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A Street Car For My Hometown

By Staff | Apr 27, 2016


A long time ago, about 100 years, I have been told my Grandfather, Daniel Boone Cecil, (I remember him as “Pop”) worked on the trolley that ran along the river from Sistersville to New Martinsville. That’s really about as much as I know of his time working for the trolley system. Recently, I was reminded of him when I first saw a painting by local artist, E. Stanley Yost. His painting is titled “Wetzel & Tyler Railway Company.” The painting shows the trolley coming up Main Street in downtown New Martinsville.

Nostalgia and local history is something that I have always enjoyed exploring in both pictures and art. Over the years, I have seen several pictures of the trolley lines that once served our local community. The first was the Wetzel & Tyler Railway Company, 1903 to 1908. Next came the Union Traction Company, from 1908 to 1919. Last was the Sistersville to New Martinsville Traction Company, 1919 to 1925. All the trolley services ran along the river and for a while even traveled to Middlebourne. In the early 1900’s, people did not get in their car and take a ten minute ride to Paden City. You checked the trolley schedule and adjusted your needs to catch the next passing trolley.

Earl’s use of light in his painting reminded me a little of another artist whose style I very much enjoy, Thomas Kinkaid. Captured in acrylics on canvas, Earl’s brush strokes illustrates a moment in the life of Main Street in the late evening. Pools of water tell of the recent passing of a summer rain. Street lights have been lit to illuminate downtown as the night settles in. With the coming night and warm humid air from the rain, New Martinsville’s Main Street is alive with town’s people. Over head the late evening sky is filled with high Altocumulus clouds. The rippled clouds reflect the last of the days light before fading from a shade of dark blue to the blackness of night and a star filled sky.

If you look long enough at the painting you can almost hear the sounds of the metal wheels screeching on the tracks. From above the car, blue sparks jump along the power cable as the conductor bellows “all aboard.” You may even hear as he calls to a young boy jumping on board for a free ride. This painting which captures a time in our city’s history is the first in a series Yost is painting to bring back a bit of the Parlor city’s past. If you look closely, you can see some of the same buildings that still stand today in the downtown area.

Street cars operated in the area until the early 1930’s. In the mid 1920’s the Traction Company sold the railroad right of way along the river to the state road commission. The state’s plans were to begin building Route 2 for use by an ever increasing number of automobiles. Henry Ford began mass producing the Model A in 1927. Cars for the average person were becoming affordable and popular as more people wanted to own their piece of the mobile generation. Roads were being built for the new wave of transportation that was coming and small trolley lines could not compete and faded into history.

In Earl’s painting, the trolley car is depicted in its heyday of service to the communities along the river. For a few cents, a person could travel in relative comfort and hear the clickity-clack of the metal tracks. In the painting you can see the rails that once ran up the center of Main Street. A place and time when the trolley shared its right of way with the occasional passing horse and buggy. Above the street, the town clock shows 10:10. You realize it is summer and the wet red bricks of the street are still warm from the day’s hot sun.

The completed painting has been scanned professionally and prints are being made. Earl also has in the works four more paintings showing life in our community. Next in the series is the old train depot on North Street depicted in the year 1913. After that is completed, a painting of ice skating at the Harlan Drive Park just last winter. A nostalgic look at the old downtown theater, when a girl wore bobby socks and a boy drove a 57 Chevy in the late fifties. And finally a painting of a time when colorful race boats raced on the Ohio River in the early 1960’s.

Earl’s skills and keen eye for detail in creating his paintings have made them ideal pieces for collectors. Already, a half a world away in Perth, Australia; one of Earl’s paintings hangs in a private collection. A testament to the skills of his brushes. For more information about his paintings, you may contact Earl Yost at estanleyyost@yahoo.com

Our community’s history was once rich with its people and civic events. Many of those events have been preserved in old black and white pictures. Earl Yost’s paintings will help in a small way to show future generations, we truly are a town who doesn’t forget its past. For me, when I look at the painting, I will believe, just maybe that conductor calling to the boy was my grandfather. It will help me to remember “Pop” as I look Through the lens.