually a very nice visit, I give 5 stars for this little museum. It is not a huge museum, can't be expected in such a small town. Basically two floors in a former small town train station.....  more
    This was actually a very nice visit, I give 5 stars for this little museum. It is not a huge museum, can't be expected in such a small town. Basically two floors in a former small town train station.....  more »
  • My visit to the Princeton railroad museum was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the history of the area, the impact of the railroad industry, and I found it to be quite interesting. The... 
    My visit to the Princeton railroad museum was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the history of the area, the impact of the railroad industry, and I found it to be quite interesting. The...  more »
Google
  • Very sweet volunteers greet you upon entering and share info and stories. Loads of photos and displays to see. Even books to read if you want. Very dog friendly. A great experience overall. Also a nice Harvest Host location!
  • Great museum if you are a fan of trains. Facility is full of interesting artifacts including a very impressive model train set. The ladies running the facility are very knowledgeable and friendly! Outside the converted train station is a caboose you can walk through and even ring the bell on! A great place to bring the family!

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