The Lake Shore and Tuscarawas Valley Railway Company (LS&TV) was chartered by the state of Ohio on July 2, 1870. It was granted authority to build a line from Berea, Ohio, to Mill Township in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, where it would join the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad line. A branch to Elyria, Ohio, was also authorized. In October 1872, the company purchased the 8-mile (13 km) long Elyria and Black River Railway Company (E&BR; chartered in 1871), which allowed for completion of the main line between Berea and Uhrichsville, Ohio. The Elyria branch was completed in August 1873.
In March 1873, the LS&TV filed an amendment to its charter to allow it to extend its tracks south to Washington Township in Tuscarawas County. But the LS&TV fell into receivership in July 1874 for failing to pay its mortgage on the E&BR, and the E&BR was sold for $1 million to Cleveland railroad executive Selah Chamberlain. On January 30, 1875, Chamberlain sold the E&BR to Amasa Stone, Robert L. Chamberlain (Selah's son), Ebenezer B. Thomas, Clement Russell, and Edward Kent (an investor from New York City). These owners formed the Cleveland, Tuscarawas Valley and Wheeling Railway (CTV&W) to take over the assets of the LS&TV.
The CTV&W filed a charter amendment in March 1877 to extend its line from Uhrichsville south through Tuscarawas, Harrison, Belmont counties to the West Wheeling, Ohio, on the Ohio River (just south of Bridgeport). (This route was probably the same as U.S. Route 250.) But the railroad once again fell into receivership in February 1883, and Edward R. Perkins purchased it for just under $2.9 million.
Perkins immediately sold the railroad back to an investors' group led by Stone, and which included Selah Chamberlain, Worthy S. Streator (a major creditor of the line), Robert L. Chamberlain, and Andrew J. Baggs. They filed a charter on March 1, 1883, to incorporate the Cleveland, Lorain and Wheeling Railway (CL&W), which would assume the assets of the CTV&W.
In June 1886, the CL&W filed an amendment to their charter to extend the line south of West Wheeling to the town of Bellaire, Ohio. In August 1887, another amendment extended the line a short distance north into Bridgeport.