Published: May 24, 2023
By: Adam Burns
As a result of the successful development of interurbans in the surrounding states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other points in the Midwest (notably Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois), West Virginia contained a surprising amount of such systems, roughly 260 miles.
Most were concentrated near the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders with the cities of Wheeling/Weirton, Parkersburg/Marietta (Ohio), and Clarksburg/Fairmont containing most of the trackage. There were also interurbans serving the capital of Charleston, as well as Huntington. Except for the Tri-City Traction Company and Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company, the entire network was gone by the 1930s.
The Tri-City Traction Company (owned by Princeton Power Company) connected Princeton and Bluefield beginning operations in 1916 on a 12-mile railroad. It operated until 1946 when railroad services were abandoned in favor of buses.
The WB&W began operations in June, 1908 serving the hamlet of Bethany with Wellsburg in the state's Northern Panhandle on a line that was juts under eight miles in length.
It was meant to reach Washington, Pennsylvania but the expense of construction never allowed such. Operations lasted until 1926.
The Charleston Interurban Railroad began operations in 1912 and would eventually connect downtown Charleston, St. Albans and Cabin Creek Junction (a connection with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway).
In 1935 it was purchased by the Charleston Transit Company and rail services were abandoned in 1939.
The City & Elm Grove Railroad dates back to 1877 as a traditional steam line but was electrified in 1898. It operated a 13-mile railroad serving the Wheeling and was never very profitable with the final segments of the route abandoned by 1937.
The Union Traction Company of West Virginia dates back to the Wetzel & Tyler Railway of 1903 which served the small town of Sistersville on the Ohio River.
It operated an 11-mile railroad that became the UTC in 1908 and was succeeded by the Sistersville & New Martinsville Traction Company in 1919. Never very profitable the operation ended service by 1925.
The Parkersburg & Ohio Valley Electric Company was chartered in 1903 and was planned to connect Parkersburg and Wheeling following the Ohio River the entire way.
The interurban began construction about at the half-way point of Sistersville building south.
Unfortunately, it only reached as far south as Friendly about five miles, a town no larger than a few hundred residents. With no hope of attracting much ridership it was abandoned by 1918.
The Tyler Traction Company was another interurban to serve the town of Sistersville beginning operations in 1913 connecting with Middlebourne, a town to the east.
It provided some freight and passenger service but with the population centers so small not enough to sustain the system. It was abandoned by 1930.
The Lewisburg & Ronceverte Railway was charted in 1906 and would connect its namesake towns on about a 6-mile railroad (which connected with the C&O at Ronceverte). It fell into bankruptcy several times and was abandoned by 1931.
The Ohio Valley Electric Railway began operations in 1900 connecting Huntington, Ashland (Kentucky) and Ironton (Ohio). It remained in service until 1939 when operations were abandoned.
The Morgantown & Dunkard Railway was chartered at the beginning of the 20th century meant to connecting Morgantown and Wheeling.
However, it only ever made it as far as Brave, Pennsylvania and was only able to actually electrify a few miles of railroad (the rest of which was handled by steam locomotives).
It was renamed the Morgantown-Wheeling Railway in 1912 and again changed hands in 1923 as the Scotts Run Railway. It later became part of the Monongahela Railway and the line is said to still be used for freight service today.
The largest interurban in the state this company began operations as the Fairmont & Clarksburg Electric Railroad Company.
The line was able to connect to the cities by 1908 on a 25-mile system. It was later renamed as the Monongahela Valley Traction Company and by 1913 had reached such areas as Weston, Wolf Summit, Wyatt, Fairview, and Mannington.
The interurban provided both street services as well as main line running on a surprisingly well-built system that was even able to enter into some interchange agreements with the B&O providing for a bit of carload freight revenue.
In 1921 it was renamed as the Monongahela Power & Railway Company as the operation had expanded into the power business.
Two years later in 1923 it came under West Penn control and was known as the subsidiary, Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company. West Penn operated interurbans in southern Pennsylvania, throughout West Virginia, and into eastern Ohio.
As with the Kanawha Traction & Electric Company the Monongahela West Penn was sold to the City Lines of West Virginia around 1945, which slowly converted the entire system to bus operations by 1947.
The Kanawha Traction & Electric Company served Parkersburg, West Virginia and Marietta, Ohio via a rail/highway bridge at Williamstown, West Virginia.
It began operations as the Parkersburg, Marietta & Interurban Traction Company being renamed the Kanawha Traction & Electric in 1915.
In 1923 this operation became part of the expansive Monongahela-West Penn Public Service Company, which had operations in western West Virginia around Parkersburg and north-central West Virginia around Fairmont.
In 1943 the company sold off the Parkersburg-Marietta division with it being renamed the City Lines of West Virginia. The operation lasted only a few years after the war and was subsequently abandoned (today the rails remain in the historic brick streets in downtown Marietta).
The Wheeling Traction Company provided interurban operations to the one-time major commercial hub of Wheeling, West Virginia.
It was renamed a number of times during operations (Wheeling Street Railway, Wheeling Public Service Company and Panhandle Traction Company) lasting until the 1940s as a wholly-employee owned interurban known as the Cooperative Transit Company.
Bluefield & Hinton Electric Railway
Wheeling Street Railway
Wellsburg, Bethany & Washington Railroad
Charleston Interurban Railroad
Union Traction Company of West Virginia
Parkersburg & Ohio Valley Electric Company
Lewisburg & Ronceverte Railway
Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company
Kanawha Traction & Electric Company
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