The town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is in the northernmost region of the Eastern Panhandle Region of the state.
Some of you are saying, “I see this all the time. I have seen town names with ‘Falls’ and ‘Springs’ and ‘Mount’ in their names, but when you visit, you never see any waterfalls or springs or mountains. It is always a waste of time to visit these places.”
The town of Berkeley Springs was originally called the town of Bath. The reason is not because somebody thought that it was a nice name for a town but because it was a town where people took a bath. You have read correctly. It was a place where people took a bath. In the case that you are completely confused, the name is derived from the fact that there are natural baths fed with water that come from hot springs. How long have these baths been here? The year these baths were discovered is unknown, but long before the settlers came, Indian tribes from the region came to bathe here. Many years later, a man by the name of George Washington built his own bathtub here. Yes, this is the same George Washington that was the General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and later the first President of the United States of America. Today, the baths are now part of Berkeley Springs State Park, and they can be visited year-round. These springs make up the heart of the town, and they have been preserved for years to come. Please note that you cannot take a bath here, but you can put your feet in.
Some of you are saying, “This is nice. This Berkeley Springs has springs, and you can even see where George Washington took a bath. What I do not see is railroads. Therefore, I will not be springing my way to this town.”
You do have a good point. There is no railroad in the town. The closest the railroad come to the town is to a quarry north of the town, but you will not find a rail line in the town itself. So, what does the town of Berkeley Spring have to do with the railroad?
As mentioned, Berkeley Springs is in the northernmost region of the Eastern Panhandle of the U.S. state of West Virginia. The main routes of the town are U.S. Route 552 and West Virginia Route 9. Both routes run down the main street (Washington Street) past the state park. U.S. Route 522 continues northward from the town to the town of Hancock, Maryland just across the Potomac River. As you leave the town center and the north junction with West Virginia Route 9, you see an old train station, but you do not see any railroad tracks. How did this train station get here?
As mentioned, U.S. Route 522 goes north to the town of Hancock, Maryland which is just north of the Potomac River. The bridge that crosses the Potomac River also crosses the original rail line built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. (The line is owned by CSX today.) It was also mentioned that a spur line goes from this main line to a nearby quarry. (You will drive by this quarry on U.S. Route 522.) This line was also built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Today, the line serves the quarry, but it originally ended at the old train station in Berkeley Springs. Built in 1912, passengers rode the train here to visit the town, and some of those passengers took a trip to those famous springs. The empty space on the east side of the station (opposite from U.S. Route 522) was a small railroad yard. Along with passenger service, the depot saw freight service. This station was a busy place in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Sadly, Berkeley Springs felt the fate that many towns on spur lines felt. Passenger service ended in 1935, and freight service ended sometime after. As with many spur line towns, train service was abandoned with service only to the quarry.
Today, the old train station just sits there empty with the railroad yard an empty lot. Is it just going to rot? The people of Berkeley Springs are determined not to let that happen. The depot is owned by the town of Berkeley Springs, and there are plans to house a museum or maybe a visitor center in the station. The good news is that there are no plans for the old station to see the wrecking ball.
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, a town erected around a spring that was once a railroad town, is a great town to visit. It is what make West Virginia wonderful.
If you want to enjoy a nice meal surrounded by nature, Coolfont Restaurant and Resort is just a few miles southwest of the town off West Virginia Route 9 West. You can check them out right here: https://www.coolfont.com/.