A History of The Cincinnati Northern Railroad
by Dr. Jim Brown
A grandiose plan for a North-South Transcontinental railroad was put forth as early as 1858. No action was taken on the project beyond the talk concerning the advantages and benefits that would accrue from such a route. In the 1858-1860 period, a survey was made northward from Cincinnati via Greenville and a road was graded as far north as Van Wert There were no tracks laid, and the project
languished for some twenty years. In 1878, the citizens of Van Wert, recognizing the need, and importance of a north-south railroad through their city, incorporated the Celina, Van Wert and State Line Extension Railway. Records indicate the road being incorporated in April, 1878, by the Hon.Thomas J. Godfrey, President of the Mercer County Bank. The other incorporators, by city:
Celina: D.J. Roop; T.G.TouvelIe; S.S.Snyder; D.Guy and R.G. Blake.
Shane’s Crossing: G.W. Alexander; C. Smith; J.H.Pennell; J.P. Dysert; R. Vantilberg and D.J. Robinson.
Van Wert: Thos. McKim; IS. Brumback; J.M.C, Marble; A.B. McCurdy; I.N. Alexander and A. Conant.
The contract for the first ten miles of railroad was let on April 11, 1879. Henry Butler was named President of the road, serving in that capacity for three years. The road was to be a three- foot, narrow gauge road, and the first section was to be completed by June 1, 1879, some 7 miles south to the D&K Crossing, to meet the Delphos and Kokomo Railroad. This meeting point was in a vacant wooded area, and for some reason, a post office was located there. It was designated “Koogle.” This first point of intersection was called Van Wert Junction. The adjacent lands were later purchased by Butler, Patterson & Co. and the village of Enterprise was established. The name was later changed to Ohio City. The contract for the completion was met on May 29th, and the two box cars and four flat cars were delivered in time to make the run on June first. The locomotive, was delivered from the Baldwin works, at that time, as well. In February 1889, the road was extended south another ten miles to the Van Wert Mercer County line.
On January 24, 1881, the Cincinnati, Van Wert and Michigan Railway was incorporated with the purpose of building a railroad from Cincinnati to Jackson, Michigan, through Van Wert. The CVW&.M purchased the CVW&SLE on March 5 1881.
As with most railroads of the time, receivership was a common result of funding problems, and in March 1887 the Cincinnati Van Wert & Michigan was consolidated with the Michigan and Ohio Railroad and became the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw Railway.
Between 1881 and 1896, the following extensions were constructed and became the O&M RWY:
- Van Wert to Paulding, Ohio 19.0 mi 1881
- South County Line of Van Wert County to Greenville, Ohio 38.5 1883
- Paulding to Cecil, Ohio 7.0 1884
- Greenville to Savona, Ohio 8.5 1884
- Savona to West Manchester Ohio 6.4 1885
- West Manchester to West Alexandria,. Ohio 13.0 1886
- West Alexandria to Carlisle Jet. 16.5 1887
- Cecil to Addison Jet. Mich 59.8 1887
- Carlisle Jct. To Franklin, Ohio 1.9 1888
- Franklin to Franklin Jct. 1.1 1889
- Addison Jet to Jackson Mich ( leased) 18.7 1896
The apparent slow growth of the road may be ascribed to the paucity (smallness of quantity) of funds. The railroad relied on local aid to erect the first portions of track, and upon the profits from these portions to build the remainder. In 1882, the Ohio legislature passed an act that authorized and allowed certain townships along the road to vote a bonded indebtedness to aid in the construction of the railroad. Four townships (Pleasant and Union in Van Wert County, Dublin in Mercer County, and Blue Creek in Paulding County) voted to do so and the monies were used to build the road to Paulding. The bonds came due and the Township trustees refused payment. The holders commenced legal action and were upheld in the United States Circuit Court and later, in 1891, by the United States Supreme Court. Some $880,000.00 in bonds was negotiated, but the holders lost not only the monies, but also the costs of litigation. The lawyers and the railroad were the only winners.
The total main line in 1896 was 200.4 miles, with leased trackage as shown. The railroad had trackage into Cincinnati on the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad_ (CH&D). This was not the only access to Cincinnati, as the road also used the narrow gauge Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern (CL&N). The CL&N had laid a third rail at standard gauge and operated as a dual gauge railroad.
Sometime in the mid-1800’s, Ohio, by legislative action, had decreed the “Ohio Standard Gauge” to be 4’10”. This had a disastrous effect on railroading, when trying to interconnect with other railroads. This situation apparently died a quiet death when all railroads adopted the national standard gauge. Thus, many railroads in Ohio were narrow gauge, in fact and by definition. The CJ&M had converted to what was to be the national standard gauge (4’8 1/2”) in 1894.
