CL&A-Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora Electric Street Railroad

 

Anderson Ferry - Aurora, IN, branch to Harrison

1900-1930

Standard Gauge

Constructed by the Cincinnati Lawrenceburg & Aurora Electric Street Railroad, 1900

Reorganized as the Cincinnati Lawrenceburg and Aurora Electric Railway Company, 1928

Purchased by Cincinnati Street Railway, service cut back to Fernbank, line from Anderson Ferry to Fernbank converted to broad gauge, 1930

Streetcar service suspended, 1941

This interurban was a standard-gauge line along the Ohio River from Anderson's Ferry, at the west end of Cincinnati, to Aurora, Indiana (25 miles), with a branch from Valley Junction to Harrison, Ohio (8 miles). It was completed in 1900. Plans for extension west to Rising Sun, Madison, and Louisville were never implemented. In 1913 flood damage forced the road into receivership, from which it did not emerge for 15 years, one of the longest receivership periods in the industry's history. The line is principally noteworthy for its pioneer purchase of lightweight, one-man equipment in 1918. The company was severely handicapped by its remote terminal, but like the rest of Cincinnati's standard-gauge interurbans, it never achieved entry into the center of the city. After reorganizing as the Cincinnati Lawrenceburg and Aurora Electric Railway Company in 1928, the line survived for only two years, and was abandoned in 1930 after a year of operating losses. Six miles from Anderson's Ferry to Fernbank were converted to 5'-2 1/2" gauge and operated by the Cincinnati Street Railway until 1940 [actually 1941]. The lightweight cars were sold to the Sand Springs Railway at Tulsa, Oklahoma. (From: Hilton, George W. and John F. Due, The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press, 1960)


Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora Electric Street Railroad Lightweight Car at Cincinnati Car Shops

The CL&A was a pioneer in purchasing new lightweight one-man cars. This particular one was manufactured by the Cincinnati Car Company, which also incorporated many of the same techniques into more modern streetcars.

The CL&A, while a pioneer in some ways was a pretty typical interurban in its early life. It greatly improved access to the city for Cincinnati's most remote neighborhoods, Delhi, Sayler Park, and Fernbank. They grew up as railroad commuter suburbs in the late 19th century in proximity to bustling industry along the Ohio River and both the Big Four and B&O railroads. When the CL&A opened it added yet another set of tracks through this narrow linear corridor hemmed in by the river and steep hillsides. Ridership on the CL&A was average for the Cincinnati area, with 1.5 million passengers in 1912, though because the C&LE and Cincinnati & Hamilton both had very strong stats (over 4.3 million passengers each) the CL&A actually had the third highest ridership in the Cincinnati area. Construction was typical, with a double track line from Anderson Ferry west to the edge of Fernbank, where it became single track. The terminal area at Anderson Ferry is quite far removed from downtown Cincinnati, so a long streetcar ride was necessary to make connections to any meaningful destination.

 

The year 1918 is one that comes up regularly throughout reports of the interurban industry as being a particularly difficult one where many lines entered receivership or began talks of abandonment. There were really only two choices that the tractions line had, either abandon or try to modernize. The CL&A chose to modernize through the purchase of new lightweight cars. It was such a rousing success that other roads in Cincinnati and around the country began similar programs to upgrade their equipment. The CL&A had a bit more freight business than other area interurbans due to the industrial development that stretches westward along the Ohio River. This is likely why it was one of the earliest developers of container shipping. These containers could be brought by truck to the terminal at Anderson Ferry and loaded on rail cars for shipment to Indiana or vice versa. A few other local railroads dabbled in this type of shipment, but with motor trucks taking over all less than carload (LCL) freight, this method of shipment was largely forgotten until the recent resurgence of boat/rail/truck shipping and the distinctive metal cargo containers we have today.

