Baltimore & Ohio/Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton - CSX, Cincinnati Terminal Subdivision
Former Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton/Baltimore & Ohio to Lima
Standard gauge line opened to Dayton in 1851
Downtown terminal: Baymiller Street Station (5th & Baymiller Streets)
Mostly abandoned south of Ivorydale (St. Bernard), in active use north of Ivorydale
Chartered on March 2, 1846, the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton was the second railroad constructed in Cincinnati, and the first to follow the mostly flat Mill Creek Valley north out of the city. It opened between Cincinnati and Hamilton in 1846, but did not reach Dayton until the late summer of 1851. The line ran from its downtown terminal location at 5th and Baymiller Streets a short distance due west to the base of Price Hill before turning north and following the west side of the Mill Creek Valley into Butler County. The first downtown station building opened on 5th Street west of Baymiller in 1851. Growing traffic necessitated construction of a new station at the corner of 5th and Baymiller, opening in 1863 at which point the old station was relegated to serving freight. The railroad's terminal facilities would remain at this location until Union Terminal was opened, and some non-passenger facilities remained until 1963. At that time, with the construction of I-75, the 6th Street Expressway, and the clearing of Queensgate for "urban renewal", Linn Street was rerouted over that section of Baymiller and it was significantly widened, thus destroying any remains of the CH&D terminal. The neighborhood is now a somewhat desolate industrial area, with some older factories and newer warehouses. Even in the railroad's heyday, when that was a much more bustling mixed-use neighborhood, it was still a discouragingly long way from the heart of downtown. Most people had to take a horsecar, streetcar, or carriage from Baymiller Street to downtown, making the trip somewhat difficult for commuters and visitors alike.
Industrialization of the Mill Creek Valley and the Great Miami River Valley, as well as new commuter traffic from railroad suburbs like Cumminsville, Winton Place, Carthage, Hartwell, and Glendale caused rapid increases in local traffic through the remainder of the 19th century. Outside the immediate area, the success of the CH&D was predicated on making connections with other lines in Hamilton and Dayton. In 1865, a second set of rails was laid along the whole main line between Cincinnati and Dayton at a 6'-0" gauge to provide trackage rights for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. That company planned to connect the New York & Erie Railroad at Salamanca, New York with the Mississippi River at East St. Louis via Dayton, Cincinnati, and along the Ohio River with trackage rights over the Ohio & Mississippi, which utilized the 6'-0" gauge exclusively. Unfortunately, the explosive growth of Chicago and the construction of shorter trunk lines across the flat terrain of northern and central Ohio and Indiana killed this plan. The expense and difficulty of maintaining and operating the dual-gauge tracks, as well as acquisition of many connecting lines and expensive operating rights over other connecting roads put the CH&D in a precarious financial condition which caused its eventual bankruptcy and reorganization.
The B&O purchased and subsequently merged with the CH&D in 1917, preserving it as a going concern. Due to its location on the west side of the Mill Creek Valley, no significant modifications to the routing of passenger trains was necessary for service to Union Terminal when it was constructed. Passing through several manufacturing centers, it remains one of the busiest lines into the Cincinnati area, providing access to Toledo, Detroit, and points east and west upon arrival at Sidney and Deshler, Ohio. Today, the line is in two sections; the southern quarter is part of Cincinnati Terminal, with the northern 3/4 (north of Hamilton) called the Toledo Subdivision of the Louisville Division. Since consolidation of the north-south lines through the Mill Creek Valley onto the nearby B&O Midland line in 1970, the portion of the CH&D south of Ivorydale in St. Bernard (just east of Mitchell Avenue) has been cut off from through traffic. The line has been completely abandoned and dismantled from Ivorydale south through Winton Place, Spring Grove Cemetery, and Northside/Cumminsville. The tracks reappear near Millcreek Road in South Cumminsville, but it has been closed north of the Western Hills Viaduct since December 2003. The remainder of the line to Queensgate is used to serve a few online industries as the CSX Industrial Track. In 1970 it probably seemed like a good way to economize operations in the face of severely reduced business, and to eliminate many grade crossings throughout Northside, but considering how congested the parallel B&O Midland line has become due to that consolidation (it's already 3 tracks, with talks of adding a 4th), the abandonment of the CH&D south of Ivorydale was at best an unfortunate event, and at worst a huge mistake.
Baltimore & Ohio to Columbus - Indiana & Ohio, Midland Subdivision
Former Marietta & Cincinnati/Cincinnati Washington & Baltimore/Baltimore & Ohio to Columbus
Standard gauge line opened in stages from 1855 to 1872
Downtown terminal: Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue)
In active use
The Marietta & Cincinnati was the third railroad built in Cincinnati, chartered in 1845 but not placed under construction until 1851. Significant financial assistance from the completely isolated rural towns and counties along its route helped the road finish its initial construction from Marietta to Loveland in 1857. At that time, the road reached downtown via trackage rights from Loveland to the Little Miami Railroad's downtown terminal, but at a discouragingly high rental cost to the fledgling railroad. Reorganization in 1860 made the funds available to continue construction into the city, when the line through Indian Hill, Madeira, and Norwood was completed. Money ran out upon reaching St. Bernard, but in 1861 a connection was built to the CH&D at what would later become Ivorydale Junction, allowing the Marietta to use the CH&D's Baymiller Street Station over much shorter trackage rights than they had over the Little Miami. When the Indianapolis, Cincinnati, & Lafayette opened their new Plum Street Station in December of 1865, the Marietta arranged to use their station, but still operated over the CH&D to reach downtown until they finally completed their own line down the Mill Creek Valley in 1872. In the same year, they got their own tenant, the CCC & St. L (Big Four/NYC) to Columbus, who used the newly opened extension from Ivorydale to reach the Plum Street Station. Financial troubles from the outset, a reliance on connecting traffic, and few online customers in the Cincinnati area (as Norwood and St. Bernard were only just starting to industrialize) gave the new road little hope for the future. Acquisition by the B&O in 1882 to create a through route to Columbus via other purchased lines saved the road from a premature death.
Suburban traffic increased from the growth of Norwood, Madeira, and Loveland, but this paled in comparison to the local passenger traffic generated by the CH&D and Big Four lines up the Mill Creek Valley. Increasing industrialization in Norwood also provided a good amount of freight traffic, especially after the turn of the 20th century. The B&O served the large Cincinnati Machine Tools (later Milacron) facility and other factories in Oakley and Madisonville. Beyond Madisonville there was little local passenger traffic aside from commuters to Madeira and Loveland, and beyond that the countryside is pretty sparsely populated even today, so the connection between Cincinnati and Columbus is the only reason for the line to remain in existence. While many factories in Norwood, Oakley, and Madisonville have closed, the double-track line through Norwood proper is still relatively busy. From Oakley east, the line is single-track but with fairly consistent traffic. The section of road from St. Bernard south has been heavily modified over time, with the addition of massive classification yards, approaches to Union Terminal, proximity to flood control work on the Mill Creek, I-75, and consolidation of all north-south railroad traffic from St. Bernard south. As part of that consolidation in 1970, the route south of Ivorydale Junction was grade-separated to eliminate road crossings at Mitchell and Clifton Avenues, and in 1995 a third track was added to handle additional traffic, as the former Marietta, Big Four, and CH&D lines all funnel through this one location. Due to congestion in this area, there are talks of possibly adding a fourth main track, which would be especially necessary for any future passenger rail plans in Mill Creek Valley. CSX owns the line now, but starting on October 15, 2004 it is leased to Indiana & Ohio east of Ivorydale. Norfolk Southern has trackage rights south of Ivorydale Junction as well, as NS is the successor to the aforementioned Big Four/NYC line to Columbus.
Baltimore & Ohio to Washington, IN - CSX, Louisville Division, Indiana Subdivision
Former Ohio & Mississippi/Baltimore & Ohio to Washington, IN
Broad gauge (6'-0") line opened in 1857, converted to standard gauge in 1871
Downtown terminal: Front & Mill Streets (Now Mehring Way & Gest Street), then Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue)
In use except downtown terminal areas
The last of the so-called pioneer railroads to be built in Cincinnati, the Ohio & Mississippi received its charters from Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois in 1848, 1849, and 1851 respectively. Construction began in 1851 and it was opened between Cincinnati and Aurora, Indiana in 1854. The line to East St. Louis was completed in 1857, aided by a large loan from the city of Cincinnati and the usual stock subscriptions. Built to a 6'-0" gauge to provide a connecting route for the Atlantic and Great Western, this highly overcapitalized company was financially sick from the outset. By locating the line along the bank of the Ohio River, construction was relatively easy until Aurora, where it climbs to the higher interior plains of Indiana. The earliest terminal was a modest wooden structure on the south side of Front and Mill Streets, currently the 3-way intersection of Mehring Way, Pete Rose Way, and Gest Street. A somewhat larger and better executed wood station was built on the same site in 1873, but it still typified the precarious situation of the road. Conversion to standard gauge in 1871 helped bring the line into a somewhat better position, but rescue didn't come until the turn of the 20th century when it was absorbed into the Baltimore and Ohio. A connecting viaduct to Union Terminal was constructed, which climbed up the north bank of the Ohio River, passed under the north approach to the Cincinnati Southern Bridge, then swung north to Union Terminal. The viaduct itself has been dismantled, but the arched concrete piers remain. Today this route sees a trio of weekday manifests that operate west from Cincinnati to Seymour, then south on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad to Louisville, Kentucky. Local trains are based at Trautman, Ohio and Mitchell, Indiana.