On May 30, 1894 the Dayton and Cincinnati Terminal Railroad Co. was incorporated. It changed its name to the Cincinnati Northern Railroad on December 7, 1894. It acquired the Jackson & Cincinnati Railroad on June 1, 1898 .(trackage from Addison Jet to Jackson, Michigan) and also, on July 23, 1897, the Ohio Division of the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railway (trackage from Franklin to Addison Jet, including a branch at Lewisberg of some 1.12 miles to a quarry, and a branch at Germantown of 1.84 miles to a distillery).
The railroads involved in the evolution of the Cincinnati Northern, along with their incorporation dates, are listed below:
- The Toledeo and Milwaukee Railway Co Aug 1, 1879
- Toledo & Michigan Jan 24, 1881
- The Michigan and Ohio Railroad Co Jun 25, 1883
- Jackson and Ohio Railroad Jan 18, 1884
- Cincinnati, Van Wert and Michigan Jan 24, 1881
- Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad Co Jun 20, 1886
- Michigan and Mackinaw Railroad Co Jul 15, 1891
- Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad Co Jul 17, 1891
- Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Co Jul 17, 1891
- Jackson and Cincinnati Railway Co Aug 9, 1895
- The Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad Co Jun 18, 1897
- Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad Co Jun 18, 1897
- The Cincinnati Northern Railroad Co Dec 7, 1894
- The Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati & St Louis Railway Co Jun 7, 1889
- Celina, Van Wert and State Line Extension Railway 1880
The following graphic shows the evolution and genesis of the Cincinnati Northern Railroad Company:
THE CINCINNATI NORTHERN RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated May 30, 1894, in the State of Ohio as The Dayton, and Cincinnati Terminal Railroad Company; name changed to The Cincinnati Northern Railroad Company by certificate of amendment of Articles of Incorporation filed December 7, 1894. The company acquired, by deed of July 23, 1897, from a Purchasing Committee, the Ohio Division of the road of Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company extending from Franklin, Ohio to Addison Junction, Michigan, and by deed of June 1, 1898, the road of The Jackson and Cincinnati Railway Company extending from Addison Junction to Jackson, Michigan. The company acquired the entire capital stock of Detroit Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad Company and operated its road under a lease dated’ January 6, 1899, from February 1, 1899, to January 1, 1902, when the capital stock was sold to The Michigan Central Railroad Company. Since January 1, 1902, The Cincinnati Northern Railroad Company has been controlled through ownership of capital stock by The Cleveland Cincinnati Chicago and St Louis Railway Company.
CINCINNATI AND MICHIGAN RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated July 7, 1891 (Ohio), and acquired from Benjamin F. Wade and Hiram F. Carleton, Special Masters, by deed of February 23, 1892, the Ohio Division of the road formerly owned by Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad Company, following foreclosure proceedings. The company consolidated with The Michigan and Mackinaw Railroad Company under agreement filed in the States of Ohio and Michigan March 9, 1892, forming Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company.
CINCINNATI JACKSON AND MACKINAW RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated in the State of Ohio March 9, 1886, and in the State of Michigan March 12, 1886, by consolidation of The Jackson and Ohio Railroad Company and Cincinnati Van Wert and Michigan Railroad Company, and acquired by deed of May 2, 1887, the property of The Paulding and Cecil Railway Company situated in Paulding county, Ohio. Following foreclosure proceedings the property was sold on January 8, 1892, to Special Masters Benjamin F. Wade and Hiram F. Carleton, who conveyed the Michigan Division to The Michigan and Mackinaw Railroad Company by deed of February 23, 1892, and by deed of same date the Ohio Division to The Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad Company.
CINCINNATI JACKSON AND MACKINAW RAILWAY COMPANY
Incorporated in the States of Ohio and Michigan March 9, 1892, by consolidation of The Michigan and Mackinaw Railroad Company and The Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad Company. Under foreclosure proceedings the property was sold to Frederic P. Olcott, who assigned it to Frederic P. Olcott, Calvin S. Brice and George R. Sheldon, forming a Reorganization Committee, to whom it was conveyed by Special Masters H. F. Carleton and M. A. Smalley by deed on May 13, 1897. On July 15, 1897, the Reorganization Committee conveyed the Michigan Division to The Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad Company (which, on September 7, 1897, changed its name to Detroit Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad Company) and on July 23, 1897, the Ohio Division to The Cincinnati Northern Railroad Company.
