The Little Miami Railroad (LM) is a defunct railroad that connected Cincinnati to Xenia, Ohio. Most of the alignment has been converted into a popular recreational trail.
The LM was chartered on March 11, 1836, with the goal of constructing a line from the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad (MR&LE) in Springfield to the Ohio River in Cincinnati. 2 15 It was the second chartered railroad in the state after the MR&LE. 2
George W. Neff was elected the LM’s first president on August 24, 1837, but Neff resigned on the following day. 2 Governor Jeremiah Morrow was selected as his replacement and served without pay. 1
Two meetings to sell stock, the first held at Linton’s Hotel in Waynesville on May 13, 1836, the other in Xenia on June 2, were not successful. 2 Financial aid that was promised by the state was withdrawn due to economic conditions. In a vain attempt to kick-start the railroad, the stockholders held off on receiving dividends until 1848. Every penny of earnings would be invested back into the railroad.
Construction of the LM began in 1837, with grading commencing simultaneously south from Xenia and north from Cincinnati to Fosters. 2 The first section of the line, from Columbia to Kugler’s Mills, opened in 1840. 3 Due to the 1837 economic crisis, cheap wooden rails were installed in place of iron, although they were replaced with iron rails from England by 1850. 3 15 Grading was then completed to Morrow’s Mills and rails laid to Kugler’s Mills. 3 On December 14, 1841, the first train was put into operation from Cincinnati to Milford, completing the journey in just 90 minutes. 1 2 15 Within a few months, the LM was open to Fosters. 2
Surveying work was initiated for the line north to Kings Mill, South Lebanon, and Lebanon via the Little Miami and Turtle Creek valleys. 1 The proposed alignment featured a grade of 33 feet per mile and was considered too steep for locomotives. The route was instead shifted to an alignment along the Little Miami to Morrow, Fort Ancient, Oregonia, and Waynesville.
A bridge was constructed across the Little Miami River at Miamiville in 1842, 3 and the first permanent depot along the LM opened at Pendleton in 1843. 14 The LM had reached Deerfield by July 1844, 3 Morrow by December, 2 and Xenia by August 1845.1 15 A connection was built to the MR&LE at Springfield in 1846, completing a continuous railroad from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. 2 15
Railroad locomotives were prohibited from entering Cincinnati until 1845, and cars were uncoupled and hauled into the city via horses. 2 15
LM’s second depot was constructed at East Front and Kilgore Streets in Cincinnati in 1848. 14
Columbus & Xenia Railroad
The Columbus & Xenia Railroad (C&X) was built between Columbus and Xenia in 1848 and 1849, with the first passenger train between the LM and the C&X running on February 20, 1850. 2 On November 30, 1853, the LM and the C&X merged operations, but their companies remained independent for financial purposes. 1 2 By the end of the year, the Cincinnati, Wilmington & Zanesville Railroad connected with the LMRR at Morrow. 3
The third LM station was completed on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati near Butler Street in 1853. 14 By 1856, the LM had 116 miles of track, and the C&X had 63 miles. 1
Hillsboro & Cincinnati Railroad
The Hillsboro & Cincinnati Railroad was chartered in 1846 to construct a line between Hillsboro and Loveland, where it would connect with the LM. 1 By 1850, the H&C had completed 37 miles between the two termini. The H&C leased its line in perpetuity to the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad (M&C), which eventually became the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s mainline to the west.
The LM teamed with the Cincinnati & Indiana Railroad in 1862 to construct a line along the Cincinnati riverfront to link both of their depots. 1 On January 1, 1865, the LM and the C&X agreed to lease the Dayton & Western (D&W) and the Richmond & Miami (R&M) railroads, and later purchased the division of the Dayton, Xenia & Belpre (DX&B) between Columbus and Xenia. 2 This gave the LM routes to Cincinnati, Columbus, Springfield, and Richmond, Indiana via Dayton from Xenia. 14
On November 30, 1868, the LM dissolved the consolidation agreement with the C&X, and instead, took a lease for 99 years of the C&X, which included all rights and interests in the D&W, DX&B and the R&M. 2 The LM had 123½ miles of track, while the C&X had 75½ miles. 1
On December 1, 1869, 2 the LM leased all its property to the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway (PC&St.L), part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), for $480,000 per year. 1 3 The lease was for 99 years, renewable indefinitely. 2 15 The LM consisted of 195½ miles of track, 1 but the combined length of the lines was 196 miles. It became one of the most profitable railroads in the nation, earning $6,081 per mile while expending $4,4458 per mile in 1879. 2
The LM constructed a passenger station at Pearl Street in Cincinnati in 1881. 14 The brick Victorian style building, known as the Panhandle Station and Union Station, featured six tracks under an iron and wood train shed. The station would later be shared with:
- The Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley, which had track rights on the LM from Morrow.