Chesapeake & Ohio to Russell, KY - CSX, Cincinnati Terminal Subdivision
Former Chesapeake & Ohio to Russell, KY
Standard gauge line opened to Cincinnati in 1889
Downtown terminal: 4th Street Station (4th Street between Smith and John)
In active use
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway mainline to Cincinnati was completed in 1889 after their bridge over the Ohio River was finished. Running along the Ohio River for almost the entire route to Russell, the line sees a substantial mix of manifest, steel and coal traffic, averaging 12 to 16 trains per day. It is also the route of Amtrak's train into Cincinnati, the "Cardinal". The line begins south of Union Terminal and proceeds along the C&O Viaduct to the C&O/Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and Covington. At 16th Street in Covington (KC Junction), the line veers east while the former L&N to Corbin, KY proceeds south. The line travels east through Newport, Bellevue, and Dayton, then parallels the Ohio River to points east.
Though the north end of the C&O bridge was almost directly over top of Central Union Depot, getting the trains down to the level of that terminal and turned in the proper direction ended up being a nearly insurmountable problem. The result was the conversion of an old house on 4th Street (which is at approximately the same height as the bridge) into a passenger station, with small freight handling facilities to the side. Most freight traffic was handled farther west in the tangle of yards in the Mill Creek Valley, which the C&O reached by the area's only steel railroad viaduct. When the bridge over the Ohio River was replaced in 1928, the viaduct was reconstructed and new sections were built to connect with Union Terminal. Most of this viaduct remains today, and it has much the same character as the elevated rapid transit lines in Chicago and New York, especially along Mehring Way west of Freeman Avenue. The old station location on 4th street was obliterated by the I-75/Ft. Washington Way interchange.
Chesapeake & Ohio of Indiana - Indiana Eastern Railroad
Former Chesapeake & Ohio of Indiana to Cottage Grove, IN
Standard gauge line opened in stages between 1902 and 1910
Downtown terminal: 8th & McLean, then Baymiller Street Station (5th & Baymiller Streets), then 4th Street Station (4th Street between Smith and John)
Dismantled south of Fernald in 1979, in limited use north of Fernald
The construction of this railroad rounded out the Cincinnati terminal system upon its completion in 1904. The Cincinnati, Richmond and Muncie Railroad was incorporated in 1900 to build a new line to Chicago on the shortest route between the two cities. Two other companies were formed to carry out the construction, and upon reaching Griffith, Indiana in June 1904, the three companies were merged to form the Chicago, Cincinnati, and Louisville Railroad. Plans to reach Louisville via the north bank of the Ohio River and Madison Indiana were never realized due to a lack of traffic and capital. A small combined freight and passenger station was built at 8th and McLean, at the east end of the 8th Street Viaduct. While the road did achieve its goal of the shortest route to Chicago, they were not able to draw much traffic away from the already established competitors. The route through South Fairmount, Westwood, Bridgetown, Dent, and Fernald required navigating torturous terrain. The rugged hillside along South Fairmount necessitated building 9 wooden trestles, more than any other local railroad in such a short length. These were eventually replaced with steel trestles, but the 1.9% grade through here made freight handling a problem. The long climb out of the Mill Creek Valley was all for naught too, as the railroad then had to descend into and climb out of the Great Miami River Valley as well. These factors made the helpless railroad an easy target for others looking to expand their empire. The CH&D acquired control shortly after the line opened in July 1904. Failed expectations led to receivership in 1908 and it was sold at foreclosure to the C&O in 1910. From then on it operated as a subsidiary, the C&O of Indiana.
The small combined station at 8th and McLean served a rather short life as a passenger station. When taken over by the CH&D, passengers were transferred to Baymiller Street, and eventually to the C&O's 4th Street Station in 1910. The difficulty of operating over the rugged western hills, and declining freight tonnage in general led to the abandonment of the line south of Fernald by the Chessie System (successors to the C&O) in 1979. Reconstruction of the massive Queensgate Yards was another impetus for abandonment, as the long steel trestle to South Fairmount was in the way of track expansion. CSX eventually succeeded the Chessie System, and the current operator, the Indiana Eastern Railroad, commenced operation of the remainder of the line on August 27, 2005 when it leased it from CSX. With cleanup of the Fernald property completed, the fate of the road in Hamilton County is uncertain. The only remaining customers in Ohio appear to be the chemical plants on New Haven Road, and the tracks currently end a few hundred feet south of there.
Cincinnati & Dayton Short Line Railroad
Standard or dual standard/broad gauge railroad proposed between Cincinnati and Dayton in the mid 1850s via deep level Deer Creek Tunnel under Walnut Hills, never completed
There was no shortage of ambitious railroad plans for Cincinnati in the decade of the 1850s. This time saw the construction of many of the Kentucky railroads, opening of the various B&O lines into the city, and most notably, the start of the Dayton Short Line's ill-fated deep level Deer Creek Tunnel under Walnut Hills. The Cincinnati & Dayton Short Line Railroad (also frequently referred to as the Dayton & Cincinnati Short Line) broke ground on December 16, 1852 to build a double track standard gauge railroad (with provisions for 6'-0" broad gauge rails as well) between the northeast corner of downtown Cincinnati and Dayton. It would roughly parallel the routes of the later CL&N and PRR Richmond Division to Sharonville. At that point the main line would head due north to Middletown and follow the east side of the Great Miami River's valley, roughly paralleling the Miami and Erie Canal, to Dayton. This route that bypassed the Mill Creek Valley and Hamilton was more than 7 miles shorter than the competing CH&D. Ultimately, the former Big Four/NYC route to Columbus used pretty much this same route between Sharonville and Middletown. Also at Sharonville, the Dayton Short Line was intended to connect with an extension of the Hamilton & Eaton coming in from the northwest, and the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Xenia coming in from the northeast. At Norwood it would connect with the Marietta & Cincinnati, and later plans were drawn up to connect to the Cincinnati & Eastern near Idlewild.
All these plans illustrate that a large number of then under construction railroads were to funnel into the Dayton Short Line's grandest undertaking, their Deer Creek Tunnel. The ambitious project, presided over by engineer Erasmus Gest, called for a 10,011 foot long tunnel, with approximately 7,903 feet of that being bored directly through the hill. The remaining 2,108 feet of "approaches" (1,525 feet on the south end and 583 feet on the north) was to be cut and cover construction. Had it been completed before 1875, when the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts opened, it would have been the longest tunnel in the United States, and perhaps the entire western hemisphere. The 26 foot wide by 20 foot tall tunnel would be walled with stone and arched with brick. This generous size was enough to accommodate two dual-gauge tracks at an easy grade of 39.6 feet per mile, or 0.75%. The big advantage of this route, aside from its shorter distance and easy grade to points north, was that it is entirely immune to flooding. Until large flood control projects were brought online after 1937, the Mill Creek Valley was regularly plagued with rising waters. Flooding from the creek itself was an issue to be sure, but water backing up the valley from Ohio River floods was a much bigger problem, and this would regularly strangle railroad operations through Cincinnati. The Little Miami Railroad was subject to floods from the Ohio and Little Miami Rivers as well, while the L&N and C&O tracks in northern Kentucky were prone to floods by the Ohio and Licking Rivers. So not only would the approach tracks be safe from flooding, the terminal area at Court Street is also on high ground as well. This was a big selling point.
Construction was undertaken from five different access points, the north and south portals, and three vertical shafts about 200 feet deep which were dug at various locations in Walnut Hills. When all was said and done, the distance between portals (which includes some completed cut and cover length on the south end) was 9,000 feet. The south portal was at the location of today's northbound lanes of I-71, where the ramp from northbound Reading Road merges in, and exactly where the highway transitions from an asphalt surface to the concrete bridge over Florence Avenue. There was about 550 feet of open-cut walled approach south of there, ending up in the southbound lanes of the interstate just before the bridges for the Reading Road ramps. The north portal was also buried by I-71 construction. It was located along the left shoulder of the northbound lanes about 60 feet west of the Blair Avenue overpass. Unlike at the south portal, none of the cut and cover approach was covered over here, so the north portal also marked the start of the bored section of the tunnel. There was 583 feet of open-cut walled approach north of here, with another 75 feet or so of retaining wall in an open ravine. This stone wall was already somewhat buried when I-71 was being built, so it could still be there under the hillside north of I-71 in the headwaters of Ross Run (commonly misnamed Bloody Run) that is now mostly a sewer pipe under Victory Parkway.
The groundbreaking on December 16, 1852 took place at shaft 2, located in the front yard of 2627 Stanton Avenue, which is now a vacant lot with a small community garden. Four days later work was begun at the north portal and at shaft 1, which was in the middle of May Street, aligned with the south property line of building 2333. Work on shaft 3, at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Melrose, wasn't begun until February 15, 1853. Finally, work on the south approach began on April 10 of that year. All three shafts, which were of an elliptical profile 12 x 20 feet wide, were dug to the location of the tunnel's crown between June 5 and 20 of 1853.
Digging was relatively easy through the soft clay, shale, and occasional beds of limestone. Nevertheless, the tunnel was still dug by hand using pick and shovel, with occasional assistance of black powder for blasting and steam powered lifts to remove the spoils and provide fresh air to the men. Under those conditions, the going was certainly not swift. The company's second annual report noted at the beginning of March in 1854 that 2,800 feet had been excavated and 750 feet was entirely finished (meaning the masonry walls and arching was in place). A year later, 3,336 feet of the tunnel had been dug, with 1,514 feet of that being complete. By that time work was slowing down due to diminishing funds. Little to no work had been done on the rest of the line, either north of the tunnel, where extensive cuts and fills were needed to bridge the deeply cut ravines where Victory Parkway runs, or at the terminal where the casino is located (formerly referred to as Broadway Commons). In the waning days of the project, in June 1855, there was a cave in near the north portal which killed five men. While the soft shale and clay was relatively easy to dig, it was still somewhat unstable until the stone walls and arching could be installed. Shortly thereafter, the project had to finally be abandoned for lack of means, after $475,000 had been spent.