CINCINNATI VAN WERT AND MICHIGAN RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated January 24, 1881, in the State of Ohio, to build a railroad from the Ohio-Michigan state line to Cincinnati, Ohio, and partially constructed the road from Franklin, Ohio, to the north line of the state. The company, by an instrument dated August 26, 1881, effective March 7, 1881, leased, for 99 years, the Pleasant Township Division of Van Wert Paulding and Michigan Railway Company, and by instrument dated June 14, 1881, effective June 1, 1881, leased, for 99 years, the Dublin Township Division of the Celina Van Wert and State Line extension of Columbus and North Western Railway Company. The company also leased on November 1, 1881, for 99 years, the Blue Creek extension and the Union Township extension of Van Wert Paulding and Michigan Railway Company, and on June 15, 1881, acquired, by deed, the Celina Van Wert and State Line extension of Columbus and North Western Railway Company. By agreement filed in Ohio March 9, 1886, and in Michigan March 12, 1886, the company consolidated with The Jackson and Ohio Railroad Company, forming Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad Company.
THE JACKSON AND CINCINNATI RAILWAY COMPANY
Incorporated August 12, 1895, in the State of Michigan, in the interest of Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company, to extend the line of road of that company to Jackson, Michigan. Road was built from Addison Junction to Jackson, Michigan, and opened in 1896. In accordance with the plan of reorganization of Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company, the title to the property of The Jackson and Cincinnati Railway Company was conveyed by deed dated June 1, 1898, to The Cincinnati Northern Railroad Company.
THE JACKSON AND OHIO RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated in the State of Michigan January 19, 1884, and began construction of a railroad from Jackson, Michigan, to the Michigan-Ohio state line. By agreement, filed in the State of Ohio March 9, 1886, and in the State of Michigan March 12, 1886, the company consolidated with Cincinnati Van Wert and Michigan Railroad Company, forming Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad Company.
THE MICHIGAN AND MACKINAW RAILROAD COMPANY
Incorporated July 16, 1891 (Michigan), and acquired from Benjamin F. Wade and Hiram F. Carleton, Special Masters, by deed of February 23, 1892, the Michigan Division of the road formally owned by Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad Company, following foreclosure proceedings. The company consolidated with Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad Company under agreement filed in the States of Michigan and Ohio March 9, 1892, forming Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company.
In 1894, the O&M had progressed from a hodge-podge of track which originally had included strap-iron rail in the Cecil-Paulding area, to rails that ranrged. from 50 to 60 pounds per yard. This weight had been the standard since the Civil War. Records indicate some 337.8 miles of track, for that year, and this would include sidings, as well as the main, as follows:
50 pound rail 30.9 miles
52 pound mil 125.5 miles
56 pound rail 152.4 miles
60 pound rail 29.0 miles
The lighter rail had been in use on railroads during and since the Civil War. It could withstand the pounding of the Atlantic (4 4 0) or Mogul class (2-6-0) locomotives, but as engines grew heavier, and car tonnage increased the tracks were replaced with 60 and 80 pound and finally, late in life, with 112 to 127 pound rail. All rails were, and are, identified by their weight per yard, and were rolled in 39 foot sections. In the late steam years, the New York Central attempted to run Mohawks (4-8-2), and a Niagara (484) on the line, but these locomotives proved too heavy. The heaviest steam locomotives to see regular service on the Cincinnati Northern were the Mikado H-6a class (2-8-2) and saw service until the road was dieselized.
Rail on mainlines with heavy traffic now runs 132-155 pounds per yard.
While the incorporation’s, mergers, bankruptcies and the like that make up the history of the Cincinnati Northern Railroad, there can be little doubt that the progenitor was the Celina Van Wert and State Line Extension Railway. Incorporated in April of 1878, it was the first to lay track, albeit some seven miles south from Van Wert to the D&K crossing, which became Van Wert Junction, and later, the town of Enterprise and finally, Ohio City.
The Cincinnati Van Wert and Michigan Railroad was incorporated in Ohio on January 24,1881, with the stated purpose of building a railroad from The Ohio-Michigan boundary to Cincinnati. The road began to acquire bits and pieces of railroads on the western side of Ohio.
Ninety-nine year leases were signed for the Pleasant Township Division of the Van Wert Paulding and Michigan Railway, on March 8, 1881.
The Dublin Division of the Celina Van Wert and State Line Extension was leased for ninety-nine years on June 1, 1881.
The Union Township Extension was leased on Nov 1, 1881 for the same ninety-nine years.
Then, on December 13, 188/, The Blue Creek Extension of the Van Wert Paulding & Michigan was similarly leased.
Finally, by deed, the company acquired the entire Celina, Van Wert and State Line Extension on June 15, 1881.
Then, by agreement, filed in Ohio on March 8, 1886, and in Michigan on March 12, 1886, the company consolidated with the Jackson and Ohio Railroad to form the Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad.
