Look Back: Dangerous life on the rails

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Photo Provided Shown above is what may have been the first train of the Little Kanawha Railroad to be ferried across the Little Kanawha River at Parkersburg. A portion of the “incline” can be seen from the north shore. There was another incline just beyond where is now the East Street bridge where the engine and cars were put back on tracks. As one of the news items below attests, accidents did happen. The transfer across the river by barge ended soon after the East Street bridge was built in 1908.

Work has been begun

Work has been begun towards raising the engine on the Little Kanawha railroad that ran into the river on Saturday morning.

It will take considerable time and labor to raise the engine and get it back on the track.

It will in all probability be necessary to erect a derrick in order to raise the engine from the river. Traffic will be delayed on the railroad until the engine is gotten out of the river.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

Oct. 18, 1904

(Note: The first train to travel the Little Kanawha Railroad was on Saturday, Sept. 25, 1897. The railroad followed the Little Kanawha River to a “Y” to a point just beyond Palestine, in Wirt County. The last train to make the run to Elizabeth was in the spring of 1933.)


RR fatality

It is believed by some persons that the life of Mr. Roby, who was killed a few days ago on the Railroad near the Red Bridge over Worthington Creek, might have been saved by the Engineer stopping his engine and putting this poor deaf man off of the track. Will the engineer, who was running the engine, make some explanation to the public that all grounds of suspicion might be removed.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

Jan. 29, 1866


Handsomely rewarded; a young man saves a train and gets a gold watch

One night about a week ago a tremendous mass of earth and rocks slipped down on the track of the O.R.R.R. [Ohio River Rail Road] a short distance this side of New Martinsville. E.E. Williams, a young farmer living in that neighborhood, passed along a short time afterward and discovered the obstruction. He knew that the north bound freight, which leaves Parkersburg at 12:30 o’clock a.m., would be along sometime that night. He at once procured a lantern and stationed himself at the dangerous point and remained there all night, waiting to save the train. It was a very heavy train and did not get there on time, and he had to wait until nearly morning, but when it did arrive he signaled it and saved it from wrecking.

The railroad company of course appreciated what Mr. Williams had done, and today President Geo. W. Thompson, on behalf of the company, gave expression to that appreciation by presenting Mr. Williams with a very handsome and valuable Elgin gold watch and chain. Mr. Thompson said it gave himself and the company great pleasure to recognize and reward a service of that character. Mr. Williams is about the best pleased man in Wetzel County.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

Jan. 16, 1889


Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $20/year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.