Cincinnati & Fayetteville Railroad
Cincinnati & Fayetteville/Cincinnati, Fayetteville, Hillsboro & Huntington/Cincinnati, Hocking Valley & Huntington/Cincinnati, Atlantic & Columbus
Narrow gauge railroad partially constructed between Milford and Newtonsville in the 1870s
The Cincinnati & Fayetteville Railroad Company was chartered on April 24, 1877, to build a 3’-0” narrow gauge railroad from Cincinnati to Fayetteville, Ohio in Brown County. Starting at a connection with the Cincinnati & Eastern Railway in south Milford, near the Hamilton and Clermont County border. This road would run through Milford, Mulberry, and Newtonsville to Fayetteville, roughly paralleling OH-28, OH-131, and US-50. $350,000 of capital stock was issued for the first of many iterations of this company. On May 31, 1878, the charter was amended, changing the eastern terminus to Nelsonville on the Hocking River in Athens County. The expanded route required an increase of stock to $750,000. On April 6, 1880, the name was changed to the Cincinnati, Fayetteville, Hillsboro & Huntington Railway Company, and on June 26, 1880, the stock was increased significantly to $5,250,000, in order to finance construction through the rough terrain east of Nelsonville.
In October, 1880, a contract was let for the construction of the line from its junction with the Cincinnati & Eastern Railway to Nelsonville, and considerable preliminary work was done on the Cincinnati end of the route. On March 15, 1881 the name was again changed to the Cincinnati, Hocking Valley & Huntington Railroad Company. About this time the contractor began having financial difficulties, and in October, 1882, the directors sold the western portion of the line between Milford and Hillsboro to the Cincinnati, Atlantic & Columbus Railway Company which had been formed on May 3, 1882. Under the terms of the contract with the Cincinnati, Atlantic & Columbus, that company assumed all debts of the Cincinnati, Hocking Valley & Huntington. The new company got 11 miles of completed narrow gauge track from Milford to Newtonsville in Clermont County, and the remainder of the right-of-way east to Hillsboro.
Reports say that 22 miles of grading was completed, but it is unclear if this includes the 11 miles between Milford and Newtonsville that also had tracks installed. The mapped route from the Cincinnati & Eastern junction to Fayetteville is 21.5 miles, and there is no evidence in maps or aerial photographs of any unused right-of-way east of Fayetteville. However, the distance from the end of track construction in Newtonsville to the crossing of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Hillsboro Branch, just a couple miles west of Hillsboro proper, is exactly 22 miles. Although the B&O was a standard gauge railroad, that location was still a logical stopping point for construction if the company had yet to secure an entrance into Hillsboro, which required crossing the B&O and/or the recently constructed Hillsboro Short Line branch of the Cincinnati & Eastern. Such crossings routinely required difficult negotiations with the senior railroad company. A few decades later, the Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company would use the graded roadbed from the entrance of Lake Lorelei to Fayetteville, but on the east side of town they operated along US-50 rather than any preexisting private right-of-way. Nevertheless, since the unused but graded right-of-way between Newtonsville and Lake Lorelei is very difficult to spot, it’s possible that a route between Fayetteville and Hillsboro exists away from US-50, and that it simply wasn’t worth the trouble for the Cincinnati & Columbus to try to utilize it.
Regardless of the exact disposition of the company’s construction, no equipment was ever purchased, and no formal operations were conducted over the Cincinnati end of the property. More reorganizations and consolidations occurred throughout the remainder of the 1880s, changing the terminus to Wheeling, West Virginia rather than Huntington. A short standard gauge route was built and opened between Kingston and Adelphi in Ross County, opening on December 22, 1885. This segment had one locomotive and one passenger/baggage car, but it was held and operated by the contractor due to lack of payment and issues with stock subscriptions, a situation that eventually escalated to the Ohio Supreme Court. Like much of the rest of the route, there is little to no evidence of it to be seen in Kingston, Adelphi, or across the countryside in between. By 1889 or 1891 the whole company had failed and what little track existed was torn up for scrap. The numerous name changes and variations in the route are typical of speculative and incomplete railroads that were trying to tap into already established markets, many of which were borderline if not outright fraudulent endeavors. New investors or partners with other connecting railroads, and competition with companies trying to be the first to open a route to a prospective coal mine or transfer point, would invariably lead to changes in route and scope. The constantly moving goalposts made attracting online investors or collecting stock subscriptions very difficult, not to mention committing to construction. The lack of funds, and disconnected sections of mostly useless construction, were little different from many speculative mainline railroad projects of the 1850s as well as the electric interurbans that were to come in the 1890s and 1900s after this wave of narrow gauge fever wore out.
Despite the failure of this company, its earthworks were put to use by the Cincinnati & Columbus Traction Company and the Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Company, who in aggregate utilized about half of the right-of-way between Milford and Fayetteville. The connection to the C&E across the East Fork Little Miami River and Roundbottom Road is today relatively obscure. There aren’t any landmarks to reference where exactly the junction was. Nonetheless, on the north side of the river there is a pretty obvious bridge approach in the Terrace Park Country Club about halfway between South Milford Road and the main stem of the Little Miami River. There is a fill along the riverbank and a shallow cut in the slope farther to the north. The subsequent sculpting of the landscape for the rest of the golf course, along with the development of the various SEM retirement community buildings has wiped away whatever else might have remained of the route through South Milford. Farther north in the neighborhood, an unmarked Railroad Street exists as an alley behind Mound Avenue, hinting at its history. In the heart of town, the C&F and later C&C ran on High Street for just about three blocks until taking their own route around the hill starting near Locust Street. Spring Street was later built on the roadbed, and the C&C turned southeast to parallel Lila Avenue while the C&F turned northeast to its own right-of-way southeast of Walnut Street. This right-of-way started climbing up a small creek next to Valley Brook Drive and behind Milford Storage. Beyond Brooklyn Avenue the grading disappears under newer parking lot construction and the significant earthworks necessary for I-275 and the OH-28 interchange. The C&F crossed OH-28 before the location of the exit, swinging south slightly but maintaining a straighter trajectory towards Mulberry than the streets today. Running between old and new OH-28, the C&F grading is finally picked up by the later CM&B near Highview Drive in Mulberry. Why the CM&B didn’t use this grading between Milford and Mulberry remains a mystery, but it’s possible that there were washouts or bridge issues that prevented them from doing so, or perhaps intransigent property owners who weren’t willing to resell part of their property after it had reverted back to them upon the failure of the C&F.
East of Mulberry the right-of-way takes a nearly straight path to Newtonsville. The north end of Miami Meadows Park has some paths on the old roadbed, and Rose and Crawford lanes to the east are on the right-of-way. There are photos of these areas in the CM&B gallery. Beyond here there are only road crossings, and there could possibly be some CM&B-era bridge remains in Stonelick Creek. At Newtonsville the CM&B turned north up Roudebush Road, and the grading of the C&F continued east, just north of Liberty Street. The grading between Newtonsville and Lake Lorelei is very difficult to see, but it is there. A couple of creek crossings near Marathon-Edenton Road show evidence of bridge approaches. At the entrance to Lake Lorelei however there’s not really anything to see, despite this being where the C&C came onto the unused roadbed. It looks like re-grading for the entrance road, dam, and spillway have eliminated whatever traces there were. Between there and Fayetteville, since the C&C operated over the route, there’s a clear indication of the right-of-way from satellite photos and on the ground, including bridge abutments over the East Fork Little Miami River just southwest of Fayetteville. East of Fayetteville, however, if any grading was done, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of it.
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