C&W - Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad

 

South Fairmount - Westwood

1874-1941

Narrow gauge, steam line constructed by the Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad, 1874

Converted to Standard Gauge, 1891

All service suspended 1924, abandoned and dismantled 1941


Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad at Glenmore Avenue

The M. Werk is the Cincinnati & Westwood's second locomotive, pulling a passenger train across Glenmore Avenue in about 1880. From "On the Right Track: Some Historic Cincinnati Railroads" by John H. White, Jr., John Diehl collection.

The Cincinnati & Westwood was a short, narrow gauge suburban railroad that provided transportation to the incorporated village of Westwood before it was annexed to the City of Cincinnati. Of the narrow gauge railroads in the area, this is the only one that was never upgraded to an interurban, like the College Hill Railroad was absorbed into the C&LE, or the Cincinnati, Georgetown and Portsmouth that electrified its existing line and added some new branches. Nor did it ever have any ambitions for becoming part of a larger narrow gauge or standard gauge system, like the CL&N or the C&E (later N&W line to Portsmouth). Plans for an interurban from Indiana to connect to cincinnati via the C&W never materialized. It basically lived out its life as a short line suburban railroad on the same route it had from its inception. Like the College Hill Railroad and the Mt. Lookout dummy line, it was constructed primarily to get people to buy suburban houses in the neighborhood it served, not as a heavy freight hauler. The railroad was never expected to make much money, if any, but to improve the value of the land speculators wanted to sell. The C&W's original proprietor was William Davis, with Michael Werk and James N. Gamble among the stock subscribers. Davis died in 1877, less than a year after operations started. Michael Werk took over and basically underwrote the road's mounting losses with his own money. He ran the railroad until 1886, by which time it had fallen into disrepair and was closed by the Ohio Railroad Commission due to safety concerns.

 

After nearly a year out of service, James N. Gamble took over and upgraded the line to standard gauge while rebuilding much of the roadbed and trestles. Despite these improvements, passenger service was suspended shortly after the Westwood streetcar line opened in 1895. The cost of tickets could not compete with the 5 cent city fare on the streetcar, and running time was probably not much better with complicated switching arrangements with the connecting CH&D. The CH&D terminal at 5th and Baymiller was also not particularly convenient for commuters who might need to transfer to streetcars or a taxi to get to their final destination anyway.

 

Upon losing the passenger traffic that was the line's main reason for existence, Gamble had to contribute a lot of his money to fund the railroad's deficits, just as Werk had done earlier. The C&W limped along by hauling freight to the coal yards and supply depots along the way. Normal operations ceased in 1924, but the C&W managed to hang on until 1941 with one employee running a gasoline powered motor car along the line daily to maintain the bridges and tracks. After that though, the tracks were pulled up for scrap, and any of the trestles that weren't dismantled for safety reasons (all of them were made of wood) were left to rot. So even though the C&W didn't last long, it still outlived all the area's interurban railroads, and there's more remnants than one might expect.


Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad Motor Car & Bill Taylor

This homemade motor car was built out of an old railroad pushcar and a Ford Model T engine. Bill Taylor drove this along the Cincinnati & Westwood daily in its last years to perform maintenance and preserve the railroad's operating charter. From "On the Right Track: Some Historic Cincinnati Railroads" by John H. White, Jr., Richard Klaus collection.

Surprisingly, even though this line has been gone for nearly 60 years, there's still some tracks shown in GIS data from the 1990's. The route is fairly easy to trace, but suburban development has erased much of what may have remained at the end of the line. This railroad had its own right-of-way for its entire length. It started in South Fairmount and joined with the CH&D east of Beekman Street and the Lunkenheimer Valve plant. A short spur off the CH&D still remains under the pavement to the abandoned factory. Right now, only the tracks crossing Beekman remain, and they will likely be covered as soon as the road is paved again. Running west from here, the line ran between Queen City and Harrison Avenues and roughly paralleled Queen City Avenue. There's some bridge abutments left at White Street, which the Cincinnati & Westwood had a wooden trestle over. At East Tower Drive/Gehrum Lane, the line turned northwest towards Harrison Avenue. Before hitting Montana Avenue, it turned west and ran to roughly the western border of the city where it ended. There is a noticeable raised berm throughout much of Westwood, which makes the right-of-way easy to trace. It is difficult to locate the end of the line, however, due to more recent development, at-grade track, and the proximity of the Cincinnati and Cheviot borders, which means some streets stop at the border, making it look like a potential rail route where it isn't.


 

Photographs from South Fairmount to Westwood

 

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