The Ohio River Electric Railway was typical of any number of small trolley companies that were founded in the late 1800s and early 1900s. People had immense civic pride, and to the way of thinking back then, nothing announced to the world that "you'd arrived" than having a street railway in your municipality.
When you research a project, the odd contradictions are bound
to occur. And this project certainly has
been no exception. This is the map that I had found when I started research back in 2003, or so. It came from a 1920 publication of the Central Electric Traffic Association, and purports to show all of the steam and traction lines in Ohio. At first blush, it looks pretty good. But, the more I read, the more I begin to question its accuracy -- particularly the part of the line from Hobson to Gravel Hill. Hobson was the location of the big railroad yards and passenger station and makes a logical terminus. But I've talked to folks in Gallia County and there's no record of a place called Gravel Hill -- although it looks to be about the same place as Cheshire is today. And there is a Gravel Hill Cemetery in that area. But Gravel Hill also refers to a part of Middleport.
The second map came from a 1902 McGraw Electric Railway Manual -- a compendium of every traction line in operation at that time. Very few of the listings were accompanied by maps, but as luck would have it, they printed a route map for the ORERy. It shows the line ending in the back of Middleport, but probably still short of Hobson and the railroad yard.
And to further confuse the issue, timetables for the line show Gravel Hill as being beyond Middleport by a good two or three miles, given the 10 minutes running time.
A listing of operating cars also presents contradictions and holes. In some cases car builder's records have been preserved. These make it relatively easy to document how many of what size car they received when, but generally don't give any clue about the car numbers or color. Sometimes you find an official car builders photograph will at least give you an idea about the numbering of the cars and their overall appearance. From time-to-time odd cars show up on the roster, presumably second-hand from some other company.
And pinning down the locations of specific places and industries mentioned in printed accounts of the period also present challenges. We're talking about 100 years, more or less, for the ravages of time, progress, and Ohio River flooding to have altered the landscape to remove any and all traces of mines, factories and rights of way.
But, there are sources of information available. Old publications, including the Street Railway Journal, McGraws, reports to the Ohio regulatory bodies, old books in general and newspaper archives can reveal interesting tidbits and give tantalizing clues that point the researcher off in a different direction. Even more difficult is trying to find someone who had an ancestor who worked for the car line, or one of the adjacent businesses. These can be rewarding if time consuming interviews in some really off the beaten path locations, but they have their merit.
Research in the project has come to a halt due to a number of reasons. We still have about 30 years of microfilmed newspapers to sift through and a trip to Columbus to view the material at the Ohio History Center, and, maybe, the Public Utilities Commission. And of course we need to return to Pomeroy to turn over a few more rocks to see what's hidden beneath.
My thanks are extended to Bob Graham, Betty Milhoan, Middleport Mayor Mike Gerlach, Gordon Winebrenner, Kaye Ficke, David Robinette, Paul Reed of the Farmers Bank, Syracuse Clerk Sharon Cottrill, and Innkeepers Anne Chapman and Jessica Wolf for their help in the project during a visit in 2009. The Chester-Shade Historical Society and the Pomeroy Library both proved to be good resources as well. And in my own back yard, thanks to Ed Lybarger, archivist at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
What I've found so far you can view by clicking on the various links below. Updates will be infrequent and irregular but feel free to check back from time to time.
Some corporate history