(It might be noted here that when bankruptcy or other conditions occurred that required reorganization, the usual procedure was to change the name from Railroad to Railway, or vice-versa, and proceed to reorganize and continue in operation)
On March 7, 1884, the property of the Paulding and Cecil Railway was acquired by deed, and became a part of the Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad. The entire line was foreclosed upon and sold on February 23,1892, with the Ohio Division going to the Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad.
The Cincinnati and Michigan Railroad was incorporated in Ohio on July 7,1891, and as stated, acquired the Ohio Division of the Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw. The company was consolidated with the Michigan and Mackinaw on March 9,1892, forming the Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway Company.
On May 13, 1897, there was another foreclosure, and, by deed, the property was sold to Mr. Frederic Olcutt, who immediately assigned it to himself and to Senator Calvin Brice (more about him later) and to Mr. George R. Sheldon. These gentlemen formed a Re-organization committee and on July 15,1897, conveyed the Michigan Division to the Toledo and Michigan Railroad. Its name was subsequently changed to the Detroit Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad on September 7, 1897.
The Ohio Division was deeded to the Cincinnati Northern Railroad on the same July date.
The Cincinnati Northern Railroad was incorporated on May 30,1894 as the Cincinnati Terminal Railroad Company, with Calvin Brice as the President. The articles of incorporation were amended to change the name to the Cincinnati Northern Railroad on December 7, 1894.
As previously stated, the company acquired the Ohio Division of the Cincinnati Jackson and Mackinaw Railway, which extended now, from Franklin, Ohio to Addison Junction, Michigan. On June 1, 1898, the road of the Cincinnati & Jackson Railway, extending from Addison Junction to Jackson, Michigan was deeded to the Cincinnati Northern.
The company took control of the DT&M by acquisition of all the capital stock. The road was operated under lease from February 1 , 1899 until January 1,1902, when the capital stock was sold to the Michigan Central.
From Jan 1,1902, the Cincinnati Northern was controlled by the CCC&StL. Railway, owner of most of the capital stock .
Finally, by indenture, dated January 2, 1930, and effective February 1, 1930, The Cincinnati Northern was leased to the CCC&StL railway for the usual ninety-nine years. Operation of the road was transferred to the New York Central on February 1, 1930. It was operated as the Northern Division of the CCC&StL.
A merger agreement, dated December 15, 1937, (ICC ordered on June 17, 1938), and filed in Ohio and Michigan’s Secretaries of State on June 30, 1938, merged the Cincinnati Northern into the CCC&StL Railway. The whole became a part of the New York Central System.
The Cincinnati Northern Railroad, from then on, lost its identity and was reported as a part of the Big Four(CCC&StL).
There is little that remains of this once proud and prosperous railroad. Most of the tracks have been removed and only the roadbed is visible in many places. There is still a spur into Franklin. The points are located on the CSX main just eats of where the Carlisle Junction interlocking tower stood. There is a stretch of track in service from the CSX main in the same area, running north to Germantown. This is privately owned by, and serves, a factory in Germantown. There is a piece of track running from Ansonia down to Greenville. Eric Bickleman, an employee for some of the short lines in the area, in his May 2002 letter to me, describes what he sees:
“…One of the modem day short lines I have worked for operates a remnant of the former Wabash Line that crossed the CN at Cecil, Oh. An approximately 2 mile long stub of the CN, south of the former crossing, remains intact as a privately owned industrial lead. It serves a cement plant and quarrying operation just north of Paulding. … There is no trace of the station…. At Van Wert, the crossing of the former ConRail (PRR), now CSX, is intact, and CN trackage remains on both sides to serve the remaining industrial customers. South of the crossing there is about 2 1/2 miles of track to serve a
plastics plant. Some of the track runs down the middle of the street. The track is in poor condition and has some 13 grade crossings. … Traces remain at Ohio City, and a short stub at Celina remains to allow C.J. Colman RR operator of the former N&W line to access a small grain elevator. … At Bryan, trackage remains south of the NS crossing, which included a wye in 1998.”
With the exception of Eric’s description and my remembrances, the rails have all been removed and the depots gone, moved or turned into private or public use. Penn tower, south of Greenville, DV tower at Bryan, and Carlisle Junction are long gone. The latter now a small silver box.
The Cincinnati Northern, having served its purpose, is fading into the past. The passenger trains are long gone, no more freights, rumble north and south No longer are coal drags running north to Michigan from southern Ohio. The whistles are silent, and bells no longer ring.
To the thousands who worked on her, The CN will always be fondly remembered, and a whiff of coal smoke will bring back memories.