Consolidated Bus Lines


Passengers can be seen boarding a Consolidated Bus Lines coach as it makes a stop
at Gary, W.Va., then the location of a major coal mining complex owned and
operated by U.S. Steel Corp. The photo isn’t dated but appears
 to have been taken in the late 1930s or 1940s.
Courtesy of the National Archives


HUNTINGTON — From the 1930s to the 1950s, Consolidated Bus Lines,
headquartered in Bluefield, served southern West Virginia, eastern
 Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. Its 1,200-mile system
extended from Huntington to Roanoke, serving
 dozens of towns, large and small.

The bus line was founded by James Elliott ‘‘Jack’’ Craft, a native
 of Breathitt County, Ky., where he was born in 1902.
Largely uneducated, Craft migrated to the coalfields
of West Virginia to find work in the mines. He
 worked at different locations throughout the
coalfields. In McDowell County he fell in
 love with one of the era’s great
inventions — the automobile.

Capitalizing on that interest, he started out by driving coal company
executives on their rounds and in 1921 established a Welch taxi
 service with a single Model-T Ford. After this proved
profitable, he expanded into providing bus service
to various coalfield towns. As his business
 grew, Craft acquired other small
bus lines, establishing
Consolidated Bus
Lines in January

By 1953, Consolidated employed 337 individuals and
 operated about 100 buses. In 1952 alone, the
 company’s buses traveled 5,873,468 miles
 and carried 7,881,663 passengers.

On Aug. 1, 1956, Craft sold his business to Virginia Stage Lines,
 a Trailways affiliate. Craft became a Trailways vice president,
a post he would hold until his retirement. The same year
 saw him publish “Wheels on the Mountains,”
a volume of autobiography telling of his
rise from his native Kentucky.

Craft died in 1969. Shortly before his death he made a substantial
 donation to the library in Bluefield, which enabled it to construct
a new building. The Craft Memorial Library opened in 1974.

Today, inter-city bus service is a thing of the past in
 southern West Virginia. It had disappeared in
most of the region by the early 1970s.

Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Jan. 18, 2022..


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