In 1872, after more than 15 years of inactivity, the company was reorganized as the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company. Some limited work began again, though it stopped in 1874 after little additional progress had been made. There was another cave in near Oak Street (presumably the north end of the tunneled section under shaft 2) in the intervening years as well, hampering efforts to continue the project. The company became dormant again, and sale to other interested parties was hampered by an excessive asking price for the property.
By 1896, owners of the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw were trying to gain control of the CL&N, which by then had built its own route down the Deer Creek Valley, with two much shorter tunnels at a higher elevation. The CJ&M, unable to buy out the CL&N, and dissatisfied with trackage rights to use their Court Street station, attempted to secure the tunnel company to gain their own entrance to the city. Calvin Brice of the CJ&M forced the tunnel company into receivership so he could purchase it at the foreclosure sale. After securing enough of the outstanding mortgage bonds, he and his associates were able to demand a foreclosure on the property. On May 19, 1896 the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company was sold to Ira Bellows of New York, a covert associate of Brice. At the same time the Pennsylvania Railroad was busy orchestrating its own purchase of the CL&N, and it succeeded over Brice and the CJ&M. The CJ&M was ultimately foreclosed and reorganized, then it was acquired by the Big Four in 1901. With no use for the unfinished tunnel or trackage rights over the competing PRR/CL&N, the Big Four sold the tunnel property and terminal land at Court Street to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1902. Not long after this time, much of the valley and the south portal was filled with earth to create a level ball field called Deer Creek Commons. Interest in the tunnel was briefly resurrected in 1927 by the Beeler Report, a study of the Cincinnati subway rapid transit loop. However, the deep location and sloping profile meant a station in the tunnel would be impractical, and its incomplete status eliminated it from any further consideration.
For several decades knowledge of the tunnel gradually faded. The south portal was buried under Deer Creek Commons, and the north portal remained in obscurity buried under trees and brush in the creek bed of a lonely industrial neighborhood. It is not known what happened to the three vertical shafts in Walnut Hills, but they could still be there under some unassuming manhole cover or bulkhead a few feet below ground. It is also possible that they were filled in over time, being used as garbage dumps for the surrounding neighborhood. In March of 1966 however, the tunnel was rediscovered by construction workers excavating for I-71. A stretch of the tunnel very close to the south portal was breached and quickly filled with dirt after a few newspaper articles and some photographs were taken. The north portal was also buried a few years later when highway construction reached Avondale, and the remaining section of tunnel was blocked off by a poured concrete bulkhead. About 550 feet of the north end of the tunnel remains in place south of the bulkhead however, and as mentioned already, the retaining walls for the north approach could very well still be in place below the surface. In fact, because of the low grade, the rest of the tunnel may still be in place under I-71, though filled in. A similar situation might exist near the south portal as well, since the highway bridge straddles the tunnel location somewhat. On December 5, 2007, a backhoe that was excavating for the SpringHill Suites Mariott partially fell into the south end of the tunnel near the northeast corner of Florence Avenue and Eden Park Drive. Some brief investigation was done, but it doesn't appear that any photographs were taken. Controlled density fill, which is basically a weak form of concrete, was dumped into the opening to fill the breach. Nevertheless, about 500 feet of tunnel is probably still intact north of there, ending under the north curb line of Florence Avenue near the corner of a parking lot's retaining wall.
The failure of this project is rather unfortunate, to say the least. Had it actually been completed, the Deer Creek Tunnel would have changed the shape of Cincinnati's growth immensely more than the subway project 70 years later. It's possible the CH&D would be the only mainline railroad in the Mill Creek Valley south of Sharonville. That would certainly have impacted the valley's industrial growth, a great deal of which would have shifted to Avondale, Evanston, Norwood, and Bond Hill. No doubt it would also have greatly impacted the railroad terminal pattern of the city. The Plum Street station would likely have remained a smaller facility for just two or three railroads, rather than growing into the city's first union station, Central Union Depot. Court Street would be much more important on the other hand, becoming the de facto union station for Cincinnati. We would have seen much more substantial connecting tracks along Eggleston Avenue from the Pan Handle station, and perhaps a direct connection with a much more substantial L&N bridge. Even without the completed tunnel, plans were floated in the early part of the 20th century for a union station along the north end of downtown. Had the tunnel been finished, this plan would almost surely have been implemented, perhaps using the drained canal bed for approach tracks. Of course the very ambitiousness and potential impacts of the Cincinnati & Dayton Short Line was a big part of its ultimate failure. As many new railroads were being constructed into Cincinnati at the time, investors were unwilling to jeopardize their previously made contributions to competing railroad companies like the CH&D, Little Miami, or the Marietta & Cincinnati. Financial blackballing by the relatively young but already powerful interests of the existing and under construction railroads and their financiers prevented the Dayton Short Line from raising enough capital to finish its tunnel. We will never know for sure how things would be different had the project been completed, even partially, but it is nonetheless a fascinating thought.
Cincinnati Western Railroad
Standard gauge railroad graded between Cincinnati and Indiana in the mid 1850s, never completed
Another one of those ambitious plans from the 1850s was a railroad partially constructed to the west of the Mill Creek Valley. The Cincinnati Western Railroad (not to be confused with the nearby Cincinnati & Westwood) was chartered on February 10, 1851 to construct a single-track standard gauge railroad from downtown Cincinnati to Chicago via Connersville, Rushville, and Indianapolis. Some accounts suggest this was to be a narrow gauge railroad, however the earliest passenger-carrying narrow gauge line in the United States wasn't opened until nearly 20 years later, in 1871 (note that there were a number of private industrial and mining railroads that were narrow gauge, but they were very short and not common carriers). The road in Ohio to the Indiana border, a distance of 30 miles, would be financed by $600,000 of capital stock. Amendments to the charter over the next few years resulted in an altered route. By 1853-55, a system map revealed a route from Cincinnati to New Castle via Connersville. Connections in New Castle would be constructed by the Chicago, Newcastle and Cincinnati Railroad via Anderson, Kokomo, and Logansport, bypassing Indianapolis. A branch line, the Cincinnati, Newcastle and Michigan Railroad would operate to Grand Haven on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan near Grand Rapids via Muncie, Marion, Wabash, and Goshen. Presumably the three companies were to be merged once construction finished. One report mentions a plan to utilize the towpath of the Miami & Erie Canal to reach a downtown station near the canal's sharp bend at Plum Street. It seems likely that they would connect with the canal somewhere in Brighton near Harrison and Colerain Avenues.
The route was shown on maps of Butler County and Hamilton County in 1855 and 1856 respectively, and it was reported in 1854 that $2.3 million had been subscribed, enough to cover the estimated $2.1 million cost of construction to New Castle. It is likely then that construction began sometime in 1854 or 1855, though there's no verification of when exactly construction happened. The major engineering challenges were described as the crossing of Mill Creek, West Fork, the Great Miami River, and a tunnel at the head of Badgely Run Valley. This would be a tunnel of approximately 2,900 feet in length, running through Roll Hill where Fay Apartments is today. The need for this tunnel is a bit dubious, as a slight detour to the north would allow the railroad to simply swing around the hill in the open valley. Excessive curvature or maintaining their maximum grade of 50' per mile might not have been possible going that way. Whatever their motivation, a tunnel was at least partially constructed from a sharp bend on Faraday Road to just east of the intersection of present-day Montana and Baltimore Avenues. The tunnel was apparently breached during the construction of Fay Apartments, and the west portal was demolished when Baltimore Avenue was rerouted during I-74 construction in the early 1970s. The east portal was presumably sealed up at the same time, but it may remain buried in the hillside to this day.
There used to be graded trestle approaches immediately outside the west portal of the tunnel and across the small valley Montana Avenue climbs. This was all destroyed when I-74 was built, and while there is some grading in Mt. Airy Forest, it's rather short. Tracking the route through White Oak, Groesbeck, and Northbrook is difficult due to recent suburban development and the relatively flat terrain that didn't require much grading of the roadbed. Immediately north of I-275 however, the route is very evident. There area many cuts and trestle approaches along the west edge of Triple Creek park and through the extreme north end of Richardson Forest Preserve. Many thanks go to Rick Johnson of the Hamilton County Park District for bringing this to my attention. Supposedly there were bridge piers in the Great Miami River where the line crossed into Ross (known as Venice at the time), though this has yet to be confirmed. Northwest of Ross the roadbed becomes very difficult to find, but I do have a general idea of how it went based on the 1855 map, and more recent GIS contour maps that have been released for Butler County. There's clear evidence of the route in current aerial photos of Butler County in two locations: southeast of OH-129 and Robinson Road, and northwest of OH-732 and Dunwoody Road.
Just about at the Indiana state line the Cincinnati Western crosses the current route of the Indiana Eastern Railroad. There was one report that the Indiana Eastern (formerly the C&O of Indiana) used the unfinished roadbed of the Cincinnati Western, but this is doubtful based on the maps and route descriptions. Whatever the routing through Indiana, the company failed before the roadbed was finished, so they never even got close to laying tracks or building trestles. The few scattered incomplete earthworks and the buried tunnel under Roll Hill are all that remain to this day. While the Dayton Short Line and its tunnel under Walnut Hills remained in the local press through the 1870s, and its assets were mentioned in various title transfers into the 20th century, the Cincinnati Western was all but forgotten by the close of the 1850s. If not for the tunnel breaches, it's possible nobody would know about this railroad at all today.
