The Cincinnati Northern in Cincinnati

from a manuscript by C. Hauck

In 1889 many rumors circulated about the Cincinnati Lebanon and Northern a property of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad. The CL&N and CJ&M had conducted negotiations over an eight year period. The CL&N wanted to sell to the CJ&M and to this end had gone from narrow gage to standard gage as fast as finances would permit.

The CJ&M had end of track in Carlisle, Ohio in 1887 and was looking for a way into Cincinnati. The CJ&M was not a very profitable road and its dealings with he CL&N and later efforts to complete a tunnel in Cincinnati at Deer Creek (now the site of 1-71 on the first hill north of the Ohio River), were seen as attempts to gain trackage rights over the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. The courts intervened and halted the consolidation of the CL&N and CH&D. In the end all of the maneuvering gave the Pennsylvania a reason to buy the CL&N. In 1897 the CJ&M went into receivership and was reorganized as the Cincinnati Northern and was ultimately bought by the Cleveland Columbus Cincinnati and St. Louis in 1901.

In the spring of 1888 the CJ&M secured an option to purchase the CL&N for $700,000. If the option had been exercised, the CJ&M would have had to extend its own line at Carlisle to Lebanon and convert the CL&N to standard gage. But the CJ&M worked out a trackage right agreement over the CH&D from Carlisle to Cincinnati. This agreement expired on May 1, 1889. November of that year saw the CJ&M in receivership. This dampened all future expansion plans for the next twenty four months, although it seems the CJ&M had retained an option on a perpetual lease of the CL&N.

In reality the CJ&M had secretly obtained another option to buy the CL&N for one million dollars. The CJ&M dispatched some engineers to survey and inspect the CL&N roadbed. They found the narrow gage road bed in good condition and that it could be converted to standard gage easily. The CJ&M was also studying an old incomplete tunnel project at Deer Creek with the idea of using it to avoid some severe grades north of Cincinnati. It looked like the CJ&M wanted the Court Street site as its Cincinnati terminus.

But the CJ&M was not able to do anything of the kind. Financially strapped the railroad was trying to convince the CH&D it could gain its own entrance into Cincinnati. This made for a lively competition between the two roads with the ultimate aim of getting the CH&D to buy the CJ&M. When the CJ&M option on the CL&N expired in mid June of 1888, the CH&D let it be known that it was preparing to take control of the CJ&M in August. A permanent injunction was placed against the proposed merger of the two parallel railroads because the consolidation would violate state law. A portion of the CJ&M stockholders tried to appeal to higher courts, another group realized that the consolidation was not to be. This group saw their best course of action would be in joining the minority of stockholders sincerely interested in the CL&N consolidation from the beginning. As a result, in February of 1893 the CJ&M reopened talks with the CL&N.

September of 1893 saw the CJ&M board of directors resolve to buy the narrow gage CL&N. In November the stockholders voted their support for the plan. The next day the CJ&M president went to Cincinnati to make a formal offer to the CL&N. After several days of talks the CL&N decided against the CJ&M offer. The CL&N thought the CJ&M was laying a smoke screen because the CJ&M had started talks with the Grand Trunk. The Grand Trunk was also looking for an entrance into Cincinnati for its Michigan lines. The CJ&M financial status was well known as evidenced by its periodic receiver ships. Consequently, the talks between the two railroads were shelved again.

The CL&N was relaid as standard gage in September of 1894 and negotiations were reopened with the CJ&M. Events unfolded rapidly through the end of the year. An eastern consortium gained control of the CJ&M. These people also controlled or were vying for control of railroads in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. A connection to Cincinnati was needed as an outlet to southern systems. A tentative agreement was made between the CJ&M and the CL&N to pay for the road with preferred stock or first mortgage bonds of the CJ&M. This agreement went sour when the CJ&M went into receivership in December of 1894. Again the CJ&M was sold and reorganized.

A year later the CJ&M obtained trackage rights over the CL&N and on January 27, 1896 began running morning and late afternoon express trains out of the Court Street station as far as Hageman, Ohio between Lebanon and Middletown. From Hageman, M&C tracks were used as far as Middletown then on Big Four iron to Franklin where CJ&M tracks were reached. Trains stopped only at CL&N stations. CJ&M freight trains were usually 25 to 30 cars long and run in two sections on the hilly section of the CL&N from Court Street to Pleasant Ridge. An incident was reported in the Mason Appeal newspaper involving one of these trains:

One night last week a Mackinaw train pulled out of Cincinnati with thirty cars, most of which were loaded with coal. The engine succeeded in tugging the big load up the hill as far as Pleasant Ridge. At that point the wheels began to slip on the rails in an unnatural manner, and the engine could hardly pull itself to say nothing of the long string of cars behind it. An investigation by the trainmen showed that the rails for a considerable distance had been covered with a heavy coat of some slippery article supposed to have been soap. Only a few cars could be pulled over this stretch at a time. While the crew was engaged in this work, thieves reaped a harvest from the coal cars, carrying off enough fuel to last Pleasant Ridge the rest of the winter.

