Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway

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The Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway (WLE) was an Ohio based class 2 railroad that was conceived in 1877 to haul coal from mines near Wheeling, West Virginia to ports on Lake Erie. It never reached across the Ohio River to Wheeling but obtained trackage rights to that city. It did however have extensive lines in Ohio which eventually served ports in Cleveland, Lorain, Huron and Toledo, and connected to Ohio River near Steubenville, Ohio and Wheeling. It had rails to other cities such as Zanesville, Canton, Massillon, and Coshocton. It achieved trackage rights into the Pittsburgh area. After early financial problems Jay Gould stepped in to help finace the growth of the WLE and it became a fairly prosperous railroad after 1910, with ore shipments arriving at it's lake ports, and coal in the southern end of the system. The WLE even manufactured it's own steam locomotives in it's Brewster shops. The WLE provided a fair amount of passenger train service from Cleveland south to Janesville, Canton, Chagrin Falls, Wheeling and Janesville, and from Toledo southeast to connect with the other main line at Brewster, Ohio. This service lasted into the 30's but by 1943 the WLE was a freight only hauler. The Nickel Plate leased the WLE in 1949. The NKP was merged into the Norfolk Southern 1984-1988. In 1990 the NS sold off many of its properties including good portions of the old WLE as well as the Akron Canton and Youngstown, and the Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Major portions of these 3 lines formed the new Wheeling and Lake Erie (now initialed WE) with lines in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
History of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway
1850 - W&LE's oldest predecessor the Carroll County Railroad is Organized in Ohio.
1871 - W&LE Railroad established. It was built as a 3 foot narrow gauge line.
1877 - Service between Norwalk and Huron, Ohio started.
1877 - W&LE unable to attract regular traffic or financing for expansion.
1879 - W&LE closed.


Wheeling and Lake Erie
December 1, 1924
1880 - Jay Gould obtains financing, road is changed to standard gauge and construction begins again.
1880 - The narrow gauge line, the Connotton Valley Railway, was formed, building north from Canton to Cleveland and then south to Coshocton and Zanesville, Ohio.
1882 - Service between Huron and Massillon, Ohio opened.
1882-84 - New lines constructed that eventually reached the Ohio River and Toledo, Ohio. Ore docks opened at Huron and cargo of iron ore received.
1888 - The Connotton Valley has become the Cleveland, Canton & Southern Railroad and was converted to standard gauge in one day.
1891 - A branch between Steubenville and Martins Ferry, Ohio was completed which led to an indirect connection to Wheeling via a subsidiary, the Wheeling Bridge and Terminal Company.
1899 - The CC&S purchased at foreclosure by W&LE and becomes the Cleveland Division.
cir 1899 - The WLE ran from the Pittsburgh region (through a connection with the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal, later the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway) to Lake Erie at Huron and Toledo. However, the mainlines of the WLE never reached outside Ohio's borders. It also ran from Cleveland to Zanesville, with the lines crossing at Harmon, just east of Brewster, Ohio, which became the location of WLE's corporate headquarters and locomotive shops. With two busy main stems crossing on the map of Ohio; the road's nickname for many years was "The Iron Cross".
1910 - The WLE began producing locomotives at its Brewster, Ohio shops and boasted one of the finest locomotive producing facilities in the country. Over the years, the WLE built and rolled boilers and erected fifty of their own steam engines, a feat never tried by many larger and more famous railroads.
1910-1949 - W&LE becomes more prosperous.
1940 - WLE had discontinued passenger service by 1940.
1949 - Nickel Plate leases W&LE.
1984 - NKP merged with Norfolk Southern.
1988- Consolidation with NS completed.
1990 - Norfolk Southern Railway sold portions of their lines in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including most of the original lines of the former WLE, the Akron, Canton and Youngstown Railroad (ACY) and the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway to a new regional railroad, taking the name of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway (WE) that operates today. At its formation, trackage rights on Norfolk Southern were extended to the new organization to serve several limestone quarries in the Bellevue, Ohio area and with CSX Transportation from Connellsville, Pennsylvania to Hagerstown, Maryland, a remnant of the old Alphabet Route of which the original WLE was a part. WE also maintains trackage rights from Wellington to Cleveland on CSX.
The only portions of the original WLE not owned by the current WE are the NS line west of Bellevue, (though WE now has trackage rights to Toledo on this line, obtained after the Conrail split in 1999); the former Cleveland Division line south of Harmon (Brewster) that was sold to Ohio Central Railway (OHCR) by NS in 1986, and the Huron, Ohio docks trackage.

WLE map
Wheeling and Lake Erie - 1924

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- various editions


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, May 2, 2009, revised November 28, 2011