The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad 1892 – 1985

Connecting Rowan County to the World

The Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad was a railroad built largely by acquisitions rather than construction. Led by industrialist C.P. Huntington the line was founded in 1869 along the Virginia seaboard and soon reached the Ohio river. Huntington, WV, is named for its first president.

The line continued expanding and in 1892 purchased the EL&BS railroad, which ran from Elizabethtown to Ashland Kentucky, and operated that line as the “Lexington Section,” offering both freight and passenger service through Rowan county on the same tracks previously used by the EL&BS. The current freight station was purchased as part of the EL&BS buyout and in 1904 the current passenger depot was constructed. Passenger and freight service were then operated from separate buildings.

Multiple mergers and acquisitions created a major railroad system which in 1933 became known informally and later formally as the “Chessie” system, named for the logo of a sleeping kitten which became one of the most popular logos of the time.

In the 1970s the “Lexington Section” lost profitability and passenger service was discontinued through Morehead. Freight service continued until 1985 when the C&O requested permission to discontinue the line. Permission was granted, the rails were pulled and railroad service to Morehead and Rowan County ceased.

In 1987 the C&O was merged with several other systems to become CSX which is now one of four major railroad systems left in the U.S.