Notes on the CN


Work started on the forerunners of the Cincinnati Northern in 1858. The railroad was to be a narrow gauge line originating in Jackson, Michigan and go south through Van Wert, Ohio and terminate in Cincinnati. As originally conceived, the Cincinnati Northern was to be the Ohio division of the Cincinnati, Van Wert and Michigan Railroad. This road later became the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw and went into receivership in 1897.

In 1900 the CJ&M became the Cincinnati Northern. 1935 saw the demise of the Cincinnati Northern when it and its then parent the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway were both absorbed into the New York Central System. This in turn became part of PennCentral and then Conrail before trains stopped operating on the railroad.

Access to Cincinnati from Franklin, Ohio the southern terminus took more than one route over the years. Originally access was gained via the narrow gage Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern which ran to Dayton, Ohio from Cincinnati. This route brought trains through Mason, Norwood and Walnut Hills into the terminal on Court Street. The route of the CL&N was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cincinnati Northern bought trackage rights on the Big Four from Franklin Junction into Middletown, Sharonville and into Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railway was constructed in this sequence:

Van Wert, Ohio to Paulding Ohio19.01881
South county line of Van Wert County to Greenville, Ohio38.51883
Paulding to Cecil, Ohio7.01884
Greenville to Savona, Ohio8.51884
Savona to West Manchester, Ohio6.41885
West Manchester to West Alexandria, Ohio13.01886
West Alexandria to Carlisle Junction, Ohio16.51887
Cecil to Addison Junction, Michigan59.81887
Carlisle Junction to Franklin, Ohio1.91888
Franklin to Franklin Junction (CCC&St.L)1.11889
Addison Junction to Jackson, Michigan (leased)18.71896


Mr. Marshall started working for the New York Central in 1945 and was based in Van Wert. He retired from the PennCentral after the last train, a Conrail freight left Van Wert March

31, 1977 for North Paulding. Mr. Marshall bills himself as the unofficial Cincinnati Northern historian.

The Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw known officially as “The Mackinaw” was also called “The Stormy Northern.”

In 1900 there were 95 freight trains and 60 passenger trains daily through Van Wert on the Cincinnati Northern, Pennsylvania and interurban lines.

There was a holding pond used to fill the water tank at Van Wert that was served by Town Creek. The tank was filled using a steam pump. Steam driven pumps also were used to fill all other water tanks on the line.

A Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus train is reputed to have been built at the Cincinnati Northern wood shop in Van Wert. The patterns for the cars still exist. The wood shop is the only structure still standing at the engine yards in Van Wert.

Trains were broken into two sections to pull the hill northbound at Hudson, Michigan. This hill starts roughly at West Unity, Ohio and is about 29 miles long climbing 273 feet to Manitou Beach, Michigan. There was also helper service between Carlisle Junction and Ansonia on the south end of the line, a distance of about 52.3 miles and a 318 foot climb.

Passenger trains had “Jim Crow” cars.

Gas/Electric cars for passenger service came into use in 1926. They were powered by 250 horsepower, six cylinder engines that came from the Big Four. These cars were known as “Try Track” cars because they would leave Van Wert and try to make it up the track and back by the end of the day. Quite often they had to be towed back.

The railroad owned some land on the west side of Manitou Lake in Michigan and used it as an excursion destination.

In 1900 approximately 1,000 men were employed by the Cincinnati Northern.

The last steam engine used on the Cincinnati Northern was a USRA H-6 Mike. The New York Central also tried L-2 Mohawks in early 1953 but they proved to be too heavy. Early diesels tried were F7’s and two sets of FT’s. A trial run using RS-3’s was conducted in early 1952 but did not work out.

There was one through freight of coal daily to Jackson year round. In the winter, there were as many as three daily coal trains.

Rotary dumpers were used at the Paulding Sugar Company plant to unload sugar beets from gondola cars.

For a while there was one train daily from the limestone quarry at North Paulding to the Peninsular Cement Company at Cement City, Michigan between Hudson and Manitou Beach. The Cement plant was a dangerous place for the train crews since there was very little clearance between the cars and the track side structures.

Operating remnants of the Cincinnati Northern are as follows:

  1. The Western Ohio Railroad. From St. Henry, Mercer County, Ohio to Celina, Ohio, 10.2 miles. Operated from November 1976 to December 31, 1980. The road offered irregular freight service. They also operated from Latty, Paulding County, Ohio to North Paulding, Ohio a distance of about five miles. There were connections with the N&W at Coldwater, Celina and Latty. Merchandise moved was lumber, furniture, coal, limestone as well as agricultural products. The Western Ohio owned two Alcos, an S-2 and an RS-1.
  2. The Spencerville and Elgin Railroad Company operated the part of the Cincinnati Northern from Rockford to Ohio City, Van Wert County, Ohio a distance of four miles. This line had 112 pound rail and hauled fertilizer and grain. Operations began in 1978 using one engine and Alco S-14. This short line owned fifty covered hoppers.
  3. R.J. Corman operates the line from Greenville, Darke County, Ohio north to Ansonia where it interchanges with ConRail.
  4. Germantown, Montgomery County, Ohio is served by CSX from Carlisle Junction on the old B&O. Dupps Machinery is the customer served. Dupps manufactures large machinery for the paper industry and generates some unique flat car loads.
  5. LaFarge Cement and a limestone quarry at North Paulding, Paulding County, Ohio use the old Cincinnati Northern main from Cecil, Paulding County, Ohio where it connects with the old Wabash now the Maumee and Western.

At times the Cincinnati Northern was used as a “safety valve” for other north-south roads, especially those that went to Detroit, Michigan.

The arrival in Lewisburg, Preble County, Ohio of the first Cincinnati Northern train was in 1885. The railroad had a spur 1.12 miles long to the Wilson and Weaver limestone quarries on the north side of town. When the railroad first arrived in Lewisburg the engines were coaled using an iron bucket and a crane. The bucket was filled by hand at the rate of ten cents per bucket load. The Lewisburg passenger station, telegraph office and freight deport were constructed in 1890.

Gas/Electrics first came to Lewisburg about 1925. All passenger service was discontinued in 1938 and the conversion from steam to diesel occurred in 1951. A head on collision occurred in the Lewisburg freight yards on the afternoon of July 16, 1964. There were three engines involved.

In 1902 the Cincinnati Northern became a part of the Big Four, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis. In 1930 the New York Central formally leased the CCC&St.L along with the Michigan Central. The Penn Central was formed in 1968 in the merger of the New York Central, the Pennsylvania and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroads.

The number of trains across the road decreased as time went on . From timetables for the Cincinnati Northern dated April 3, 1927 there were two first class trains in each direction and four, fourth class trains, two of which ran seven days a week. In the timetable dated April 28, 1929 there was one first class train and four, fourth class trains. In the April 27, 1958 employees timetable the road could only support three switch runs a week and two scheduled daily freights. All trains originated and ended in Van Wert.

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