Louisville & Nashville to Corbin, KY - CSX, Huntington West Division, CC Subdivision
Former Kentucky Central/Louisville & Nashville to Corbin, KY
Standard gauge line opened in the late 1850's
Downtown terminal: Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue) or 4th Street Station (4th Street between Smith and John)
In active use
The first railroad constructed south from Cincinnati was the Covington & Lexington Railroad, chartered in 1849. By 1853 only 20 miles had been constructed from the center of Covington south along the Licking River, due to the difficulty in raising capital from the sparsely populated Kentucky countryside. The road reached Paris, Kentucky in 1856, and in 1859 they merged with the Maysville & Lexington to form the Kentucky Central Railroad. Even with a through route to Lexington established, the small company had no resources to span the Ohio River, and had to wait until the C&O built its bridge in 1888. An important coal hauling route, this was to become the Louisville & Nashville's main line to Corbin, Kentucky, and it still carries significant traffic today.
Louisville & Nashville LCL Subdivision - CSX, Louisville Division, LCL Subdivision
Former Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington/Louisville & Nashville LCL Subdivision (Short Line)
Standard gauge line opened in 1869
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
While its parent railroad, the Lexington & Ohio, was chartered in 1831, the earliest west of the Allegheny Mountains, it wasn't until 1869 that the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington began running trains to Newport Kentucky. In 1868, even before normal operations began to Newport, they incorporated the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge Company to construct a combined rail and road bridge over the Ohio River, expected to be complete in 1870. The location was chosen to align with the LC&L's track on Saratoga Street in Newport and to connect with the Little Miami's terminal area along Butler Street in Cincinnati. The close proximity to the tracks on the Ohio side, and their perpendicular alignment to the bridge, required a sharp 90º turn and a steep approach. This arrangement, paired with the Little Miami's tight yard configuration, required LC&L trains to pull past the station then back in, an awkward operation that lasted until passenger operations were moved to Union Terminal. The bridge was slated to open on time, yet railroad opponents (chiefly riverboat operators) aided by the Corps of Engineers required a partial rebuilding of the brand new bridge to raise the deck and widen the clearance between the center spans. This delayed opening until 1872, and after the LC&L was acquired by the L&N Railroad in 1881, increasing traffic required replacing the bridge in 1896, which remains to this day as the Purple People Bridge.
Louisville & Nashville, Wilder Main - CSX, Louisville Division, LCL Subdivision
Formerly part of the Louisville & Nashville LCL Subdivision (Short Line)
Standard gauge line opened in 1869
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
Dismantled north of former C&O line in Newport, KY
This is the rail line that connected the Purple People Bridge with KC Junction in Covington via Saratoga Street in Newport. It was dismantled north of the C&O along Saratoga in 1984.
New York Central/Big Four, CIND Subdivision - Indiana & Ohio, CIND Subdivision
Former Indianapolis & Cincinnati/CCC & St. L (Big Four)/New York Central to Indiana
Standard gauge line opened to Cincinnati in 1863
Downtown terminal: Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue)
In use except downtown terminal areas
The Miami & Erie Canal is fairly well known in Cincinnati due to its central location and eventual use for the never completed subway. However, few people know of the second canal to serve the city, the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal, which ran west from downtown along the Ohio River. Beyond North Bend, it turned up the Whitewater River Valley to connect at Harrison with a system of other canals in southeast Indiana. While the Miami & Erie Canal remained somewhat useful through the end of the 19th century, the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal was bankrupt and abandoned by the time the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad was chartered in 1861. In a remarkably far-sighted move, the I&C purchased the canal property in order to construct its new line. This move gave them a nearly level entrance into the heart of the city (the original terminal was at Plum and Pearl Streets, directly under today's Ft. Washington Way). On top of that, the entire route was grade-depressed enough below street level for road bridges to clear railroad cars, thus eliminating nearly all at-grade street crossings. The final advantage was the acquisition of the canal's tunnel under the small ridge at Cleves, though this was bypassed to the west by an open cut in the 1880's, later widened to accommodate US-50. The north end of the tunnel remains today, with the north portal still accessible and visible from Miami Avenue, although it has been filled with sediment to within about 3 feet of the top of the arch. The one disadvantage to this arrangement is that the railroad was somewhat more susceptible to flooding by the Ohio River, being 10-15 feet lower than surrounding grade and considering that the canal bed was not originally intended to drain. Nonetheless, it made for a very clever reuse of the abandoned canal.
The Plum Street Station was opened in December 1865 on the site of the Pearl Street Market, which had never been used for its intended purpose. The terminal basin for the canal was along the south side of Pearl Street, ending at Central Avenue, with the market property stretching two blocks farther east to Elm Street. The station occupied the very wide middle of Pearl Street between Plum and Central, in much the same way that Findlay Market today sits in the middle of Elder Street. The first freight station was constructed on Pearl between Central Avenue and John Street in 1864, and being at the location of the canal's old terminal put it in an already bustling warehouse district. This being the closest station to the heart of downtown made it a desirable terminal for other railroads to use. The Marietta & Cincinnati operated out of Plum Street as soon as the station opened, and other railroads would share this station as well, making it the city's first union station. The two-track approach would quickly become a bottleneck, and Central Union Depot was constructed a block away in 1883. At that time, the old passenger station was converted to freight use. Partially destroyed by fire in 1944, the area remained a large complex of warehouses until 1961 when much of it was demolished for Ft. Washington Way. To the west, a connecting viaduct to Union Terminal was constructed in the early 1930's, which climbed up the north bank of the Ohio River, passed under the north approach to the Cincinnati Southern Bridge, then swung north to Union Terminal. The viaduct itself has been dismantled, but the arched concrete piers remain. The tracks currently end a few blocks west of the old Central Union Depot, under the I-75 approach to the Brent Spence Bridge, at the east end of the Longworth Hall property.
New York Central/Big Four to Columbus - Norfolk Southern, Dayton District, Central Division
Former CCC & St. L (Big For)/New York Central to Columbus
Standard gauge line opened in 1872
Downtown terminal: Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue)
Line begins at Ivorydale (St. Bernard) and heads north via Sharonville, Middletown, and Dayton
In active use
In 1872, the Cincinnati & Springfield Railroad began operating over a somewhat indirect route between its namesake cities in order to serve the industrial centers of Dayton and Middletown. It connected with the Marietta & Cincinnati's newly opened extension to downtown from St. Bernard, at what would later be called Ivorydale Junction. The road was quickly snatched up by the newly formed Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis Railroad, of which the Mad River and Lake Erie was a parent. Closely paralleling the CH&D through the Mill Creek Valley, this new company also used the Indianapolis & Cincinnati's Plum Street Station and later Central Union Depot with the Marietta. During the Penn Central years, the Big 4 east of London was downgraded and mainline trains were routed onto former Pennsylvania track, an arrangement still in use today, and the track east of London has been largely abandoned. Despite reroutings and changing traffic patterns north of Cincinnati, the line through the Mill Creek Valley remains very busy.
New York Central/Big Four, Whitewater Division - Indiana & Ohio, Brookville Subdivision
Former New York Central, Whitewater Division to New Castle, IN
Standard gauge line opened in 1862
Downtown terminal: Baymiller Street Station (5th & Baymiller Streets)
In limited local use, all track restricted to 10 mph or less
The Brookville sub-division is the original property of the Indiana & Ohio. Purchased in 1978, it sees regular traffic from its primary customer in Brookville, Owens-Corning. The railroad was never a busy mainline and always had one foot in the grave being subjected to regular flooding by the Whitewater River. Today, the railroad is periodically washed out by the river in places. Once the New York Central Railroad's Whitewater Division, it runs from Valley Junction near North Bend to New Castle, Indiana. Today, all of the railroad is intact, except for a short segment between Brookville and Metamora. From Metamora to Connersville, the line is operated by the Whitewater Valley Scenic Railroad. North of Connersville to New Castle, it is operated by the Connersville & New Castle RR. I&O usually operates five days per week, depending on traffic. An engine house is located in Brookville, although operations are often based at Valley Junction. The entire Brookville sub is designated as "FRA excepted track", thus, is limited 10mph.
Norfolk & Western to Portsmouth - Norfolk Southern, Cincinnati District, Lake Division (Peavine)
Former Cincinnati & Eastern/Cincinnati, Portsmouth & Virginia/Norfolk & Western to Portsmouth
Narrow gauge (3'-0") line opened in stages between 1876 and 1882, converted to standard gauge in 1894
Downtown terminal: Court Street Station (E. Court & Reedy Streets)
In limited local use (no through traffic) east of Clare Yard, closed to all traffic west of Clare as of September 10, 2009
(The following write-up is adapted from the website Abandoned)
The Cincinnati and Eastern Railway (C&E) was a narrow gauge (3'-0") railroad from Idlewild near Xavier University to Portsmouth, Ohio. The C&E was chartered as the Cincinnati, Batavia & Williamsburg on January 11, 1876, but the name was changed and the projected route was extended to Portsmouth in May. It was projected that the line would carry coal from the Jackson County fields. Construction began almost immediately after the railroad was renamed. On October 18, 1876, the line was opened from Batavia Junction (Clare) at the Little Miami Railroad to Batavia, a distance of 15 miles. By August 4, 1877, the railroad had reached Winchester, a distance of 48 miles. On March 1, 1878, the C&E opened the first 5 miles of a branch to New Richmond from Richmond Junction to Tobasco, at the current intersection of Beechmont Avenue and I-275. In June, a 5.5-mile western extension to the Miami Valley Railroad, later the CL&N at Idlewild, was completed. The original Miami Valley Railroad promised a narrow-gauge connection through the Deer Creek Valley to their downtown Court Street terminal via the never-completed deep level Deer Creek Tunnel (Idlewild Junction is just a short distance from the north portal of the incomplete tunnel at I-71 and Blair Avenue). When the Deer Creek tunnel project ran into financial difficulties, the C&E found that its connection to Cincinnati was completely useless for four years. The railroad soon went into receivership on January 27, 1879 due to failures to collect stock subscriptions.
