CM&B - Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Company

(Cincinnati, Milford & Loveland Traction Company, Milford Line, Kroger Line)

 

Madisonville - Blanchester

1903-1926

Broad Gauge

Constructed by the Cincinnati, Milford & Loveland Traction, Co. to Miford, 1903

Construction completed to Blanchester, 1906

Service over Cincinnati Street Railway lines to downtown suspended, 1915

Reorganized as Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Co., 1918

Abandoned between Newtonsville and Blanchester, 1922

Purchased by Cincinnati Street Railway, service cut back to Milford, 1926

Service cut back to Mariemont, 1936

Streetcar service suspended, 1942

A predecessor company, the Cincinnati Milford and Loveland Traction Company opened a 5'-2 1/2" line from Madisonville, on the outskirts of Cincinnati, to Milford (17 miles) in 1903. The road built an additional 12 miles to Blanchester in 1906. The company never operated to Loveland, and never carried out its plans to built to Columbus. Cars were equipped with a double trolley for running on the 8 miles of the Cincinnati Street Railway between Madisonville and a downtown terminal at 5th and Sycamore. The company found its trackage rights too expensive and after 1915 no longer came into the center of the city.

 

The road was put in receivership in 1917 and in the following year was reorganized as the Cincinnati Milford and Blanchester Traction Company. The Kroger family, which controlled the company, abandoned the segment from Newtonsville to Blanchester in 1922, and sold the rest to interests connected with the Cincinnati Georgetown and Portsmouth Railroad in 1926. The company was hopelessly uneconomic, and was abandoned in the same year, save for the Madisonville-Milford line, which was incorporated into the Cincinnati Street Railway. The CM&B's lightweight cars, very similar to the last cars of the Cincinnati Lawrenceburg and Aurora, were sold to the Street Railway. The surviving Milford line was cut back to Mariemont in 1936 and abandoned entirely in 1942. (From: Hilton, George W. and John F. Due, The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press, 1960)


Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Company Crossing the Little Miami River

Getting a franchise to use the bridge over the Little Miami River at Milford was just one of many hurdles the company had to overcome in its lifetime.

The Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester spent most of its life as the inaccurately named Cincinnati, Milford & Loveland, due to its convoluted early history. Several different groups were interested in building from the east side of Cincinnati through Milford into Clermont County. Some planned to connect to the East End streetcar line at Red Bank, and others planned to go through Madisonville or Oakley. Eastern destinations were towns like Goshen, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Washington Court House. The critical hurdles were obtaining franchises to cross Milford's bridge over the Little Miami River and to operate on Wooster Pike, which was still privately owned at the turn of the 20th century. Ultimately some of the syndicates bought out the interests and franchises of the others, while some lost out or gave up. In 1903 the Cincinnati, Milford & Loveland was built by B. H. Kroger between Erie Avenue near Red Bank Road and the west side of Milford after obtaining control of the Cincinnati, Milford & Goshen's franchises which were so far unused. The Little Miami Bridge crossing was still a sore point, as the Cincinnati & Columbus had already received permission to use the bridge and they put down a deposit. The C&C challenged the CM&L's right to use the Goshen line's franchise, but ultimately the CM&L got the rights and the C&C built their own bridge a few hundred feet downstream.

 

Once the bridge issue was settled, the question then became where to extend the line to. Loveland was obviously their first choice, but a suitable right-of-way on the east side of the Little Miami River could not be obtained due to uncooperative land owners and rough terrain. They then decided to build to Blanchester via Newtonsville, utilizing the graded right-of-way of the never completed narrow gauge Cincinnati & Fayetteville Railroad between Mulberry and Newtonsville. Later plans to extend the line to Wilmington and Washington Court House for connections to Columbus never materialized. Ridership was not particularly strong on this road, as it suffered many of the same problems as the nearby C&C, namely a lack of large towns along the way, and traversing the poor farmlands of Clermont County. 1912 ridership was 811,000, not much better than the C&C.

 

Even though the CM&L got the Little Miami bridge franchise, fights with Milford were constant. Most of the complaints from Milford came from failure to comply with the franchise agreements, such as: painting poles, providing clean, well heated cars, maintaining the bridge, and keeping roads repaired around the tracks. Heavy damage to the county and state owned bridge in the 1913 flood was not as harmful to the CM&L as the destruction of the C&C's own bridge. Nevertheless, there was still damage to the property to fix, which cut into profits. Exorbitant rental fees charged by the Cincinnati Traction Company for use of the tracks to downtown became a burden as well. Downtown service was suspended in 1915, but this only hurt ridership further, and inflation caused by World War I helped send the line into receivership.

 

Reorganization came in 1918 with a renaming to the Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester, the name it should have had from the beginning. At that time new lightweight cars were purchased from the Cincinnati Car Company after observing their success on the Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora. These lightweight cars, less than half the weight of their old ones and designed for one-man operation, cut operating expenses significantly. The company's power station at Wooster Pike and the west bank of the Little Miami River was retired and electricity was bought from Union Gas & Electric. These moves significantly cut the road's operating expenses and allowed it to survive a few years more. A westward extension via Brotherton Road to connect with the rapid transit loop near Madison Road in Oakley never happened as rapid transit construction ceased when the CM&B itself was on the verge of bankruptcy.

 

Ridership on the outer end of the line was sparse and declining, so the Newtonsville to Blanchester stretch was abandoned in 1922. In 1925 the CM&B was sold to Lawrence Van Ness, who was only interested in the power business. Shortly after the sale was completed, the CM&B was abandoned and sold off in 1926, with the electric service going to a new company that was ultimately sold to Union Gas & Electric. Van Ness closed down the CL&A and the CG&P as well as other midwest interurbans in a similar manner.

