Norfolk & Western to Portsmouth - Norfolk Southern, Cincinnati District, Lake Division (Peavine) - Cincinnati Eastern Railroad
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 route was extended to Portsmouth in May. It was projected that the line would carry coal from Jackson County. Construction began almost immediately after the railroad was renamed. On October 18, 1876, the line was opened from Batavia Junction (now called 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 Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern (CL&N) at Idlewild, was completed and dubbed the Hyde Park Branch. 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 bridge 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 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 it 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. The route between Sardinia and Aberdeen was partially constructed by a separate entity, the Ohio River & Columbus Railroad, at a later date (see the CG&P history for more information). The C&E 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 Railroad 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 1947 the tracks were rerouted around a new gravel quarry at Plum Run east of Peebles. The tracks used to follow Beaver Pond and Jaybird Roads to approximately the confluence of Jaybird Branch and Scioto Brush Creeks. The rerouted track took a more northerly route along Portsmouth Road and OH-73. 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. The N&W in general was always a strong coal hauler, but the twisty and slow Peavine was not well suited to long haul shipments, and as most industries switched away from coal, maintaining a connection through the rough terrain east of Peebles to Portsmouth and the declining coalfields to the east became untenable. The focus shifted to intermodal transfer of agricultural products and gravel. Nicknamed the Peavine due to its torturous hills and curvature, the line was closed to through traffic in 2003 east of Plum Run due to structural problems with the Scioto River bridge crossing and the aforementioned issues running through trains on such a lightweight and curvy route.
Local trains serving remaining online customers are routed over the former PRR Richmond Division through Fairfax to Clare, which was the main, if small, classification and maintenance yard for the line. 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 was closed to traffic on September 10, 2009. The last train ran on August 28 of that year, and work has begun converting it to the Wasson Way bike path. Even before closing of the Hyde Park branch, most traffic was east of Clare anyway. The operational limits of this railroad seem to change on a frequent basis, but as of January 2020 here is the current situation. Starting on April 28, 2014, a new operator, the Cincinnati East Terminal Railway (CCET), leased the line from Norfolk Southern to provide three runs per week between Clare and Williamsburg. In 2018 CCET was renamed the Cincinnati Eastern Railroad, a nod to the original name of the company from nearly 150 years ago. They indicate that service is available to the quarry at Plum Run (Hanson Aggregates), which has been the effective eastern limit of operable track since the elimination of through running in 2003. While the end of active track is technically just west of Jaybird Road, it is only used for car storage between Plum Run and there, and the crossing at the entrance to Hanson Aggregates is of questionable passability at best. As a customer, the quarry has generally only provided gravel for the railroad's own use, rather than shipping it to other customers. Winchester Agricultural Services appears to be the current easternmost customer, though they had apparently stopped using the railroad at times in the past. The Huhtamaki packaging plant east of Batavia, formerly Ford's Batavia Trasmission factory, is their primary customer, with about a dozen total customers along the route.
The rest of the line from Jaybird to Portsmouth is railbanked, with some washouts along the way, and the Scioto River bridge needing major repairs. NS has recently removed the switch at Vera Junction in Portsmouth next to the Scioto River and US-23. The CPL signals along the route are still in place, but even on the operating part of the line they have been turned off and are covered in plastic. Round Bottom and Binning Roads closely parallel the tracks from Newtown to Stonelick, and in many places, the old utility poles and scruffy nature of the right of way makes for an interesting glimpse at what the railroad looked like in 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, and Norfolk Southern is unwilling to let it be officially abandoned. With the CG&P, O&NW, and most of the CL&N gone, the Peavine is the only relatively complete remnant of the narrow gauge railroad network left in southwest Ohio.
Main Line Photographs from Norwood to Williamsburg
New Richmond Branch Photographs from Newtown to New Richmond
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