C&C - Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company

(Hillsboro Short Line, Swing Line)

 

 

Norwood - Hillsboro

1906-1920

Standard Gauge

Constructed by the Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Co., 1905-1907

Abandoned east of Owensville, 1919

Abandoned completely, 1920

This was a standard-gauge interurban, 53 miles long, between Norwood, at the edge of Cincinnati, and Hillsboro. It was chartered in 1901 and opened on April 22, 1906. It was promoted locally and early in its history was known as "The Swing Line," after its principal promoter. The company's ambition to build east to Chillicothe or Columbus were never realized. It paralleled no railroad, although the Baltimore & Ohio had a branch into Hillsboro. The company was never profitable enough to pay a dividend. The property was so badly damaged in the flood of 1913 (which injured all the lines in the area) that the company applied for voluntary receivership, from which it never emerged. In common with most interurbans, it had a very bad year in 1918, when it lost $21,036. The receiver concluded the property was hopeless and in 1919 applied for abandonment. Permission was granted, but an unsuccessful effort on the part of local residents to refinance the road and to continue it in service delayed sale for scrap until 1920. Its power business outlasted the rail operation, but was also sold to local interests in 1920. Its cars, heavy Jewett combines, were sold to the THI&E, the Joplin and Pittsburgh, and the Northeast Oklahoma, which was about to electrify. (From: Hilton, George W. and John F. Due, The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press, 1960)


Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company at the Courthouse in Hillsboro

The first C&C car around the courthouse in Hillsboro on July 27, 1907. From "Cincinnati and Columbus Traction Co." by David McNeil, original photo by Frank Pence, from the Walter Simpson collection.

Despite never making it to its intended destination, the Cincinnati & Columbus was still one of the longest of the Cincinnati interurban lines, not counting the C&LE which was pieced together from a handful of previously independent roads. Despite its length though, this was Cincinnati's shortest-lived and one of the weakest interurbans. Ridership in 1912 was only 608,000 people, higher only than the two very weak IR&T lines to Bethel and New Richmond, which had to compete with CG&P and a mostly undeveloped river floodplain respectively. Negotiations for franchises and procurement of right-of-way began in 1901 by the Swing family, though construction didn't finally start until January 1905. Inspection trips over the road east of Milford were conducted in August and September of that same year, and regular operations between Milford and Hillsboro commenced on October 1, 1905. Bridge worker strikes delayed opening the line west of Milford, and the Norfolk & Western was denying the C&C the right to cross their tracks west of Hillsboro, though tracks to Elm and Main streets were already in place (it's interesting to note that the C&C was also a customer of N&W, who supplied coal to the power house in Perintown). Once the Little Miami River bridge was completed, the whole line was open to regular traffic in April of 1906. A short extension from Main and Elm to a loop around the courthouse in Hillsboro was opened on July 27, 1907, completing the full extent of the route.

 

During the early negotiations, this interurban fought with the CM&L over the bridge crossing the Little Miami River in Milford. The C&C couldn't get a franchise, and had to build its own bridge to the south. The destruction and replacement of this bridge in a 1907 flood showed how big of a liability it was to the company. They replaced the destroyed span with a second-hand truss from the CH&D. The bridge was washed away again in the1913 flood, and this (among other damage) sent the C&C into receivership. It limped along for a few more years but by 1918 the writing was on the wall. Unlike other nearby interurbans like the CM&L or the CG&P, they made no attempt to reorganize, buy new equipment, or generally upgrade their facilities. There was no prospect for improved ridership, so rather than doubling down they decided to simply give up. Had they decided to modernise, the C&C might have lasted into the mid or possibly late 1920s at best, as that's when other Cincinnati interurbans that did modernize began to fall apart anyway.

 

There was pressure from the citizens of Madisonville, Madeira, and Ramona (a small community at Drake and Shawnee Run Road in Indian Hill) to keep the line, because it was a fast way to get to the factories in Norwood where many residents worked. Since most of the streetcar lines ran radially from downtown, taking the street railway would involve going to Walnut Hills and back out. That would take some 45 minutes, instead of 10 on the C&C. Unfortunately, the Cincinnati Street Railway had no interest in that, and residents were left to fend for themselves. The people of Hillsboro were the most invested in preserving operations, since the N&W and B&O branches to their town provided horribly inadequate service, generally just one shuttle each way to Sardinia or Blanchester per day. Nonetheless, on October 25, 1919 the last car ran on the outer 30 miles of the C&C between Owensville and Hillsboro. Talks of combining the C&C and CM&B and abandoning portions of each never materialized. The line was sold for scrap on January 31, 1920, and wrecking crews began dismantling it in March. The power plant, which provided electricity to Madeira, Perintown, Owensville, Monterey, Marathon, Fayetteville, and the Madisonville lines of the street railway, stayed in service through April when the Union Gas and Electric Company took over the power lines and hooked it up to their system.


Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company Bridge Over the Little Miami River in Milford

C&C bridge over the Little Miami River at Milford, a perpetual sore point and expense for the company.

Despite the length of the road, the C&C was handicapped by its standard gauge track and remote terminal location in Norwood. It benefited very little from suburban traffic, since it traveled through areas near Cincinnati that are sparsely populated even today. Also, the hilltop soil in Clermont, Brown, and Highland Counties is not well suited to intensive agriculture, so bulk shipments of commodities like corn or grains was limited, and overall the area of southern and southeast Ohio has been in a general state of decline, or at best stagnation, for over 100 years. Canned fruit and milk shipments were a staple of the C&C's freight hauling, but it paled in comparison to what it could have been in a more healthy farming and industrial locale like the Great Miami Valley.

