Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad

Railroad / Ohio

The Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad is a former suburban railway from the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad to Westwood, then a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. It carried very little traffic from its inception to its closure in 1941.


History

The Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad (C&W) was organized by seven residents of Westwood, then a suburb of Cincinnati, on May 20, 1874. 1 The village was considered too remote and hilly to attract many residents, 2 and the primitive streets were lined with estate lots and small farms. 4 Some of the more prominent residents to take root in the area included James Gamble, co-founder of Proctor & Gamble, and Michael Werk, a soap and candle manufacturer.

Werk owned a considerable amount of land in Westwood and envisioned that the area would develop rapidly if it had reliable and cheap transportation into Cincinnati. 2 The first attempt was the construction of the Harrison Turnpike, a macadam road, but it proved to not be too popular due to distance. At one point, the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad considered routing a railroad up to Westwood from Cincinnati via Lick Run Hollow, but it opted for a flatter alignment along the Ohio River through Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Frustrated with flat real estate prices, Werk and other community leaders obtained a charter from the state for the C&W 2 and was formally organized on May 20, 1874. 4 The line was supported by 40 subscribers, including James Gamble, Michael Werk, Fred Schwartze, F.H. Oehlman, Charles Reemelin, and James Rubb who all wanted to promote the values of their large tracts of land.

Construction of the narrow gauge C&W began in the fall of 1875, but it was not without controversy. 1 4 The Harrison Pike Company opposed the building of the line and filed a lawsuit against the railroad after the C&W laid tracks across the Harrison Pike. The C&W, already under-subscribed and financially unstable, was fined $3,000 for trespass and destruction of property. 4

The alignment chosen for the C&W deviated from Brighton Station along the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad (CH&D), three miles from downtown, and crossed Beekman Street near the Lunkenheimer factory. 2 It then climbed a steep grade up Lick Run via several wood trestles 4 until it reached the summit at Werk Road. It passed through Western Hills, between and parallel to Daytona and Montana Avenue and ended at the James Robb farm west of Cheviot after crossing a 400-foot-long trestle.

The 5.63-mile 2 C&W opened on May 22, 1876, 1 4 and offered 25 tickets for $1 or annual commuter passes for $5.40. The route included four stations. 2 An engine house, wye, and a windmill to pump water for a trackside tank were added in early 1877.

The C&W was financially unsuccessful from the beginning and freight consisted of mostly ice from local ponds outbound and coal inbound, 1 too minor to even list in the 1880 Ohio State Railway Commission Report. 2 The line was also carrying just 75 passengers per day. Werk stepped in to manage the failing operation, transferring $7,000 to the C&W finances in 1877 and $20,000 in 1882 to keep the railroad afloat. 4

In 1882, the C&W proposed to extend the line from James Robb’s farm to Harrison near the Indiana border so that it could connect with the White Water Valley Railroad (WWV). 2 It would offer an entrance into Cincinnati for the WWV but it would also require the C&W to rebuild its line into standard gauge. The steep costs of construction made the prohibited the plan from coming to fruition.

Conditions of the C&W steadily deteriorated. The sparse railroad ties were dry rotting, the rails were rusting, and the trestles and locomotives required major repair. 2 As a result, the railroad was put up for sale, although there were no offers. Werk eventually tired of the constant headaches of the C&W and refused to finance the railroad any further.

Over the severe deterioration of the line, the Ohio Railroad Commission forced the C&W to suspend operations on September 1, 1886. 2 4 The bondholders of the railroad announced in November that it would be dismantled and sold for scrap, however, it was sold under foreclosure on May 30, 1887. 1 The C&W was reorganized and resumed operation on August 1 after hasty repairs that were funded in part by James Gamble. 2 The Ohio Railroad Commission Report listed the C&W’s length at 6.13 miles. 2

The C&W was converted to standard gauge by August 1891 which enabled passenger traffic from the CH&D to connect directly with the C&W, resulting in a dramatic increase in traffic on the line. 1 2 Additionally, the C&W’s western terminus was extended west by a half mile to Glenmore. The traffic increase was temporary, however, as the Cincinnati Street Railway completed its electric streetcar line to Westwood in September 1895, decimating passenger traffic along the C&W. Passenger traffic on the C&W was terminated on August 11, 1896.

The Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad studied the possibility of utilizing the C&W for a connection to Hamilton via the CH&D in 1911. 2 Separately, the Chesapeake & Ohio of Indiana, whose new mainline passed through the area, eyed the C&W as a switching connection to the CH&D. Gamble, however, held out on the line in hope that the C&W would be used in the new rapid transit and subway proposal for the region.

All operations effectively ceased on the C&W on May 31, 1924. 1 2 The two remaining engines were stored in a wooden shed near Lischer Avenue, and a small gasoline-powered rail car was operated on the line each day to demonstrate that the railroad was operating and not abandoned, a requirement to maintain the railroad’s state charter. 2 In July 1928, Gamble leased the C&W to the Southwestern Ohio Development Company, a shell corporation formed by the Cincinnati Street Railway as a part of the regional rapid transit and subway proposal. 2

New rail was installed on the Westwood streetcar route in mid-1939, which required the replacement of the C&W crossing at Harrison Avenue. 2 As it would be costly to replace the crossing, the rails of the C&W were severed at the streetcar crossing. The C&W ceased all operations on July 29, 1941, 1 which coincided with the abandonment of the regional rapid transit and subway project. 2

Today

Only a short spur, now abandoned, remains of the former C&W, which deviated from the CH&D near Queen City Avenue to serve the Lunkenheimer factory on Beekman Street.


Gallery


Sources

  1. Hilton, George Woodman. “Cincinnati and Westwood Railroad.” American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. 465-466.
    1a. White, John H., Jr. “Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad Co.” Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 15 (1957): 131-140.
    1b. White, John H., Jr. “The Chviot Narrow Gauge: Some Additional Notes.” Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 21 (1963): 22-29.
  2. White, John H., Jr. “The Cincinnati & Westwood Railroad” On The Right Track: Some Historic Cincinnati Railroads. Cincinnati: Merten Printing, 2003. 68-91.
  3. Koehler, Lyle. A History of Westwood in Ohio. Cincinnati: Westwood Civic Association, 1981. Print.