Wheeling's facilities for reaching the markets of the world with her finished products and conveying her raw materials from the mines and forests are unsurpassed anywhere. She has ample facilities for shipping by rail, and peculiar advantages arise from her position on the river. The Baltimore & Ohio railroad, whose completion nearly a third of a century ago gave Wheeling an impulse upward which she has not lost, gives her direct access to the seaboard, to Pittsburgh, and to the great cities of the West, besides communication with the forests and mines of West Virginia's mountains, with their wealth of lumber. The Pennsylvania system, by way of the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky division, built by Wheeling enterprise and capital, and operated by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Company, with whose main line it connects at Wheeling Junction; and the Cleveland & Pittsburgh division, gives her easy access to the metropolis of the continent, and all the important cities of the East, North and West. The Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling railroad, connecting with the Lake Shore system, places her within a few hours of the great lakes, and gives here rare facilities of access to the iron ore regions of Superior.
The Ohio River Railroad already gives her command of the large and rich section of Ohio and West Virginia lying along the river, and the extension now approaching completion places almost at her doors the coke, iron ore, lumber and other products of the Kanawha and New river valleys, and adds to her competing lines of transportation the great Chesapeake & Ohio system and all its ramifications of rail. This gives her a choice of materials now supplied exclusively by the Connellsville coke region, via the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads. The relations of Wheeling to the rest of the world by rail and river are graphically shown in the small diagram in this issue.
Besides these many railroad lines and connections, which already assure reasonable transportation charges, several new and important lines are projected, and of these the completion of at least a portion is assured. The Wheeling & Lake Erie road is already completed from Toledo to a point only about fifty miles from Wheeling. The addition of this important line to Wheeling's railroad facilities is only a question of time. Another which with the western connections completed will make Wheeling an important railroad centre is the project variously known as the Wheeling & Harrisburg, the South Pennsylvanian, and the Wheeling & State Line road. This is just now, though known to few people here, in a promising condition. The Vanderbilt interest, which now controls it, is weighing the outcome and the outlay. The figures are so encouraging that it is not too much to predict that Wheeling will ere long be the western terminus of a railroad giving the most direct line to New York to be secured.
Continuing this line west is the Mt. Vernon, Coshocton & Wheeling road, christened the "Cannon Ball line" by the INTELLIGENCER because its route follows the flight of a cannon ball from Wheeling to Chicago, shortening the distance sixty miles, and with the Vanderbilt road eastward, placing Chicago one hundred miles nearer New York than by any existing route. This company has the advantage of a subscription of $150,000 from this county and the grant of the Walhonding canal bed from the State of Ohio. The preliminary work is making encouraging progress. The completion of these lines will assure the building of a railroad bridge across the Ohio here. Permission has been granted by the United States Government and a charter by this State.
The Pennsylvania, West Virginia & Ohio road from the Connelsville coke region to the Ohio at the mouth of Short Creek, and thence to Wheeling; a road from Phillipsburg, Pa., where the Pittsburgh & Western road crosses the river, to the West Virginia line, and thence along the river through Hancock and Brooke counties, connecting with the P.W. & Ky., at Wheeling Junction, are other important projected roads, well backed and promising. The Ohio Valley road, a continuation of the Pennsylvania system down the river to Marietta, will benefit Wheeling, as will the extensive local additions to the B. & O. and C., L. & W. lines just across the river, now in progress.
Among the completed roads are the St. Clairsville & Northern and the Bellaire & St. Clairsville, both of which give Wheeling access to rich sections, and the Bellaire, Zanesville & Cincinnati, which with its connections pays tribute to Wheeling daily of the rich products of a prosperous and productive section, not pierced by any other line. The Grafton & Greenbrier, the West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh, the Fairmont, Morgantown & Pittsburgh, the Parkersburg branch, the Clarksburg & Weston road and others in her own State, reach Wheeling indirectly, but benefit her directly.
This is a cursory and merely suggestive glance at Wheeling's rail facilities. By river her facilities of egress and ingress are even more favorable when compared with those of other places. She is practically the head of navigation on the Ohio through a large proportion of the year. When Pittsburgh is hedged in by the Davis island dam and shut off from communication with the world by water, large crafts bring and take their cargoes of freight at this port. Only on the lowest stages of the water are the large boats unable to reach Wheeling. On an ordinary low stage they cannot get above. Smaller steamboats ply these waters the year round except when at rare intervals, ice prevents. Besides this, Wheeling is one hundred miles nearer the South and West by water than Pittsburgh, and her ores and other bulky freight are transported at a comparatively less expense.
The importance of the river traffic cannot be overestimated. Hourly communication by steamboat with towns across and down the river, daily packets plying between remoter points above and below, tri-weekly communication with Pittsburgh and Parkersburg, the former one hundred miles above and the latter an equal distance below, the towns between being included; several boats making weekly trips to Cincinnati and when the stage of water permits between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati; connecting water lines for St. Louis and New Orleans, and for the Kanawha, Big Sandy, Tennessee and other tributaries, place Wheeling on a par with the most favored cities. The light cost of river carriage, like that of ocean transportation, is due to the small investment required. There is no maintenance or construction of road to pay for, little expense for labor and comparatively cheap motive power. That the railroads cannot compete with the river is established by the fact that while above Wheeling, paying railroads follow both banks of the river, and below a prosperous road is on one side and one projected on the other, yet the river traffic to and from Wheeling is greater to-day than it ever was. More boats of larger capacity are making more money than ever before, and there is a real and unmistakable demand for increased facilities of river transportation. The town and the rich country lying about it on all sides is growing faster than the facilities for doing its transportation are increasing. Local railroads are compelled to increase their carrying capacity continually, and yet are rushed with business. Such a healthy and increasing prosperity can only result in a supply to meet the increased demand. New roads, more and bigger boats, will in turn be unable to transact the increasing business, and enlarged facilities will in turn stimulate activity in manufactures and commerce.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept. 14, 1886
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.