Duffields Depot

Duffields Depot

The oldest surviving combined freight and passenger depot in the United States. 

The iconic Baltimore and Ohio was the first American common-carrier railroad, which means it was chartered for public use and would take responsibility for losses during transport. Its slogan was “Linking 13 Great States with the Nation.” The first stone was laid on July 4, 1828. The B&O opened service to Frederick, Maryland on December 31, 1831 and Point of Rocks not long after but was detained by a land dispute with the C&O Canal over the 12 miles to Harpers Ferry.  By 1837, B&O trains were running on an all-wooden bridge over the canal into Harpers Ferry. The railroad beat the canal to Cumberland, Maryland in 1842 and continued on to Wheeling and the Ohio River.

In Jefferson County, the B&O railroad entered at Harpers Ferry and went through what is now Duffields, Bardane, and Kearneysville. During the early years of the B&O, the railroad used existing structures (like the Wager House hotel in Harpers Ferry) for depots whenever feasible but in more rural areas sometimes entered agreements with adjacent landowners like Richard Duffield. The B&O gave Duffield $2,500 for right-of-way across his farm, and in 1839 he used the funds to construct a depot. The depot had two sections: a small stone house for the station master and a connected wooden structure to store incoming and outgoing goods. At one time, there was also a tank to store water for the steam engines and an “elevator building” to store Jefferson County wheat heading out to market. When the station was finished, it was one of five between Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg.

The B&O was a major supply line for the Union Army during the Civil War and under constant attack by Confederate groups, most notably and often by John Mosby and his partisan rangers, the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. On June 29, 1864 Mosby and his men arrived at Duffields intending to interrupt Union communications by cutting the telegraph wires. They also planned to stop an eastern-bound train that was supposed to reach Duffields at noon. Mosby placed a howitzer, a short-barreled cannon, on a hill nearby, and waited, but the train never arrived. Mosby’s men ransacked the depot, burned everything except the depot itself, and escaped with 65 prisoners.

Duffields Depot has always been privately owned. By 1884 the B&O was financially able to construct its own depots and terminals and built a new Victorian style station nearby. The B&O ceased to exist as a corporation in 1987 when it was absorbed in the Chesapeake and Ohio, which became CSX later that year. Duffields Depot is the second oldest surviving station on the B&O (after Ellicott City, Maryland) and the oldest surviving combined freight and passenger station.