During receivership, little work was completed along the C&E. The branch line had been extended to Blairville, a distance of 11 miles, in 1879, and was completed to New Richmond on March 1, 1880, a distance of 14 miles. The branch had a physical connection with the Cincinnati, Georgetown and Portsmouth (CG&P) at Tobasco Junction on the border of Hamilton and Clermont Counties at Clough Pike. At a meeting on November 21, 1880 the shareholders voted to increase the capital stock from $500,000 to $2 million, and to authorize a bond issue to connect the railroad to Portsmouth and beyond to Gallipolis. In February 1882, the C&E signed a contract with the Cincinnati Northern to utilize its 3.81 miles of track from Idlewild to Court Street via the Deer Creek valley after new tunnels (unrelated to the original Deer Creek Tunnel) were completed. On April 4, 1882, the C&E began operations from Court Street, with one train running to Irvington, 62.2 miles from Cincinnati, another to Winchester, and two to New Richmond. By the end of 1882, the C&E had reached Peebles, 72 miles from Cincinnati's Court Street depot. In May 1883, the railroad had reached Rarden, and Henley in late July. On September 14, the C&E went into receivership again. Nevertheless, the C&E was completed to Portsmouth in August 1884, with a 1,000 foot truss over the Scioto River as its centerpiece.
Almost immediately after the completion to Portsmouth, the C&E began preparations for conversion of the line to standard gauge. The railroad west of Winchester, however, had deteriorated. The C&E could not also shake off receivership, and in February 1885, another receiver was appointed to the railroad. By May 1885, the C&E east of Winchester was converted to standard gauge, however, no money was appropriated for standard gauge cars. The court then authorized $180,000 to convert the western front to standard gauge, however, an accident on August 8, 1885 derailed the project. An 800-foot trestle at Nine Mile on the New Richmond Division had collapsed, killing three and injuring nine. The disaster greatly aggravated the company's financial difficulties, started talks of abandoning the branch to New Richmond, and led to another receiver being appointed. This receiver, however, felt it was necessary to reconvert the standard gauge from Winchester to Portsmouth back to narrow gauge in order for the line to generate a profit. By early 1886, the line was once again narrow gauge.
On September 1, 1886, the railroad was sold to a representative of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton (CH&D), however, it defaulted on payments and the railroad was resold on January 5, 1887 to H.B. Morehead, who formed the Ohio & Northwestern Railroad. The New Richmond Division was sold on September 1, 1886 to William P. DeVou, who organized it as the Cincinnati, New Richmond & Ohio River Railroad. He planned to extend the railroad to Aberdeen. However, by July 1889, the branch line ceased operations and was dismantled in 1898.
The Columbus & Maysville (C&M) was incorporated on April 27, 1877 and was proposed between the cities of Columbus and Maysville via Washington Court House, Hillsboro, Sardinia, Georgetown, Ripley and Aberdeen. Construction began on the 19-mile Hillsboro segment in 1878 on a narrow gauge alignment, to conform with the C&E. About 12 miles were completed from Sardinia north in 1878, and another 5.5 miles were laid in 1879 to the junction of the standard gauge Marietta & Cincinnati, about 1.5 miles west of Hillsboro. The first official run was on May 8, 1879, and the line was leased to the C&E. Local parties in 1880 formed the Hillsboro Railroad Company and constructed the Hillsboro Short Line to bring the railroad further into town, and leased it to the C&M. On May 25, 1880, the C&M resolved to convert the railroad to standard gauge and to extend the line to Aberdeen. No work was completed on either task, and the railroad was leased to the C&E. It was sold in 1885 to an eastern group. The new company reported that the railroad had been extended to Ripley, however, it in fact had not. It became insolvent and was sold on February 12, 1887 to the Ohio & Northwestern (O&NW), which had been chartered one week prior.
The O&NW moved immediately to standard gauge the main line from Cincinnati to Portsmouth, completing the task in November 1887. The O&NW also temporarily shifted its western routing to use the Little Miami as a standard gauge entry into Cincinnati, since the CL&N was still narrow gauge. The trackage rights proved prohibitively expensive, and they resumed operations to the CL&N's Court Street Station after the CL&N added dual gauge tracks between Court Street and Idlewild. The O&NW became insolvent rather quickly, however, and it went into receivership on June 15, 1888. In February 1889, under receivership, the railroad completed five miles of the long-projected Gallipolis extension from Portsmouth to Sciotoville. The O&NW was sold on March 13, 1890, which was reorganized as the Cincinnati, Portsmouth & Virginia Railroad (CP&V) on June 24, 1891. The C&M was sold separately on May 5, 1890, however, the CP&V was unwilling to resume the lease on the line, but continued to operate over it informally. Fearing abandonment, Hillsboro formed the Hillsboro Railroad, which assumed the lease and began to operate over it as a short line. The CP&V completed all standard gauge conversions in 1894.
In December 1900, the shareholders of the CP&V voted to purchase the C&M, but to allow the Hillsboro Railroad to continue to lease the line. In October 1901, the Norfolk & Western (N&W) merged with the C&M. The CP&V became the Cincinnati-Portsmouth segment of the N&W. The Hillsboro Railroad Company (former C&M) was purchased by the N&W on July 1, 1902, and it became the N&W Hillsboro branch. In 1982, the Norfolk & Western Railway consolidated with the Southern Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the railroad became the Norfolk Southern. The Hillsboro branch was still in operation as of 1984 however it has since been torn up.
Local trains serving remaining online customers are routed over the former PRR Richmond Division through Fairfax to Clare. A few short trains still served the small Idlewild yard at Montgomery Road in Norwood until all customers were shifted to Clare and the Hyde Park branch west of there was closed to traffic on September 10, 2009. The last train supposedly ran on the Hyde Park branch on August 28. Even before closing of the Hyde Park branch, most traffic headed eastbound from Clare anyway. Nicknamed the "Peavine" due to its torturous hills and curvature, the line is closed to through traffic and railbanked east of Seaman (about half way to Portsmouth). The CPL signals used along the route are still in place, but they have been turned off and covered in plastic. Round Bottom and Binning Roads closely parallel the tracks from Newtown to Stonelick. In many places, the old utility poles and scruffy nature of the right of way makes for an interesting glimpse into the past. The future of this stretch of railroad is dubious at best, but its abandonment would leave a huge area of southern Ohio without any railroad whatsoever. With the CG&P, O&NW, and most of the CL&N gone, the Peavine is the only relatively complete remainder of the former narrow gauge railroad network left in southwest Ohio.
Norfolk & Western, Cincinnati Connecting Belt Railroad
Former Cincinnati, Portsmouth & Virginia/Norfolk & Western from Idlewild (Norwood) to Ivorydale (St. Bernard)
Standard gauge line opened in 1901
Mostly abandoned except a few connecting tracks near Ivorydale
Opened in 1901, the only other belt railroad aside from the Pennsy's Waterfront Belt Line is this one that traverses Norwood from south to north. The line begins near Xavier University at Idlewild junction in Norwood at Dana Avenue, and it proceeds north from there. It crosses Hopkins Avenue, Reading Road, and Tennessee Avenue, on bridges and connects with the I&O Midland Sub (former B&O) next to the Norwood Lateral between Paddock and Reading Roads. It then crosses the Lateral just east of the I-75 interchange to the small Berry Yard, then connects with the NS Dayton District (former Big Four) and the CSX Cincinnati Terminal Sub (former CH&D) via Ivorydale Yard. Its use as a belt line was rather dubious, as there was an incomplete wye connection with the CL&N at Idlewild. Any westbound N&W or southbound CL&N trains would have to do an awkward reverse movement and have their locomotives turned around to proceed north on the belt line. Much of its usefulness was eliminated in the 1930s when connecting tracks were built in east Norwood and Fairfax allowing the CL&N, Little Miami, and N&W access to the Mill Creek Valley and Union Terminal via the B&O/Marietta line. While everything south of the B&O has been out of service for years, it is not officially abandoned and all the tracks and crossings, while seriously overgrown and not maintained, are still in place.
Pennsylvania Railroad/Norfolk & Western to Ft. Wayne, IN - Norfolk Southern, Newcastle District
Former Eaton & Hamilton/Cincinnati, Richmond & Chicago/Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton/Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis/Pennsylvania/Norfolk & Western Railroad to Ft. Wayne, IN
Standard gauge line opened in 1853 between New Miami and Richmond Indiana, and in 1888 between Hamilton and Rendcomb Junction
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
In active use
The Eaton & Hamilton Railroad (in Ohio) and Richmond and Miami Railroad (in Indiana) opened a line from New Miami, Ohio northwest to Richmond, Indiana in 1853, with trackage rights over the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad from New Miami south to Hamilton. Later that year, the Cincinnati, Logansport and Chicago Railway opened, extending northwest from Richmond to New Castle. It became the Cincinnati, Richmond & Chicago in 1858. After a brief period under the control of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton, it came under the banner of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad and eventually the PRR itself. While the New Castle District of the Lake Division was originally the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the portion west of Mill (Evendale) was sold to N&W and conveyed on "Conrail Day" April 1, 1976. Completely rehabilitated by the wealthy N&W, it is now one of the busiest lines into Cincinnati, hosting a variety of manifest, intermodal, and grain traffic. N&W through freight operation commenced on the newly rebuilt line on September 29, 1978. Conrail retained local switching rights between Hamilton and Cincinnati, as well as to New Castle from Richmond (for a time even as far east as Eaton). Regional operator Indiana & Ohio inherited Conrail's rights between Hamilton and Cincinnati with it's 1994 purchase of the line east of CP Mill from Conrail (see the Richmond Division information below). NS dispatched the entire line in an agreement with I&O during the 1995 transaction with Conrail, though I&O has assumed dispatching control over their own part of the line south of Mill. The New Castle District continues west to Fort Wayne, Indiana via the former Nickel Plate Road (LE&W) out of New Castle. The Cincinnati Directional Running Project utilizes the line between Butler Street in Hamilton and Vaughn, where most trains get on the former Big Four, now the NS Dayton District.