 

The Cincinnati Street Railway saw an opportunity to obtain the relatively well maintained track and electrical system for scrap value. This allowed them to bring streetcar service to the southern part of Madisonville, Terrace Park, Milford, as well as the newly developing communities of Fairfax and Mariemont without even having to change the track gauge. The new end of the line was at the intersection of OH-28 and US-50 near Milford's high school, and everything east of there was pulled up for scrap. The lightweight cars were still in good shape and they were reconditioned by the street railway company and operated out of the Hyde Park carbarn at Erie and Tarpis Avenues. The long run out to Milford became unprofitable however, as it was simply too time consuming, requiring an hour and 20 minutes from Fountain Square. The area between Plainville and Terrace Park is sparsely settled and prone to frequent flooding as well, so it just required too much maintenance for not enough patronage. In 1936 the streetcar line was cut back to a new loop at Miami Avenue in Mariemont while much of the right-of-way was obliterated in order to widen and straighten Wooster Pike. The improvements to Wooster Pike combined with the opening of most of Columbia Parkway in 1938 doomed not only what was left of the CM&B, but it also gutted the ridership of many of the east side streetcar lines that could no longer compete with the fast travel time on the highway. The remainder of streetcar service to Mariemont was terminated in 1942 as the new overpasses being built for Erie Avenue to cross the PRR Richmond Division and Red Bank Road cut off the tracks. The project also saw conversion of the Erie Avenue streetcar line to trolleybuses, which eliminated any possible connection from the former CM&B to the rest of the city.

 

The CM&B was typical of lightly built midwest interurbans in some ways, with heavy grades where the Cincinnati & Fayetteville right-of-way was not used, tight turns, and an overall lightweight construction. It did however benefit from having its own right-of-way for most of its route, and the company kept up maintenance of the roadbed pretty well throughout its entire history. It was single track for most of its length, though it was originally double track from Erie Avenue east to near Terrace Park, in anticipation of traffic that never materialized. That was chopped up over time until most of the double track was eliminated by the time the street railway closed down what was left. There was street running in parts of Terrace Park, Milford, and Mulberry, but between Mulberry and Newtonsville it ran across country on the Cincinnati & Fayetteville roadbed. After turning northeast at Newtonsville it ran a good distance to the side of the road until a few blocks from the end of the line in Blanchester. Because of this lack of street running, it has some of the most visible remains of any of Cincinnati's interurbans.


Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Company Carbarn

In the early 1940s when Erie Avenue was rerouted to create overpasses at the Pennsylvania Railroad Richmond Division and Red Bank Road, the rear of the old CM&B car barn was demolished to make way for the Erie Avenue fill.

Nothing remains of the terminal at the side of Erie Avenue, however. Constructing the fill for the overpasses required demolition of the carbarn, which was only used for storage after 1926. From there to the east side of Mariemont, the single track right-of-way is very obvious. In Fairfax, it ran just north of Murray Road with two electric sub-transmission lines following it, and a walking and bike path has since been built on the roadbed. In Mariemont it ran down the median of Murray Avenue. Utility poles are also quite evident here too. There was a loop at Miami Road for streetcar route 72 to turn back to Cincinnati, and the grading and even part of the platform are still there. Recently, some of the loop was landscaped and a new plaque was installed to commemorate the history of the loop.

 

Just past Mariemont and a little north of Wooster Pike, there are several concrete bridge supports where the railroad came down the hill into Plainville. From Plainville to Terrace Park, the specific route gets much harder to find. It flirted with Wooster Pike at various places, but widening and realignment of the highway has since obliterated any evidence of the side of the road right-of-way. Just east of the Avoca Park trailhead, one of the two transmission lines splits off and goes south towards Newtown. This is where the electrical connection to the Union Gas & Electric system was made when the reorganized CM&B started buying power from them. There was a small substation at that point, but it was removed when the line was abandoned and Wooster Pike widened.

 

Between Avoca and Terrace Park the one remaining electric transmission line crosses the bike trail and former PRR/Little Miami Railroad where the CM&L had a small underpass that regularly flooded. It was filled in after abandonment of the Mariemont to Milford streetcar line in 1936 and nothing remains other than the power line crossing. In Terrace Park the CM&B took a detour from Wooster Pike and followed the north/west side of Elm Avenue through the heart of the village. It then ran on Terrace Avenue and proceeded back to Wooster Pike near the large railroad overpass. There was once a picturesque trestle near the overpass, but virtually nothing of it remains. There are some telephone poles left around here, but it's so overgrown there's not much else to see. There are some remains of a bridge for the C&C here as well. Due to street running, there isn't much to see in Milford either, aside from the powerhouse on the west side of the Little Miami River.

 

The CM&B elected not to use the Cincinnati & Fayetteville's right-of-way to climb out of Milford to Mulberry for reasons that are unknown, and it simply followed OH-28 so there's nothing to see. Beyond Mulberry there is still quite a bit of right-of-way as it went across country, and one can follow it all the way to Blanchester without too much difficulty, even via aerial photographs. North of Newtonsville it ran to the west of Roudebush Road, though with pretty flat terrain and few sizable creeks there's not a whole lot of grading, though there are usually power lines.. The right-of-way through Stonelick State Park and Edenton is quite evident thanks to power lines. After it came in next to OH-133 at Taylor Pike it gets difficult to see but it's there.

 

Photographs from Madisonville to Blanchester

 

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