 

Weaknesses aside, the C&C was one of the better surveyed and constructed interurbans in the area. Aside from street running in Norwood and Madisonville, it managed to stay on its own right-of-way off to the side of the streets for most of its length. Once past Milford it generally operated to the side of the roads while detouring a block or so away from US-50 at most towns. While grades were somewhat steep within the Cincinnati city limits, it took a fairly curvy route through the various hills and valleys to keep the grades manageable. Utilization of the never completed narrow gauge Cincinnati & Fayetteville right-of-way from Vera Cruz to Fayetteville, as well as a very short stretch through the heart of Milford, kept grades manageable across country as well. Stone culverts in Madeira and Indian Hill were meticulously constructed and some remain completely intact and functional today after more than 100 years.

 

The route's terminal was at the end of streetcar route 5 in Norwood on Harris Avenue where there was a small wooden station building and a siding for transfering freight to and from the CL&N. Since this was a standard gauge line, passengers had to transfer to streetcars here, or take a steam train to downtown via either the B&O or the CL&N. With the proposed subway running directly behind the old station location, this area would have been one of the busiest intermodal transfer points in the area, with the streetcar line, C&C, subway, and two railroad lines all intersecting nearly on top of each other. Harris Avenue is now right at the edge of the Norwood Lateral highway, and with the subway never being finished, the CL&N dismantled south of the B&O, and no C&C or streetcars left, the area is a bit of an empty wasteland now. East of the station, the single track line went down the center of Harris and quickly struck out on its own right-of-way upon reaching Poplar Street. The crossing of the C&C marked the east end of Norwood Avenue until after it was abandoned, and the road currently narrows noticeably just east of Poplar. The houses on the north side of the street are basically on top of the old roadbed. The road descended into the Duck Creek valley, at the present location of the I-71/Norwood Lateral interchange, just east of the Pennsy's connecting track and Norwood station that was built after the C&C was torn up. All traces of the C&C and Duck Creek Road were obliterated by construction of I-71, and the creek itself has been channelized through much of this area. It is very hard to find anything left of the C&C around here because of this.


Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company Culvert in Redbird Hollow

One of the many beautifully constructed stone culverts in Redbird Hollow in Indian Hill.

Past Ridge Avenue the route ran some 20-30 feet north of Duck Creek Road to just west of today's Oaklawn Drive, a newer road built in the 1960s, where it turned southeast towards Madison Road. Since all the development along Duck Creek, Oaklawn, and the subdivisions around Collinwood Place and Eastwood Drive happened after the C&C was abandoned, the only remaining trace is about 100' of graded right-of-way in a ravine behind the end of Collinwood. The route then followed Madison Road to Whetsel Street, north to Chandler Street, and finally to a private right-of-way west of, and higher up the hill than the B&O outside the city limits. There are many stone culverts and a lot of grading along this stretch of hillside. The route crossed the B&O on a small bridge just west of downtown Madeira. On the east side of Miami Avenue, the original substation remains, having been recently renovated. This was a combined passenger and freight station that also housed the first electrical substation between Cincinnati and Hillsboro. The rails then crossed Camargo and went through Sellman Park where there was once a wooden trestle over a creek. The road went through what would later become cookie-cutter suburban development in Indian Hill to the site of the current village hall, formerly the neighborhood of Ramona. The line ran to the south behind the elementary school then descended into a valley, called Redbird Hollow, and followed this almost all the way to Given Road. The right-of-way through Redbird Hollow is very beautiful, and it's a popular walking trail with several bridge structures to see. The best way to get there is to park on the east side, where there's a small parking "lot" on the side of Given Road. It takes about 40 minutes to walk the entire length of the trail, which almost reaches Shawnee Run Road, but disappears before reaching the school play fields. East of Redbird Hollow, the C&C ran right along the southern border of Indian Hill where there are some bridge abutments visible from Given Road. It then went into Terrace Park and then briefly across Wooster Pike. It then crossed the CM&L on Wooster and another small creek (the same one as in Redbird Hollow, actually) just past the PRR/Little Miami Railroad overpass and then crossed the Little Miami River into Milford. There are several piers for this bridge remaining, although they are not accessible from any roads.

 

Upon reaching High Street in Milford, the C&C runs on the graded right-of-way of the never-completed narow gauge Cincinnati & Fayetteville Railroad which was started in 1877. It was going to connect with the Cincinnati & Eastern (later Norfolk & Western) line in South Milford along Roundbottom Road. The C&C was able to use the graded roadbed around the hill to approximately the intersection of US-50 and OH-28. There's an alley behind some of the houses along Main Street in Milford that marks the route, but after that the commercial development and road widening has obliterated any remains until well past I-275. The carbarns were located south of US-50 near Mohawk Trail but it burned down in 1959. The power plant was not directly on the line, but on the west side of Binning Road in Perintown so coal could be dumped from the adjacent N&W railroad and it could pump water from the East Fork Little Miami River. Beyond Perintown, there are several areas where the route is easily viewed.

 

Photographs from Norwood to Hillsboro

 

Return to Index