Pennsylvania Railroad Richmond Division - Indiana & Ohio, Oasis Subdivision
Former Cincinnati & Richmond/Pennsylvania Railroad - Richmond Division from Valley (Fairfax) to Mill (Evendale)
Standard gauge line opened in 1888
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
In limited use by Norfolk Southern (via trackage rights) and I&O
Opened in 1888, the Cincinnati & Richmond Railroad was formed to construct an extension of the earlier Eaton & Hamilton Railroad south from Hamilton through Mill (Evendale) to Rendcomb Junction on the Little Miami. Absorbed by the Pan Handle system in 1928 and eventually the Pennsylvania Railroad proper, it became the Pennsylvania Railroad's Richmond Division, along with the rest of the line to Ft. Wayne after that was sold by the CH&D. Trains from the north would use this line to access the Pan Handle Station via the Little Miami. When Union Terminal was constructed however, passenger trains were routed via the B&O/Marietta over a new connecting track in Norwood, at the present location of the I-71 and Norwood Lateral interchange. Trains from the Little Miami were also routed north on the Richmond Division from a newly constructed connection in Linwood (Redbank to Valley) to the B&O in Norwood. After the Penn Central merger and collapse, the line north of Mill (Evendale) was sold to Norfolk & Western instead of being absorbed into Conrail. The remainder of the line south of Mill through Rendcomb Junction was operated by Conrail. In 1995 I&O purchased the Mill-Valley section and the remainder of the Little Miami from there to downtown. NS has trackage rights to access the former N&W Peavine and Clare Yards. Since they operate the most trains, NS dispatched the line north of Valley until sometime in 2009, when I&O took over those responsibilities.
Pennsylvania Railroad/Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern - Indiana & Ohio, Blue Ash and Mason Subdivisions
Former Cincinnati Northern/Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern/Pennsylvania to Lebanon and Dayton
Narrow gauge (3'-0") line opened in 1881, converted to standard gauge in 1894
Downtown terminal: Court Street Station (E. Court & Reedy Streets)
Mostly abandoned except limited local use from Norwood to Fields Ertel, and Mason to Lebanon
(The following write-up is adapted from the website Ohio Valley Railroads)
For many years Lebanon had desired a railroad. The town, located on the Warren County highland (between the Great and Little Miami Rivers), had stagnated while railroads were built in the surrounding towns. One must remember how important railroads were to America's developing industrial economy in the decades after the Civil War, and Lebanon feared it was being left behind. Lebanon never made a strong enough case to have the Little Miami Railroad's main line run through town, and they tried unsuccessfully thereafter to get a spur built to connect with it later on. Then the town tried to support the futile Cincinnati, Lebanon, and Xenia road, which was to connect with downtown via the Cincinnati & Dayton Short Line Railroad and its Deer Creek Tunnel. After years of courting and pleading for a connection to a major line, Lebanon merchants and citizens finally decided to take matters into their own hands. The decision was made to construct a three-foot narrow gauge railroad from Cincinnati, through Lebanon, to Xenia. The Miami Valley Narrow Gauge Railway Company was incorporated on November 7, 1874 for this purpose, and the groundbreaking was on September 1, 1876.
It wasn't long before financial problems began for the new railroad, a pattern that would be often repeated for the line. Most of the right-of-way from Cincinnati through to Waynesville was purchased and the grading was underway, but raising capital to finish construction became a problem. The company went into receivership and in 1880 it was sold to the Toledo, Delphos, and Burlington Railroad (TD&B). The TD&B had big plans to expand and develop a large midwest narrow gauge system. Already the TD&B had a mainline into Dayton, and they wished to finish the line into Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Northern was incorporated in 1880 as a subsidiary of the TD&B in order to build a narrow gauge line from Cincinnati to Dodds (a small village 5 miles north of Lebanon). The railroad finally came to Lebanon on February 17, 1881. The TD&B also constructed a connecting line between Dodds and the Dayton and Southeastern Railroad line going into Dayton (at a place which came to be called Lebanon Junction), and the grading done between Dodds and Waynesville was abandoned. The two lines combined to form the Cincinnati Division of the TD&B. The TD&B (later merging to become the TC&StL), however, had their own problems. Over-expansion and cheap narrow gauge construction were becoming problems. Their mainline stretching from Toledo to St. Louis became a reality, but it was severely under capitalized. Maintenance on the line north of Dodds and elsewhere in the system became a nightmare, and the inherent difficulties with interchange would prove disastrous. The TC&StL eventually collapsed and went into receivership in 1883. While the TC&StL would drag the Cincinnati Northern into bankruptcy, it was actually the most well-constructed part of the narrow gauge system and made enough profit to remain competitive. Through the efforts of Albert Netter and a number of Cincinnati investors they were able to purchase the Cincinnati Division. It would reorganize as the CL&N. The line running from Dodds to Dayton was purchased by separate owners and would reform as the Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati (DL&C).
The CL&N operated as a local narrow gauge suburban road for a few more years. Profits alternated between modest and non-existent. The railroad did prove its usefulness in the Ohio River flood of 1884, being the only Cincinnati railroad to remain in operation during the flood. The CL&N would come to be known as the "highland route" for its uninterrupted service during floods. In 1896 the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) purchased the CL&N in order to secure another entrance into Cincinnati in the event of another flood, as well as preventing competing railroad from purchasing the line and using it to compete with the PRR's Little Miami Division. In 1902 they also purchased the assets of the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company from the Big Four, who had obtained it from the defunct Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw. The CJ&M had unsuccessfully attempted to gain control of the CL&N, and they wanted to finish the old deep level Deer Creek Tunnel to secure their own entrance into Cincinnati.
Shortly before this purchase the CL&N was made standard gauge to appear better to potential buyers. After purchase by the PRR, the CL&N remained independent as a separate division. The Middletown and Cincinnati (M&C), an independent railroad running from Middletown to the Little Miami Division was also purchased by the PRR in 1905. The DL&C, which by this time had built it's own route into Dayton, was purchased by the PRR in 1915. These two railroad were merged into the CL&N system, creating one standard gauge railroad connecting Dayton, Lebanon, Cincinnati, and Middletown in southwestern Ohio. Thus, the fate of the CL&N would be tied to that of the Pennsylvania, the great "standard of the world".
The CL&N's independent operation ended in 1925 when the PRR consolidated it's holdings by forming the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Detroit Railroad. However, this railroad existed mainly on paper as part of the entire Pennsylvania system. By this later date competition with the automobile severely hurt passenger traffic. The death knell for passenger service on the CL&N was the requirement for all trains to use Cincinnati's new Union Terminal, a much less convenient location for suburban commuters going downtown. The last passenger train left Lebanon on February 1st, 1934, almost 53 years to the day since the line was constructed. In the coming decades many of the stations would be torn down to reduce tax burdens. By the late 1960's, railroads everywhere were in decline. Competition from the new interstate highway system compounded by legacy tracks and regulation would nearly lead to the death of railroads in the United States. The PRR controlled over 10,000 miles of track, much of it in local light-density lines like the CL&N. To try to cut costs, 11 miles of track north of Lebanon to Lytle was abandoned in 1952.
In 1968 the PRR and the New York Central (NYC), merged to form the Penn Central (PC). At that time, another 3 miles of track north of Brecon at the Hamilton/Butler/Warren County lines was abandoned, cutting the line into two sections which remain to this day. All service through the Deer Creek Valley into the Court Street Depot, as well as from Hageman Junction to the Little Miami Division, was suspended. The tracks and yards at Court Street were closed in 1970 (supposedly a few runs were still made until approximately 1974), only a few years after new bridges over I-71 had been constructed to allow the railroad to continue operating. Today, a Greyhound Bus terminal and the bulk of the Broadway Commons parking lot along Gilbert Avenue stand on the former downtown yard.
Penn Central could not stop the bleeding of cash from America's railroads. When PC went bankrupt the US government stepped in and formed the Consolidated Rail Corporation (or Conrail for short). Conrail acquired from the PC the CL&N mainline through Norwood into the new industrial parks of Blue Ash, as well as the former M&C mainline from Middletown through Hageman to Mason. It also gained control of short sections of the former DL&C near Dayton and Hempsted. It was up to Lebanon businesses to pay operating expenses for the Lebanon branch and save it from abandonment.
In early 1977, a number of Lebanon businesses banded together and saved the line from abandonment. It would be a historic decision for Lebanon's future. In 1984, the up and coming regional railroad Indiana & Ohio (I&O) purchased the Mason subdivision from Conrail, including the Lebanon branch. Later in 1986 I&O would purchase the Blue Ash subdivision. An attempt was even made to reconnect the former CL&N trackage, which failed due to NIMBY opposition in the nearby suburban developments. I&O, today owned by Rail America, continues to operate the freight business through Norwood, as well as to online businesses near Mason. The center of operations is the McCullough yard in Norwood, where cars can be exchanged between the former B&O/Marietta line or the former PRR Richmond Division, both of which are operated by I&O and connect the Blue Ash subdivision to the rest of the world.