The freight agreement was the only one that went into effect with the CL&N and the CJ&M made other plans. The CJ&M decided to build its own road into Cincinnati. In the spring of 1894 a line was surveyed roughly paralleling the CL&N from Hageman to Bloody Run, just north of Walnut Hills in Cincinnati. From here a tunnel was planned under Walnut Hills to the Deer Creek Valley.

The tunnel would run just over 7,000 feet and cost $2,000,000. From the south end of the tunnel it would be a short run to the proposed depot at the corner of Court Street and Gilbert Avenue. To this end the Cincinnati Jackson & Mackinaw formed an independent company to build the line into Cincinnati, The Dayton and Cincinnati Terminal Railroad on May 30, 1894. The proposed line was to run from the Court Street station in Cincinnati to the Union Depot in Dayton. The main impetus of the company was to be the tunnel at Deer Creek, because it would have served several railroads looking for easy access from the north. The company started acquiring land at the Court Street site in 1894.

The D&C petitioned the Cincinnati Board of Public Affairs for a right-of-way into the city. The CL&N immediately protested claiming that the proposed tunnel would run directly under their trestle and make it unsafe. The argument was made that the city had no right to make a grant that would be injurious to another corporate entity. By the end of 1894 it was becoming apparent that the Board of Public Affairs might not grant the D&C Terminal Company the right to enter the city. This was because the owners of a much older tunnel company, the Dayton & Cincinnati Railroad Company, still held a franchise on the Deer Creek route. In the early 1850s the Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company started the construction of a 10,011 foot tunnel bore. After going about 3,000 feet the D&C ran out of money and quit.

In 1872 the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company organized to complete the old D&C tunnel. Some of the old tunnel was in good shape, but a large cave in had occurred under Oak Street and would have been expensive to repair. Additionally the cost of completing the original tunnel would have added a lot to the cost. In 1874 with little progress made, the Dayton and Cincinnati Tunnel Company folded, and the CJ&M began dealing directly with the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company.

The management of the CJ&M decided the only way to get the franchise held by the Tunnel Company was to force it into receivership, and then buy it. The D&C had quite a few unpaid judgments and tax liens against it, also it had never paid part of the principal or interest on its first mortgage bonds. The CJ&M went about buying as many of the first mortgage bonds as they could. Out of 214 bonds originally sold by the Tunnel Company 183 were still outstanding. Of this number The CJ&M acquired 175 and demanded the trustees foreclose on the mortgage. On April 19,1896 the D&C Tunnel Company was sold to the only bidder, the CJ&M for $49,700.02, two thirds of the appraised value of the property. While this was going on the CJ&M was still buying property at the Court Street site. Two tracts were obtained measuring 200 by 1400 feet and 150 by 600 feet. There were also many smaller pieces of land bought. All together the land would hold between 400 and 500 rail cars.

About the time the CJ&M started maneuvering for the Tunnel Company the Pennsylvania Railroad began making overtures to the CL&N by way of a third party. The CL&N at first ignored these wanting to be bought out by the CJ&M. The price offered by the CJ&M was too low for the CL&N’s directors and they entertained the third party bid. There was a lot of speculation as to who the buyer was. It could have been the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton, Baltimore and Ohio, the Big Four, Ohio Southern, the Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati, the Miami and Cincinnati, Erie or the Pennsylvania. On May 7 the CL&N Superintendent made a formal announcement naming the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The Pennsylvania road left the CJ&M’s trackage agreement stand. In early 1897 the CJ&M was sold to a group headed by Senator Brice of Ohio for $1,000,000. It was reorganized under the name of Cincinnati Northern and retained ownership of the Deer Creek tunnel property and Court Street holding. In the spring of 1897 the Cincinnati Board of Public Affairs granted the CN a franchise for the old tunnel and the right to cross certain streets in the city. The company planned to locate a depot on the north side of Court Street just east of the CL&N station.

This never came to pass since the CN continued to use the CL&N to gain access to Cincinnati until it was bought by the CCC&StL in 1901. In 1902 the Cincinnati Northern trustees sold the tunnel property and about ten acres of land at the Court Street location to the CL&N for $237,700. This left the Deer Creek Valley pretty much under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Never again would another railroad try to gain entrance to Cincinnati via the Deer Creek Valley.

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