Wheeling Traction Company "Waiting Room"
Corner of 10th & Main Sts., Wheeling, W. Va.
(Photo owned by Linda Fluharty)

From: The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published by The American Historical Society, Inc., 1923; page460.

Submitted by Linda Fluharty.

The Wheeling Traction Company has played an important part in advancing the civic and material interests of Wheeling and the Ohio Valley, progressing from the old-time horse car mode of transportation to an extensive city and interurban electric railway system, giving service of inestimable value to the public.

In 1863 the Citizens Railway Company of Wheeling gave to Wheeling its first street railway service, consisting of horse-drawn cars which operated on wooden tracks. The line extended from South Wheeling to North Wheeling and from Wheeling to Bridgeport, Ohio. This service was continued until 1887, when the Wheeling Railway Company was organized and combined with the Citizens Railway Company. After this consolidation the lines of the Citizens Railway in Wheeling were electrified and electric cars were operated on the old horse-car tracks.

The first electric cars operated in Wheeling were known as the Vanderpool type. The motor was in the front cab and was geared with a sprocket chain running from the motor to a sprocket wheel on the axle of the car. These cars could only be operated in one direction and it was necessary to have turntables or a "Y" at any point where it was necessary to turn the car. Wheeling was the third city in the United States to have an electric street railway system.

The track was constructed with a flat rail similar to that used on the horse car lines and was laid on a 6 by 6 inch wooden stringer with cross ties every five feet. Power was conveyed to the car with two overhead trolley wires, as no return was used through the rail.

In 1889 the electric railway was extended south into Benwood. In 1893 the new Back River Bridge was built and the electric line extended to Bridgeport, Ohio. The Bellaire, Bridgeport and Martins Ferry Street Railway Company was also organized and built a line during this year from Bellaire through Bridgeport to Martins Ferry, Ohio. In 1895 another company was organized and a line was built from Benwood to Moundsville, West Virginia. In 1898 an electric line was built from Steubenville, Ohio, to Brilliant, Ohio, by a number of Wheeling capitalists. In 1899 the Wheeling Railway Company was re-organized under the name of the Wheeling Traction Company, and it took over the interests of the Wheeling Railway Company, the Bridgeport, Bellaire & Martins Ferry Street Railway Company, which covered the lines on the Ohio side of the Ohio River, and the lines between Benwood and Moundsville. In 1901 the Northern Ohio Valley Railway Company was organized by Wheeling people, which company was later known as the Pan Handle Traction Company, and an electric railway line was built between Wheeling, West Virginia, and Wellsburg, West Virginia. Two years later this line was extended to Lazearville, West Virginia. In 1902 the line between Steubenville and Brilliant was acquired by the Wheeling Traction Company.

In 1904 a line was built by the Tri-State Railway Company, later known as the Steubenville, Wellsburg & Weirton Railway Company, from Wellsburg to Steubenville, and about two years later a line was built from East Steubenville to Weirton, West Virginia. In this same year, or in 1904, the Wheeling Traction Company extended its lines from Bridgeport to Barton, Ohio. In 1906 the line was extended from Martins Ferry, Ohio, to Rayland, Ohio, and in 1907 the Bellaire line was extended to Shadyside, Ohio. In 1912 the stock of the Wheeling Traction Company was taken over by the West Penn Railways Company of Pittsburgh. In 1917 the West Penn Railways Company took over the Steubenville, Wellsburg & Weirton Railway Company, operating between Steubenville and Wellsburg and Steubenville and Weirton. These last named lines are now being operated under lease by the Wheeling Traction Company.

The first power plant was installed in an old skating rink in South Wheeling, and in later years was moved to a more substantial building at Forty-second Street, Wheeling. At the present time power to operate the cars is largely obtained from the Windsor Power Plant located at Beech Bottom, West Virginia, about twelve miles north of Wheeling.

The Wheeling Traction Company has kept up with the electric railway industries throughout the country, and today has on its lines double truck steel passenger cars of the latest design. On the interurban lines large center entrance steel type cars are used. There is operated daily seventy cars on regular schedules; in addition, freight and express cars are operated daily between Wheeling and Moundsville and Wheeling and Steubenville-Weirton. The track and overhead lines have been rebuilt and maintained in accordance with standard practice of modern railway construction, and at present the system comprises 101 miles of track.

The company has a corps of about 600 employes, including those in the transportation, track and shop departments. The shops and barns of the company are located on Wheeling Island, McMechen, West Virginia, Beech Bottom, West Virginia, and at Follansbee, West Virginia. During the year 1921, 27,000,000 passengers were carried on the lines of the company.

From the beginning the local stockholders and executives of the Wheeling Traction Company have been men of representative citizenship and financial stability. Through the untiring efforts of C. P. Billings, vice-president, the service on the lines has been greatly improved and the fares charged by the company most equitably adjusted.