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 to Harrison. The parent Whitewater Canal was being constructed in Indiana between Lawrenceburg and Hagerstown via Harrison, Brookville, Connersville, and Cambridge City.  Ground was broken on September 13, 1836, and the first section between Lawrenceburg and Brookville opened on June 8, 1839.  There was a push by Cincinnati businessmen to extend a new canal along the north bank of the Ohio River to connect the southeast Indiana hinterlands with the booming city.  As part of this project, the first canal tunnel in Ohio was built between Cleves and North Bend through a small ridge in 1837.  It was arched with brick, and dressed Buena Vista Sandstone was used at the entrances.  The tunnel was 1,780 feet long and 24 feet in diameter with a four foot water depth.  The full extent of the canal between downtown Cincinnati and Harrison was completed in 1842, connecting it with the Whitewater Canal which reached Connersville in 1845 and Hagerstown in 1847.  The steep climb west of Harrison to the interior of Indiana meant that 56 locks were required for the Whitewater Canal's 76 mile route, severely handicapping its viability.  In November 1847, only a few months after it had reached Hagerstown, a devastating flood washed out much of the canal, and it was abandoned south of Harrison.  The branch to Cincinnati became the new final leg, and it took 10 months to repair and reopen the rest, putting the operating company heavily into debt.  The Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal only had to contend with two locks, there was one south of Dry Fork, and there was also a guard lock to control water levels near Harrison, but the overall lack of traffic and damage from the Whitewater River still caused bankruptcy and abandonment by 1856.  The balance of the parent canal would be out of business only a few years later.


In the meantime, the first railroad in Indiana, the Lawrenceburg & Indianapolis, was chartered in 1832, but by 1834 only a 1.25 mile demonstration track utilizing horse-drawn vehicles and wooden tracks was constructed on the outskirts of Shelbyville.  The Lawrenceburg & Rushville Railroad Company was incorporated in 1848 to build a road to Greensburg, which would become its direct line, though the route to Rushville was not built. The Shelbyville & Indianapolis Railroad Company was incorporated in 1850 to build a road between its namesake cities. In the same act, the name of the Lawrenceburg & Rushville Railroad Company was changed to Lawrenceburg & Upper Mississippi Railroad Company, and they were authorized to extend their road from Lawrenceburg to Shelbyville. On October 4, 1853, the name of the company was changed to the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad Company, and operations began with a riverboat connection to Cincinnati from Lawrenceburg.

Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora Electric Street
              Railroad Lightweight Car at Cincinnati Car Shops

An artist's rendition of the canal tunnel when it was in use.  While the railroad would use the tunnel until 1888, it likely only allowed room for one track, impeding capacity expansion.

The Ohio & Mississippi Railroad was opened a year later through Lawrenceburg, though lengthy trackage rights and an incompatible track gauge disqualified that as an option for the I&C to reach Cincinnati.  However, low river levels in the summer of 1854 strangled riverboat operations, and the I&C begrudgingly engaged the O&M to lay a third rail to Cincinnati for I&C cars to operate.  The expense of this arrangement made it only a short-term operation.  On April 18, 1861, the Cincinnati & Indiana Railroad Company was incorporated as a subsidiary to build a railroad from Cincinnati to the Ohio and Indiana border connecting with the I&C. In this remarkably far-sighted move, the company purchased the defunct canal property for its route to downtown, and it opened just two years later.  This move gave them a nearly level entrance into the heart of the city, as 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 within the city proper.  While the mainline to Lawrenceburg diverged from the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal bed after crossing the Great Miami River, it picked up the route of the predecessor Whitewater Canal in Elizabethtown for its journey to Lawrenceburg.  The branch line to Harrison was also constructed at this time, following the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal bed north from Valley Junction near Hooven, and in 1865 the connecting Whitewater Valley Railroad opened to Cambridge City, taking over the route of the parent Whitewater Canal.

A curiosity of the main route between Indianapolis and Cincinnati is the six mile long horseshoe curve from Greendale to the Lawrenceburg riverfront and back, a result of the original route from Indianapolis descending Tanners Creek from the north and terminating along New Street.  The extension along the abandoned canal ran nearly parallel to Tanners Creek less than a mile to the east, just in the opposite direction.  This also resulted in crossing the O&M twice in downtown Lawrenceburg, as the I&C went about a block closer to the river. 
East of the state line the railroad repurposed the canal tunnel at Cleves, and they built a new bridge over the Great Miami River utilizing the canal's old aqueduct supports.  On the branch line to Harrison, they also reused the aqueduct abutments at Dry Fork, though the railroad is on the towpath alignment, and the road bridge is now on the aqueduct supports. 