In 1985 the I&O began operating an excursion business from Lebanon to Mason. When I&O was sold to Railtex, this was spun off as the I&O Passenger Corporation owned by Mr. Thomas McOwen. Today, the passenger operation lives on as the Lebanon, Mason and Monroe Railroad (LM&M) under the ownership of the Cincinnati Railway Company.
Pennsylvania Railroad/Little Miami Railroad - Indiana & Ohio, Oasis Subdivision
Former Little Miami/Pan Handle/Pennsylvania Railroad to Springfield
Standard gauge line opened in stages from 1841 to 1846.
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
Mostly abandoned except limited local use from Fairfax to downtown
Prior to the introduction of railroads, the only way to transport significant amounts of freight was via waterways. In Cincinnati, riverboats ruled the Ohio River, and canals linked the city and its hinterlands with points north. Canals were laid out to follow the terrain much like natural rivers. This avoided excessive grades and locks, and made transporting heavy bulk freight quicker and more cost effective. For that same reason, early railroads followed rivers closely to take advantage of their steady and shallow grades. Thus, the naming of Cincinnati's first railroad after the river it follows is no coincidence.
Chartered on March 11, 1836, the Little Miami Railroad predated the next road constructed in Cincinnati (the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton) by nearly a decade. The second railroad chartered in Ohio, its purpose was to connect with the Mad River & Lake Erie in Springfield, providing a through route from the Ohio River to Lake Erie at Sandusky. Construction began in the then unincorporated neighborhood of Pendleton, east of the Cincinnati city limits, in 1837. The primitive oak and iron strip rails reached Milford in December 1841, and regular operations to there began in that year. Construction reached Loveland in 1843, and the line to Xenia was opened to regular operations in August 1845. The remaining section to Springfield was completed in August 1846, and the connecting Mad River & Lake Erie opened in 1848.
The railroad received a generous loan from the City of Cincinnati to help with construction, but a lack of funds caused many slowdowns and work stoppages during the nine years the line was being built. A proposed alternate route had the railroad diverging from the Little Miami River near Kings Mills and following Turtle Creek to Lebanon, after which point it would head northeast and reconnect with the river valley south of Waynesville. However, the rise of 33 feet per mile (a mere 0.63%) east of Lebanon was deemed too steep for the locomotives at the time. The average grade on the road following the river is a nearly flat 10 feet per mile or 0.19%. Had Lebanon shown more support for the railroad, or if it was delayed a few more years, technology would have improved such that the grade wouldn't be an impediment to operations. If the line had been built this way, it would be 5 miles shorter, cutting Morrow and Oregonia off the main route (although the Zanesville branch would likely have been built west through Morrow to connect with the main line). Lebanon would come to regret their indifference to the Little Miami, trying for 30 years thereafter to get a railroad through town (see the PRR/CL&N section for more information).
The location of the Little Miami's original terminal facilities was Pendleton, then an unincorporated neighborhood a few miles east of downtown. Prior to 1855, the eastern boundary of the city was at the intersection of present-day Eastern Avenue/Riverside Drive and Bains Street, at the usually gated east entrance to International Friendship Park. The Fulton neighborhood east of there was annexed in 1855, as it was the location of most of the area's riverboat factories. After Fulton was annexed, the eastern city limits were at present-day St. Andrews Street, and Pendleton was the neighborhood from there to the incorporated village of Columbia, whose western boundary was near Delta Avenue. The first buildings were constructed between 1843 and 1846, but they would be quickly rendered obsolete due to the Little Miami's exclusive access to the region's traffic. More shops and freight depots were constructed in Pendleton in 1848, and at the same time the line was extended west to a new terminal station on the north side of East Front Street at Kilgour, now the eastern end of the Sawyer Point parking lot. A very short unsigned stretch of Kilgour Street remains between Columbia Parkway and Pete Rose Way at the entrance to Adams Place's parking lot. Even this station quickly became inadequate, and a new passenger station was opened in 1854 on the south side of Front Street, just west of the old waterworks whose ruins are still in the park. After the last station was built at Pearl (now Pete Rose Way) and Butler Streets in 1881, the 1854 station was used as a freight depot until it burned down in 1889.
Through the rest of the 19th and much of the 20th century, the Little Miami enjoyed robust traffic, being the only mainline serving much of the east and northeast side of the Cincinnati metro area. The few other railroads that appeared nearby generally crossed at right angles, unlike the roads up the Mill Creek Valley or west along the Ohio River which had at least one if not two competitors running a parallel route. Mergers with the Columbus & Xenia through the 1860's built up a small but powerful railroad empire. On February 23, 1870, the Little Miami Railroad leased all of its assets to the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad. On August 28, 1890, the PC&St.L merged with several other railroads to emerge as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Pan Handle Railroad. These companies were part of the ever-growing Pennsylvania Railroad empire, and although owned by the Pennsy, the Little Miami retained its corporate charter until the bulk of the line was abandoned in the 1970s. Traffic increases in the early 20th century prompted the grade-separation of most road crossings between downtown and Columbia/Tusculum. The railroad overpass just east of Kemper Lane was built in 1914, and the bridges over Delta and Stanley Avenues were built in 1917. When Union Terminal was constructed, passenger trains were routed north on the Richmond Division from a newly constructed connection in Linwood (Redbank to Valley) to a new B&O connection in Norwood (Oakley to Penn to E. Norwood).
Freight and passenger traffic on most railroads started to decline after the close of World War II, and the PRR/Little Miami was no exception. Because of this, passenger service to Springfield was suspended on July 21, 1953, and the line between Xenia and Yellow Springs was abandoned in 1967, eliminating difficult street running on Detroit Street in Xenia. A year later, the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads merged to form Penn Central, in an attempt to stave off the collapse of both roads. Unfortunately, the move didn't work and Penn Central went bankrupt in 1970, unable to reconcile the changing traffic patterns with trade unions, disparate corporate cultures, and government regulatory restriction. Dissolving any remaining intercity passenger operations at this time (which spurred the government's creation of Amtrak), Penn Central continued to operate freight services under bankruptcy protection. The railroad limped along while various private-sector reorganization attempts failed, and the US Government nationalized the failed company, among several others, under the new Consolidated Rail Corporation name on April 1, 1976 (Conrail Day). The Little Miami could not be saved by the new Conrail company, as through service between Cincinnati and Xenia was suspended in 1974. In 1976, the tracks from Redbank east to Clare were sold to Norfolk & Western, and the leg of the junction between Redbank and Rendcomb was abandoned. The remainder of the main line east of Mariemont to Spring Valley was abandoned in 1976, as was the track between Yellow Springs and Beatty (just south of Springfield). At this point, all that remained east of Mariemont was a few miles of track south of Springfield to Beatty, and another stretch from Xenia to Spring Valley. Those were finally closed by 1984, and any remaining track was removed for construction of the Little Miami Scenic Trail on the abandoned roadbed.
While most of the Little Miami was lost by the arrival of Conrail Day, the mainline track south of Rendcomb Junction and the former Richmond Division north of there remained to provide a route from Mill (Evendale) to downtown. Trains took this route from the north to cross the L&N Bridge (Oasis) until it was closed to rail traffic in 1984. Trains could still traverse the downtown riverfront via the Waterfront Belt Line until it too was closed in 1986. In 1995, Indiana & Ohio acquired this stretch of track from Conrail to form the Cincinnati Terminal Railway (CTERM), whose current end of the line is at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. Traffic is very light south of Valley Junction, with the occasional tanker brought to the few remaining customers. The Barnum & Bailey Circus train still comes to Cincinnati this way, parking along the Montgomery Inn Boathouse parking lot and International Friendship Park. North of Valley Junction, there is a bit more traffic as it's the primary access to Norfolk Southern's (formerly Norfolk & Western's) line to Portsmouth and to the intermodal Clare Yard.
Despite the historical value and impact the Little Miami had on shaping the railroad history of Cincinnati, very little infrastructure remains today, even along the route that has not been abandoned. Some of the Undercliff yard remains in Linwood, although it is little used like the rest of the remaining trackage (I&O's primary yard is McCullough in Norwood), and other than the tracks there's nothing else to see. The original Pendleton yards are completely gone, with no buildings or other structures remaining, save for some very old retaining walls along Eastern Avenue/Riverside Drive. There's no trace of the terminal buildings in Sawyer Point, and the only real reference to the railroad history of the site is some masonry piers for the approach to the L&N Bridge. A few extra tracks do remain along the Boathouse parking lot and Friendship Park, but the continued viability of the line south of Valley is uncertain at best. Plans for commuter rail service to the east do reuse the old right-of-way, but it's anyone's guess if these plans will ever come to fruition. At the very least, if the tracks do end up being removed, it's a safe bet that most of the roadbed will become more bike trail.
Pennsylvania Railroad, Waterfront Belt Line
Former belt line built to connect the Little Miami and Indianapolis & Cincinnati along the Cincinnati waterfront
Standard gauge line opened in 1864
Abandoned in 1986 and dismantled west of Broadway Street in 2000
Opened in 1864, the Cincinnati Street Connection Railway was a joint venture sponsored by the Little Miami Railroad and the Indianapolis & Cincinnati to connect the two lines. Prior to this date, the nearest connection from the Little Miami to the railroads approaching Cincinnati from the north and west was via the junction with the Marietta in Loveland. The line was constructed mainly down the middle of Front Street from the Little Miami's yards west to various connections near Freeman Avenue. The railroad remained in use until 1986, but by that time much of the route along the central riverfront had been moved closer to the river by park and stadium construction. West of Smith Street and the approach to the C&O/Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, Front Street (currently Mehring Way) is in its original location, and the tracks remained in place there until the year 2000 when it was repaved as part of the construction of Paul Brown Stadium. Parts of the abandoned right-of-way still exist on the riverbank between the Robeling Suspension Bridge and Great American Ballpark, but the tracks have been removed. From Broadway Street east, the tracks remain in an altered alignment but the flanges have been filled with concrete.
