The College Hill Railroad was a line connecting the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton at Spring Grove Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio, to the College Hill and Mt. Healthy neighborhoods to the north. An extension to Ross was once planned but never constructed. Due to competition from an adjoining streetcar line, the railroad was electrified and became an interurban, before succumbing to financial troubles in 1938.
In the mid-1800s, College Hill was becoming an upscale suburb of Cincinnati, eight miles to the south. Large estate lots were developed in the region, along with small subdivisions, that increased the population of College Hill enough to warrant a railroad connection by the late 1850s.1 2
During that time, College Hill requested that the Cincinnati & Chicago Air Line construct a line through the community, although the initial attempt failed to produce any tangible results.1 The Cincinnati & Chicago Air Line never constructed any line further east than Richmond, Indiana, and was later absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Thus, public transportation to and from the community was via two omnibus lines, although it was slow and relatively expensive.1 2
In January 1871, another push for a railroad began. On January 1, the Cincinnati Commercial reported that several wealthy citizens from College Hill and Mt. Pleasant had contacted Mr. Reed, formerly of the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad, to conduct a survey.1 The proposed line was to begin construction that spring and be completed by July. Several weeks after it was commissioned, the survey was completed and proposed routes were outlined.
Both of the routes as proposed would begin at the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad (CH&D) at Spring Grove Avenue to College Hill, one via a ravine by Badgeley’s Run, the other by the Ohio Female College.1 The proposal also called for narrow gauge to be used; had it been constructed at that time as a narrow gauge, it would have been one of the first in the United States to claim the title. The promoters of the railroad had hoped that a third rail would be constructed by the Marietta & Cincinnati along the line.
The College Hill Railroad Company incorporated on May 22, 1873, two years after the initial announcement.1 2 The proposed 18-mile line connected the CH&D to Ross, Ohio (now Venice). The railroad was organized two years later, and construction soon was underway. By November 19, one mile of track was completed. College Hill at Hamilton Pike and Maple Avenue was reached by spring.
The railroad was constructed with the knowledge that the railroad would not be profitable, however, the promoters of the line expected to be compensated by increased land values in College Hill.1
The route to College Hill was steep, with a 4.5% grade. There was an ascent of 420 feet, and it included several large trestles and bridges and a deep cut.1 The first trip on the newly completed, three-mile line was made on March 11, 1876.
In July 1877, construction began on an extension north to Mt. Pleasant, however, there was not enough support for a line further north to Venice.1 2 On October 13, the railroad, now at six-miles in length, was completed to its new terminus.
The line, however, was completed in a very hasty and cheap manner. The railroad had deteriorated just after a few years of operation, and in 1882, the Ohio Railroad Commission reported that track realignment, ballast addition and other maintenance measures had greatly improved the quality of the line.1 Trestle work was completed in the following year.
In February 1883, however, the company defaulted on its mortgage,1 and was sold at foreclosure for $30,000, or two-thirds of its reported value. It was reincorporated as the Cincinnati Northwestern Railway on December 18, 1883, and the new owners announced an extension north to Liberty, Indiana. In addition, the narrow gauge would be swapped for standard gauge, a project that was completed in 1887.
In 1892, a streetcar route was proposed to College Hill that threatened the viability of the railroad.1 2 In November 1895, the Route 24 streetcar was put into operation. While it was faster to take the railroad, the streetcar was much cheaper. In April 1899, the Cincinnati Northwestern abandoned passenger service.
In August 1901, the railroad was converted to an electric interurban by the Southern Ohio Traction Company, and became part of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton electric interurban system in 1926. Four years later, this was absorbed into the Cincinnati & Lake Erie.1
On May 31, 1938, the College Hill railroad was abandoned.1
- Name: College Hill Railroad
- Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
- Years of Significance: 1875
- Status: Abandoned
- White, John H., Jr. “The Cincinnati Northwestern Railway.” On The Right Track: Some Historic Cincinnati Railroads. Cincinnati: Merten Printing, 2003. 52-.
- “College Hill Had a Railroad!” The College Hill eNewsletter 18 Dec. 2008. 23 Jan. 2009 Article.