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. While the separate Whitewater Canal was being constructed in Indiana in the 1830s, 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, and the full extent of the canal between downtown Cincinnati and Harrison was completed in 1842. While the Miami & Erie Canal remained somewhat useful through the end of the 19th century, the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal was bankrupt and abandoned by 1856 due to frequent flooding and damage to the canal and locks from the Whitewater River.

 

In the meantime, the first railroad in Indiana, the Lawrenceburg & Indianapolis, was built in1834. Its successor, the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad, was opened in 1853 from Indianapolis to Lawrenceburg, with a riverboat connection to Cincinnati.  In a remarkably far-sighted move, the I&C purchased the defunct canal property in 1861 order to construct its new line to downtown which 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.  The railroad repurposed the canal tunnel 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 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 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.  Eventually the I&C was extended to Chicago via Lafayette and Kankakee, and it came under control of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (CCC&St.L, or Big Four) until its acquisition by the New York Central System.

 

The two-track approach to the Plum Street Station would quickly become a bottleneck with growing traffic, and Central Union Depot was constructed a block away in 1883 at the corner of 3rd and Central.  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, called the ditch track due to its lower elevation on the old canal bed. The former main yard and roundhouse were at the Riverside yard just west of Sedamsville between River Road and the Ohio River.

 

After post-war traffic declines and the ill-fated merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central Railroad, the I&C was abandoned by Penn Central, only to be 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 the 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 the CIND. They began renovation of the line to connect I&O with another Central property acquired with CIND, the Central Railroad of Indianapolis (CERA) connecting with sister Railtex road, the Indiana Southern Railroad. 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.

 

Photographs from Downtown & Cleves

 

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