Pennsylvania Railroad, Zanesville Branch
Former Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley Railroad from Morrow to Zanesville
Standard gauge line opened between 1853 and 1856
Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)
Dismantled between Morrow and Wilmington, in use east of Wilmington
(The following write-up is adapted from the website Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan)
R.B. Harlan, a representative from Clinton County in the Lower House of the Legislature, introduced a bill asking for a new railroad line named the Cincinnati, Wilmington and Zanesville Railroad. The charter was granted February 4, 1851. The route of the line ran from Morrow in Warren County through the counties of Clinton, Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield, Perry and a portion of Muskingum to Zanesville. The name of Wilmington was added to the name in honor of the County in which the bill was introduced. The 1882 Clinton County history expressed that the line would be a great through trunk line. But the mistake, according to the history, was made in connecting it to the Little Miami Railroad at Morrow, and using its facilities thence to Cincinnati.
Surveys and estimates were completed from Morrow to Lancaster, a distance of 90 miles, in November 1850. The building contract was awarded to A. DeGraff, with Clinton County subscribing $200,000 for its construction. Actual work was commenced in December 1851. Actual track laying began at Morrow in the latter part of March 1853. A certain amount of delay was at first sustained due to bridge building and the terrain. In August 1853, the road was completed to Wilmington. On the 11th of that month a grand celebration was held. From 10,000 to 15,000 folks were present, including about 2,000 who arrived on the 11:15 a.m. train of 20 cars. On August 15, 1853, trains began running regularly between Cincinnati and Wilmington, one a day each way, the fare being set at $1.60 per trip.
Mr. Linton, a Representative of the Ohio Legislature from Fayette County, requested that the town of Washington Court House be included in the charter, but "this the gentleman from Wilmington refused to do." Judge Daniel McLain was employed as representative of the people of Washington C.H., to go to Columbus and express their interest. He eventually succeeded in securing the preferred change. Judge McLain was elected one of the directors of the new railroad. He took a number of trips to the East, and by November 1852, over two thousand tons of Swedish made iron rail had reached New Orleans headed for Cincinnati. With the terminus of the road being at Morrow, instead of Cincinnati, the earnings of the road were insufficient to meet the expense.
The road to Washington C.H. was completed November 24, 1853, and the trains started their run on that day. Regular trains began running through to Zanesville in 1856, the total accumulative mileage from Morrow being 132. Opening of this railway unveiled communications between Cincinnati and all eastern seaboards, by connecting with the original Central Ohio Railroad. Fairfield County commissioners subscribed $250,000 for the payment of which bonds were issued bearing seven percent. These bonds were sold throughout all the counties in which the line operated. The allotted funds were used for bridges, tunnels, ties and the essential part of the iron.
The original charter of the General Assembly of 1850 approved authorization of taking a certain amount of stock in the newly formed railroad, provided a majority of the people favored the measure and would so vote at a specified general election. All approved of this measure except Perry County. Two principal routes were favored in Perry County, New Lexington or Rush Creek Valley, and the Somerset Route. Each raised about $100,000 with stipulations that the road be made on a specified line. It was not until September 1852, that a decision was made at Zanesville to locate on the New Lexington or Rush Creek Valley route. In the summer of 1854 the citizens of Perry County and New Lexington witnessed the first train from the West. For several months the train stopped at this place for the transfer of passengers and mail from railroad car to stages bound for Zanesville; the reason for this maneuver was because of the construction of a tunnel, located three miles east of New Lexington.
The railway began to have financial difficulties almost from the beginning. The company was unable to comply with the conditions of the mortgage, having taken out first, second and third mortgage bonds. The monies were expended in the construction and equipment of the road. On February 22, 1857, a court decision was made through a receiver in the case, to exercise authority to take possession of the road and property, and to "operate the road for the interest of all parties concerned." The road was operated under this decree until a plan of reorganization was perfected. The court ordered on June 10, 1863, that the mortgaged property be sold, with such sale to go toward all debts and liabilities. The sale was confirmed October 17, 1863, the buyer being Charles Moran of New York. Stipulations were made that the creditors and stockholders should be made "recognizable as a body corporate," and the railroad should be run under the charter.
A name change was made to the railway on March 10, 1864, under the new title of the Cincinnati & Zanesville Railroad Company. It was still to be operated under the original franchises of the Cincinnati, Wilmington & Zanesville Railroad. Moran deeded property to the operation held by him in trust. Erasmus Gest was selected as the new president and superintendent. The newly organized company now saw daylight at the end of the tunnel. In a period of 26 months a balance of $80,000 was placed to the credit of the road and invested in rolling stock and improvements. In due time a failure in the payment of its obligation caused its downfall. On December 1, 1869, the road with all its franchises, real estate, machine shops, depot buildings, and rolling stock was sold at auction at the door of the Cincinnati Court House, the purchaser being Thomas L. Jewett, President of the Pennsylvania Central Company. The purchase price was $1,004,000. (One source says "$1,400,000.") Jewett operated the road under his complete control until September 1, 1870, when the Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley Railway Company came into possession of it. On May 1, 1873, the road was leased by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad Company under lease for 99 years.
Control by the Pan Handle and Pennsylvania Railroad proper lasted through the Penn Central merger. This and other lines were shuffled around to various PRR and NYC parents in the 1960s but it was eventually abandoned between Morrow and Wilmington, apparently in conjunction with the remainder of the PRR/Little Miami in the mid 1970s.
Southern Railway - Norfolk Southern, Central Division, Cincinnati New Orleans & Texas Pacific 1st District
Cincinnati Southern Railway/CNO&TP
Broad gauge (5'-0") line opened to Chattanooga in 1880, converted to standard gauge in 1886
Downtown terminal: Central Union Depot (3rd Street & Central Avenue)
In active use
The NS line from Cincinnati to Danville, Kentucky has probably the most unique history of any line into the Queen City. It was chartered in 1869 through the efforts of attorney E.A. Ferguson, by the City of Cincinnati to provide a more direct connection with the south and the port of New Orleans, bypassing the slow, upriver Mississippi and Ohio and the competing cities along that route. Named the Cincinnati Southern, it was completed at a cost in excess of $18,000,000 and began operations on February 12, 1880 after years of opposition and multiple bond issues. Engineering was supervised by W. A. Gunn, who planned the route, with construction supervised by G. B. Nicholson and G. Bouscaren. The line was completed with a total of 27 tunnels totaling 4.6 miles in length and 105 bridges of various lengths. The many tunnels were a serious impediment to operations, as they were very narrow, and mostly lined with wood in the early years. Water leaks would cause trains to slip and stall in the tunnels, and fires and accidents were all too common. In 1881, the line was leased to the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway since the city itself had no interest in, nor authority to, operate the railroad itself.
Originally built to 5 foot gauge, the Cincinnati Southern was converted to standard gauge on May 30, 1886 in a single day along with thousands of miles of other southern railroads that had been built to that gauge. In 1890 the CNO&TP came under the control of the newly formed Southern Railway. The CNO&TP entered receivership in 1893 due to the fraudulent issuance of hundreds of blank stock certificates by the company's secretary, George Doughty. He used the certificates to secure loans for investing in another railroad project, and after dying of diphtheria in 1882 the railroad was held responsible for repaying the losses. Even though the railroad was performing admirably, with improving traffic and revenues, this was too much for the young company to handle, and receivership lasted until 1899. Plans to sell the Cincinnati Southern to the Southern Railway system were narrowly defeated by a vote of the city population in 1896.
Operations were managed out of Ludlow, Kentucky where yards and most of the maintenance facilities were located. In the early years, there was virtually no decent terminal for freight operations on the Ohio side of the river. By the first decade of the 20th century, the Gest Street yard and many freight sidings were constructed right in the location that Union Terminal occupies today. The downtown freight station was just west of the approach to the Roebling suspension bridge on the waterfront, and it remained there in a rather limited capacity until the end of the century.
The CNO&TP was associated with the Queen & Crescent Route in honor of its terminal cities nicknames (Cincinnati is the Queen City, New Orleans is the Crescent City). Although it was never completed to its intended destination, it did reach the major southern rail hub of Chattanooga, where it connected with other Q&C roads. In the early 1960's the Southern Railway rebuilt much of the Second District, which greatly modernized and revitalized the line, making it a major rail artery in the Midwest. Many of the old tunnels were enlarged or removed altogether, bridges were replaced, and grades were reduced. Today, Norfolk Southern, successors to the Southern Railway, still leases the Cincinnati Southern through the CNO&TP from the City of Cincinnati for approximately $19 million per year as of 2009. The Cincinnati Southern is the only municipally owned trunk railroad in the United States, and it is one of the best investments the City of Cincinnati has ever made.
The line is divided into three districts, the First District is between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Danville, Kentucky. The Second District runs between Danville and Oakdale, Tennessee, while the Third District is from Oakdale to Chattanooga. More than 50 trains a day can be seen on the CNO&TP, with the heaviest concentration between Danville and Harriman, Tennessee. Quite a bit of the traffic is intermodal and automotive, while general manifests, local freights, grain, coal, and other bulk commodities make up the rest.