- The Louisville & Nashville, particularly for the Short Line that ran northeast from Louisville. It descended the ramp from the Newport & Cincinnati Bridge over the Ohio River and reversed direction to reach the platforms.
- The PRR Richmond Branch. When it was completed to Rendcomb Junction, trains to Chicago began using the depot.
- The Cincinnati & Eastern, which arrived via Clare and the LM.
The PC&St.L merged with several railroad companies on August 28, 1890, to form the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (Big Four). 1 The Cincinnati Division of the PRR was established from the LM on October 1. 14
The LM continued to exist as a separate corporation, although the PRR controlled much of its stock. In 1907, the LM conducted significant expansion projects that included Undercliff yard and the Torrance Road station in Cincinnati. 14 An elevation project in 1916 raised the rail bed to protect against the Ohio River, and platforms were lengthened at the Pearl Street station.
Traffic peaked on the LM in the 1930’s, when 24 daily trains were running in a typical eight hour day. 3 Owing to its isolated route that diverged away from most cities, traffic on the LM consisted of mostly freight. The Accommodation ran daily between Cincinnati and New York City, as did a Cincinnati to Columbus passenger train. 14
The Pearl Street station closed in 1933 when the new Union Terminal was constructed. 14 It was demolished in 1963.
The Xenia to Springfield line was ceded to the Columbus Division of the PRR on September 24, 1939. 14 On November 1, 1955, the PRR Cincinnati Division was abolished and merged with the Buckeye Division and became the Cincinnati & Xenia Branch, Buckeye Division in 1964. The PRR consolidated with the New York Central (NYC) to form the Penn Central (PC) in 1968, with the LM falling under the Cincinnati & Xenia Branch, Cincinnati Division, Southern Region of PC.
In early 1967, the PRR ended freight service between Xenia and Yellow Springs due to competition from the trucking industry and looked to abolish through traffic on the LM entirely. 2 There were numerous small towns along the LM, each with full taxing authority, which put the railroad at a disadvantage with trucks. 14 The PRR eyed using the NYC/Big Four alignment from Columbus to Cincinnati as it had modern signalling, low grades, and above floodplains. The LM had signalling that dated to 1942 and a right-of-way that periodically flooded.
The PRR rerouted the lone Cincinnati to Columbus passenger train through Dayton and Springfield, ending all passenger service on the LM shortly after. 2 Additionally, most PRR facilities in Cincinnati were downgraded. 14
PRR’s successor, PC, went into bankruptcy in 1970. 1 Beginning in 1972, the PC began initiatives to abandon the majority of its north-south routes in Ohio and Indiana 14 and in April 1976, the PC was absorbed into Conrail. 2
Track signals were turned off between Xenia and Cincinnati in 1974 14 15 and on July 29, 1976, the LM south of Spring Valley was abandoned. 3 The segment from Clare to Red Bank was sold to the Norfolk & Western (N&W) as part of their Richmond Branch purchase. 14 The remaining active segments were sold to the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY) in 1986.
Little Miami Scenic Trail
The Little Miami Scenic Trail, also known as the Little Miami Scenic River Trail and the Little Miami Bike Trail, 4 was formed in 1984 along the former right-of-way of the LM from Spring Valley to Terrace Park in Hamilton County. 8 In 1998, the trail was extended northward to Springfield 9 and south to Newtown in 2006 10 after an elongated battle with Terrace Park residents. 11
The Little Miami Scenic Trail is the longest paved rail-to-trail in the United States, stretching for 76 miles from Newtown to Springfield. 5 It is maintained by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as the Little Miami State Park 6 and averages 350,000 visitors per year. 7