 

Another economizing move made by the CL&A and other interurbans was to eliminate redundant trackage. Like the IR&T lines and CM&B coming into the east side of Cincinnati, the CL&A had several miles of double-track route within the city limits and on public streets. In the case of the IR&T Rapid Railway line, a few miles were purchased by the street railway company, but in most other cases the hoped for buyout or significant increases in traffic that would require double track operation never materialized. The CL&A thus eliminated all of their double track, which was only within the city limits in the first place, and replaced it with a single track with passing sidings. They also moved the route through Delhi, Sayler Park, and Fernbank off of Gracely Drive (then known as Lower River Road) to a private right-of-way next to the Big Four railroad tracks, much like it was originally constructed east of Delhi. The new route had to bend around the small railroad commuter stations in these neighborhoods, and it ultimately swung north and east to meet up with Birch Lane where it rejoined the existing route into Addyston and beyond. This track realignment was likely done to eliminate increasingly frequent altercations with automobiles and motor trucks, while also absolving the company of the responsibility to maintain Gracely Drive around their tracks.

 

Ultimately the CL&A was purchased by Lawrence Van Ness, who was only interested in the electrical infrastructure and franchises. The eventual closing of the road and takeover by the Cincinnati Street Railway in 1930 after final abandonment on November 22 is simlar to what happened with the Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester on the east side of town. The Cincinnati Street Railway originally planned to substitute the service with buses, but residents along the line wanted to retain rail service instead. The infrastructure was purchased at scrap value and convert to streetcar use, with the new Route 30 Fernbank opening on January 1, 1931. This wasn't the easiest changeover because the track gauge had to be converted from standard to broad. They left one rail and moved the other one out six inchest to the new spacing. The line was cut back to a new loop on Birch Lane, just off of Gracely Drive where it originally went to single track, and a loop was installed. The rail service was finally replaced with buses on June 1, 1941 and the tracks were pulled up for wartime scrap.

 

The CL&A terminal at Anderson Ferry originally met a large streetcar loop with an extra layover track next to the CL&A depot. The odd frontage street to the north is where the original River Road and streetcar line ran before bending slightly south at Anderson Ferry Road. The CL&A terminal was actually east of Anderson Ferry Road, but straightening out the road's alignment paved over the station location. Pretty much all traces of the CL&A's route within the city were obliterated by the widening and realignment of River Road in the 1950s. The original double track route within the city limits basically followed the south side of the old narrow River Road west from here to Delhi, with the outbound track on the street and the inbound track off to the side near the railroad tracks. Upon reaching Delhi, the line originally merged with Gracely Drive to pass through the neighborhoods of Sayler Park and Fernbank. After 1918, the track in the street was removed and the whole line paralleled the Big Four railroad until about 500 feet past Thornton Avenue where it turned to meet up with the original route at Birch and Gracely. Birch Lane is mostly unimproved gravel, but the curbs on Gracely form corners to what was apparently intended to be a decent sized street. The interurban line then ran on its own right-of-way for a short distance before coming onto Main Street in Addyston. There's some telephone poles at the extreme northwest end of Fernbank, but the graded right-of-way behind some houses on Hillside Avenue is the most visible remain of the CL&A. There's also some bridge remains about where E. Main turns into Hillside. This is where you'd get off of River Road to get on E. Main or Hillside. The CL&A continued to follow Route 50 after Addyston. Before US-50 was widened and bypassed North Bend to the west, the highway turned directly onto Miami Avenue. The CL&A however continued past Miami and shared the cut through the hillside with the Big Four Railroad past Harrison's Tomb. It turned back to Miami via Mt. Nebo and proceeded north through Cleves to Cooper. It then came back onto US-50 and crossed the Great Miami River, sharing an old highway bridge. The route to Aurora followed US-50 into Indiana and Lawrenceburg. The branch line to Harrison basically paralleled the old NYC now I&O line along Kilby Road through Whitewater Township. Detailed USGS maps of southeast Indiana from the CL&A operating period have been nearly impossible to locate, so the routing from the state line through Greensburg should be taken with a grain of salt. However, one Sanborn map does show the street running at the center of Lawrenceburg. There was a T-intersection at 3rd and Main with a spur into town from 3rd to Walnut to High Street, similar to the IR&T spur into the heart of the Mt. Washington business district.

 

Main Line Photographs from Anderson Ferry to Lawrenceburg

 

Harrison Branch Photographs from Valley Junction to Harrison

 

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