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, and within striking distance of the industrial riverfront, that 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.  

On February 21, 1880, the Cincinnati, Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway Company was incorporated and afterwards bought the Cincinnati, Lafayette & Chicago Railroad. This company had built a railroad from Kankakee, Illinois, to Templeton, Indiana. On May 6, 1880, the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railroad was purchased by the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway Company. This company, with a connection to the Illinois Central Railroad at Kankakee, formed a through line between Cincinnati and Chicago, making this a very important link in the Ohio-Indiana-Illinois railroad network.
A branch line between Lawrenceburg and Aurora was built between 1882 and 1886 by the Cincinnati & Southern Ohio River Railway, terminating near 3rd Street in Aurora after crossing Hogan Creek.  Extension to Rising Sun and beyond to Jeffersonville or New Albany opposite Louisville was never carried out due to a lack of funds, and the railroad would be folded into the Big Four in 1913 or 1915. 

The two-track approach to the Plum Street Station had become a bottleneck by the 1880s due to growing traffic, and Central Union Depot was constructed a block away from the Plum Street Station in 1883 at the corner of 3rd and Central.  The old passenger station was converted to freight use. 
In 1888 the canal tunnel in Cleves was abandoned in favor of a new cut through the hill slightly to the west.  This cut would be widened in 1903 to allow the Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora interurban to use the cut instead of the very steep Miami Avenue, and in the 1950s it would be widened yet again for US-50 to also bypass Miami Avenue.  The north end of the tunnel remains today, with the 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 south end was destroyed when US-50 was cut through the hill, but it was just north of Brower Road. 

on June 7, 1889, the company became the Chicago division of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company, also known as the Big Four Railroad, after merging with the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railway Company, the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway Company, and the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway Company.  Between 1875 and 1899 they built a bypass through the small village of Homestead, now part of Greendale, to eliminate multiple crossings of the O&M (which would become part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) on the Lawrenceburg riverfront, and the five mile slog through downtown Lawrenceburg.  The old route through Greendale and Lawrenceburg was then relegated to local freight and passenger movements only.  Lawrenceburg Junction was established on the east side of the Greendale Cutoff, and it appears that the original I&C route on the west side next to Tanners Creek was abandoned first to eliminate trains through the increasingly residential part of Greendale. 

In 1902 the company embarked on a significant realignment and regrading project on their mainline through Dearborn County.  The steep grades and numerous curves
through the valley of West Fork Tanners Creek required helper engines and slow speeds while climbing Guilford Hill out of the Ohio River Valley.  Between what is today Perfect North Slopes near Guilford, and Sunman to the northwest, the railroad was almost entirely rebuilt on a new straighter alignment at a shallower grade, and it was upgraded from a single track to double track.  Some 20,000 immigrant workers were brought in to tackle the project.  The distance from Guilford to Sunman was reduced from 13 miles to 12, the number of curves was reduced significantly, and several crossings of Tanners Creek were eliminated.  New arched concrete bridges and viaducts were constructed, and the project finished in approximately 1905.  Along with the Greendale Cutoff, the distance between Cincinnati and Indianapolis was reduced by seven miles, and the running time was shortened by 30 minutes.  The new grade is approximately 0.8% which is still somewhat formidable, and it's a long climb of over 500' in the 12 miles from Guilford to Sunman, but this was a huge improvement over the prior alignment.  In the 1920s and early 1930s the bridges were further reinforced to handle heavier trains, showing just how important this nearly direct route between the two cities was.  As the project was concluding, the Big Four was acquired by the New York Central Railroad in 1906, though it would operate independently until 1930.  NYC would continue operations until the Penn Central merger in 1969.

              Lawrenceburg & Aurora Electric Street Railroad
              Lightweight Car at Cincinnati Car Shops

A CL&A car is crossing the Great Miami River on the ca. 1884 highway bridge. The single-track Big Four Railroad's bridge is visible to the right, which reused the supports from the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal aqueduct from the late 1830s or early 1840s.  Both of these bridges were destroyed by the flood of 1913, which washed away every bridge over the Great Miami between the Ohio River and Dayton. The horse and wagon are on Valley Junction Road, which sits on a part of the canal the railroad elected not to use.

