Moundsville Daily Echo
February 6, 1941
At Least Two First-trippers To Ride Exodus Run
At Least Two First-trippers To Ride Exodus Run
When the rear lights of the last street car wink out of sight around the hill at the foot of Jefferson avenue Friday morning at 12:35 o'clock, it will mark the passing of a familiar sight from the streets of Moundsville - one that has been seen many times daily for nearly 45 years - and in a fashion, the end of an era in local history.
The huge car that will carry a group of local citizens to the McMechen carbarn on the final run of the electric line is a far cry from the one that first tentatively nosed into the city on shining new tracks during October, 1896.
Many improvements have been seen in electric car manufacture since that day, and increasing traffic made necessary the purchase of larger trolleys to carry local people to Glendale, Benwood, McMechen and Wheeling.
Still living is the conductor of that first car. He has now risen to the post of division superintendent with the line, and will be honored with fitting tribute at the farewell party tonight at the McMechen barn. His name is Jess D. Marple, well known throughout this section.
Also the attend the party tonight is James Sigafoose, Moundsville insurance man, who was a passenger on that first trip.
At the time the street railway to Moundsville was proposed the street car was the fastest means of transportation for local passenger service. The passing years and improvement in automobile design and highway construction have seen it supplanted as a means of speedy transportation until now the cumbersome vehicles are by far the slowest means of travel available to the public.
It was on June 5, 1890, that a charter was granted the Benwood Southern Railway company for the purpose, as stated in county records, of "transporting passengers, baggage and fr[e]ight by means of cars or other vehickels [sic] propelled by animal or steam power or electricity or compressed air or gass [sic]" between points in Benwood and Moundsville.
Incorporators were E. M. Lewis, who was elected county clerk of Marshall county at the next election thereafter and served for several terms; James Dolan, Henry Riddle, for many years Union district justice of the peace B. F. Peabody, druggist, father of Ben and W. E. Peabody of Moundsville; John P. James, for many years a resident if Glendale; James E. Doyle, later elected Marshall county sheriff; P. W. Greenwood, Havily Brush, John W. Leach, Leonard Eskey, later a prominent physician, now living at Wheeling; C. W. Vance and M. F. Deegan. All lived in Benwood at the time of incorporation. The corporation was for 50 years, to expire June 10, 1940.
Financial difficulties and other problems cut short the life of the Benwood Southern Railway company, and in 1893, on August 1, a reorganization under the name Benwood Southern Street Railway company was effected.
Incorporaters of the latter organization were J. W. Burchinal, editor of the old Moundsville Herald, now living at Steubenville, Ohio; B. F. Peabody, Leonard Eskey, James E. Doyle and Henry Riddle.
Its stated purpose was the same as that of the former corporation, but spelled correctly on the records. It was to expire in August, 1943
Building of the road progressed rapidly thereafter, and by August , 1896. The line had been pushed as far south as the Camp Ground station, at which point service was halted by an injunction secured by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, forbidding the electric cars to cross the railroad tracks at the foot of Jefferson avenue.
The difficulty was shortly solved, however, and on October 31 of that year the first car entered the city. It was not until December, 1896, however, that connection between the BS track and the Wheeling street railway was made. Before that time, Wheeling passengers were forced to transfer cars in the heart of Benwood.
Financial difficulties continued to beset the path of the company, and a number of reorganizations were effected, final evolving into the Wheeling Traction company, which controlled a far-flung web of trackage from the northern counties of the panhandle and well into Ohio to Moundsville.
The Wheeling Traction company managed to keep its head above water for many years, but finally, in 1931, bankruptcy proceedings were had and the system was taken over by the Co-operative Traction company, an organization financed almost wholly by Wheeling Traction employees. That company still operates the line.
Agitation for the change from trolleys to buses was started some time ago, but not until early this year did it appear that the change was to be made.
Action of the Department of Labor in declaring the narrows tracks in hazardous condition precipitated the matter, leading the company, during the latter part of 1940, to petition the state public service commission for permission to put buses on the southern run and take off the street cars.
After some delay occasioned by the lodging of a protest by local interests, which was subsequently withdrawn when the company pledged full co-operation in providing desired local service, permission to make the change was granted.
Possibility is seen that the narrows road, one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the state, may be widened and made safer after the street car rails are removed. Other highway improvements are anticipated in the near future, including the possible covering of trackage between Moundsville and Glendale and surfacing over of tracks along Moundsville streets.
And so, shortly after midnight tonight, with a veteran transportation man at the controls, one who played a part in the triumphal entry of the cars into the city over four decades ago, and with one of the original passengers aboard, the last trolley will make its way over the streets of the city carrying a crowd of people who will witness, at first hand, the closing of an era in local history.
The farewell will be a fitting one to mark the end of a service that played a large part in the growth of Moundsville during the early years of the twentieth century.