Cincinnati Western Railroad

 

Standard gauge railroad graded between Cincinnati and Indiana in the mid 1850s

Never completed

 

Another one of those ambitious plans from the 1850s was a railroad partially constructed to the west of the Mill Creek Valley. The Cincinnati Western Railroad (not to be confused with the nearby Cincinnati & Westwood) was chartered on February 10, 1851 to construct a single-track standard gauge railroad from downtown Cincinnati to Chicago via Connersville, Rushville, and Indianapolis. Some accounts suggest this was to be a narrow gauge railroad, however the earliest passenger-carrying narrow gauge line in the United States wasn't opened until nearly 20 years later, in 1871. The road in Ohio to the Indiana border, a distance of 30 miles, would be financed by $600,000 of capital stock. Amendments to the charter over the next few years resulted in an altered route. By 1853-55, a system map revealed a route from Cincinnati to New Castle via Connersville. Connections in New Castle would be constructed by the Chicago, Newcastle and Cincinnati Railroad via Anderson, Kokomo, and Logansport, bypassing Indianapolis. A branch line, the Cincinnati, Newcastle and Michigan Railroad would operate to Grand Haven on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan via Muncie, Marion, Wabash, and Goshen. Presumably the three companies were to be merged once construction finished. One report mentions a plan to utilize the towpath of the Miami & Erie Canal to reach a downtown station near the canal's sharp bend at Plum Street. It seems likely that they would connect with the canal somewhere in Brighton near Harrison and Colerain Avenues.

 

The route was shown on maps of Butler County and Hamilton County in 1855 and 1856 respectively, and it was reported in 1854 that $2.3 million had been subscribed, enough to cover the estimated $2.1 million cost of construction to New Castle. It is likely then that construction began sometime in 1854 or 1855, though there's no verification of when exactly construction happened. The major engineering challenges were described as the crossing of Mill Creek, West Fork, the Great Miami River, and a tunnel at the head of Badgely Run Valley. This would be a tunnel of approximately 2,900 feet in length, running through Roll Hill where Fay Apartments is today. The need for this tunnel is a bit dubious, as a slight detour to the north would allow the railroad to simply swing around the hill in the open valley. Excessive curvature or maintaining their maximum grade of 50' per mile might not have been possible going that way. Whatever their motivation, a tunnel was at least partially constructed from a sharp bend on Faraday Road to just east of the intersection of present-day Montana and Baltimore Avenues. The tunnel was apparently breached during the construction of Fay Apartments, and the west portal was demolished when Baltimore Avenue was rerouted during I-74 construction in the early 1970s. The east portal was presumably sealed up at the same time, but it may remain buried in the hillside to this day.

 

There used to be graded trestle approaches immediately outside the west portal of the tunnel and across the small valley at Montana Avenue. This was all destroyed when I-74 was built, and while there is some grading in Mt. Airy Forest, it's rather short. Tracking the route through White Oak, Groesbeck, and Northbrook is difficult due to recent suburban development and the relatively flat terrain that likely was never graded. Immediately north of I-275 however, the route is very evident. There area many cuts and trestle approaches along the west edge of Triple Creek park and through the extreme north end of Richardson Forest Preserve. Many thanks go to Rick Johnson of the Hamilton County Park District for bringing this to light. Supposedly there were bridge piers in the Great Miami River where the line crossed into Ross (known as Venice at the time), though this has yet to be confirmed. Northwest of Ross the roadbed becomes very difficult to find, but the 1855 map, and more recent GIS contour maps that have been released for Butler County show some remains. There's clear evidence of the route in current aerial photos of Butler County in two locations: southeast of OH-129 and Robinson Road, and northwest of OH-732 and Dunwoody Road.

 

Just about at the Indiana state line the Cincinnati Western crosses the current route of the Indiana Eastern Railroad. There was one report that the Indiana Eastern (formerly the C&O of Indiana) used the unfinished roadbed of the Cincinnati Western, but this is doubtful based on the maps and route descriptions. Whatever the routing through Indiana, the company failed before the roadbed was finished, so they never even got close to laying tracks or building trestles. The few scattered incomplete earthworks and the buried tunnel under Roll Hill are all that remain to this day. While the Dayton Short Line and its tunnel under Walnut Hills remained in the local press through the 1870s, and its assets were mentioned in various title transfers into the 20th century, the Cincinnati Western was all but forgotten by the close of the 1850s. If not for the tunnel breaches, it's possible nobody would know about this railroad at all today.

 

Photographs from Mt. Airy Forest to Colerain Township

 

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