The great flood of 1913 destroyed the Big Four bridge over the Great Miami River, along with every other bridge between the Ohio River and Dayton. The company scrambled to build its replacement, which opened in 1914 and still utilizes one of the old canal aqueduct abutments from the late 1830s or early 1840s.  When Union Terminal was constructed in the early 1930s, a connecting viaduct was built 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 to the old Central Union Depot and other freight facilities remained for a few decades longer.  Although partially destroyed by fire in 1944, that area was still a large complex of warehouses until 1961 when much of it was demolished for construction of Ft. Washington Way and the I-75 Brent Spence Bridge.  The rest was removed in the early 2000s for construction of Paul Brown Stadium.  The tracks have since been cut back to the underside of the Brent Spence Bridge and former C&O Railroad viaduct where they terminate unceremoniously in the dirt before crossing Pete Rose Way at the east entrance to Longworth Hall.  It is still referred to as the ditch track due to its lower elevation on the old canal bed. The main yard was Riverside Yard just west of Sedamsville where they also had a roundhouse.

When the rest of the horseshoe curve through Lawrenceburg and Greendale was completely abandoned is unclear, but its fate was sealed when the Homestead/Greendale cutoff was built.  Some of the original route on the west side of town remains today to serve the MGP Distillery and other industries south of Probasco Street, but those tracks are now operated by CSX, successor to the B&O and O&M.  An unused signal gantry remains near Lawrenceburg Junction along Oberting Road opposite Greendale Plaza Drive. The east side track appears to have still been in some limited use into the 1980s.  Formal abandonment was apparently in 1991, and the tracks themselves weren't removed until the mid 1990s for construction of the casino, though much of the right-of-way remains as a flood wall next to US-50.  The Aurora branch was abandoned by Conrail in 1979 and has been converted to a bike path, reusing the 1882 Pratt truss bridge over Tanner's Creek.  A new bridge was built over Wilson Creek to the west, leaving the old wooden trestle approaches off to the side.  A few former Big Four customers in Aurora were switched over to the B&O and now CSX similar to those in Greendale.  The bridge over Hogan Creek is gone, but some wood piles remain where it flows into the Ohio River. 


After post-war traffic declines and the ill-fated merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central Railroad, the former I&C was abandoned by the newly-formed Penn Central.  Rail routes from Cincinnati north to Hamilton and then west to Indianapolis provided a direct enough connection without the need of climbing Guilford Hill, while also serving more industrial cities along the way. Nonetheless, the line was rebuilt and operated by Conrail with state funding.  Conrail sold the line in 1992 to Central Properties, Inc., who operated it as the Central Railroad of Indiana (CIND). Indiana & Ohio Railway, a subsidiary of Railtex and RailAmerica, acquired CIND in August of 1998. I&O invested heavily in the line, as CIND had placed the railroad west of Lawrenceburg up for abandonment, but I&O withdrew the application for abandonment upon taking over. They began renovation of the line to connect I&O with another property acquired with CIND, the Central Railroad of Indianapolis (CERA), and sister Railtex road, the Indiana Southern Railroad (ISRR).  Between Shelbyville and Indianapolis the former Big Four is now operated by CSX, and CIND operates via trackage rights to reach Indianapolis and the ISRR. In 2008, Honda opened an assembly plant at Greensburg, Indiana which is served exclusively by CIND. Autorack trains operate frequently to service that facility. I&O is now owned and operated by Genesee & Wyoming, who acquired the railroad in their 2012 purchase of RailAmerica.  With little need for through traffic, the track between Honda and Shelbyville was relegated to car storage starting in roughly 2009, and it appears to be completely out of service since about 2015.  There are a few yard tracks remaining at Riverside with a crossover to CSX (called Texaco Crossover) which allows Honda autoracks to be interchanged without tying up capacity at the Queensgate Yard.  There are also some extra tracks Storrs Yard and Oklahoma in Lower Price Hill, but most operations are handled out of Valley where the Whitewater/Brookville Division connects.  This route has fallen hard over the last century, but with new customers like Honda, hopefully it will be able to continue playing a role in the transportation of Cincinnati's west side and of southeast Indiana for years to come.


Photographs from Downtown to Lawrenceburg & Harrison


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