The Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad (DT&I) is a defunct railroad that had its beginnings as the Iron Railroad Company, which connected Ironton, Ohio to the coal and timber reserves in the southern part of the state. Through acquisitions and mergers, the DT&I stretched for over 370 miles from Ironton to the automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan.


Iron Railroad

The Iron Railroad was a proposed railway to connect Ironton to coal, charcoal and timber reserves north of the city.3 In addition, it would serve as a route to ship finished goods northward and to receive items for transit from the south to the Ohio River. On February 11, 1848 4/March 7, 1849,3 15 industrial leaders in Ironton, Ohio incorporated the Iron Railroad Company.The railroad was named after its main product: pig iron.26

In 1849-1850, the Iron Railroad constructed six miles of broad-gauge from the Ohio River to the Vesuvius Tunnel mines in Lawrence County.3 The railroad contained timber cross ties and stringers held tight scrap rails from the Little Miami Railroad.14 15 The Vesuvius Tunnel, located six miles north of Ironton via Storms Creek,26 was opened to traffic in December 1851 and had a length of 956 feet.3

In 1862,16 the circa 1850 wooden Stearns Creek trestle north of Ironton was replaced with a much stronger wrought iron bow-string truss. The unique 97-foot long truss, with arches 11-feet high,16 was patented by W.H. Moseley in 1857 and manufactured in Cincinnati.4 14 It remained in service until 1924 when it was removed and placed on exhibition in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The first trains used locomotives brought to Ironton via boats along the Ohio River.3 15 The early locomotives were named after Lawrence County’s self-titled “Iron Masters,” including John Campbell, Thomas W. Means, John Ellison, Charles R. Batt, John Means and others.26 The Iron Railroad was eventually extended further north until it reached Center Furnace, 13 miles north of the river.3 No further construction was conducted due to a lack of funds in building a tunnel northward, which would have connected to the Belpre & Cincinnati Railroad, later known as the Marietta and Cincinnati.

Early Stations
  • Mile 3: LaGrange Furnace;
  • Mile 6: Vesuvius Furnace;
  • Mile 7: Pine Grove Furnace (later known as Royersville);
  • Mile 8.5: Etna Furnace (later known as Etna Station and then Pedro in 1875 after Big Etna was built in Ironton);
  • Mile 10: Lawrence Furnace (later known as Lisman Junction and Bartles Station). Furnace operated between 1834 and World War I;
  • Mile 13: Center Furnace (later known as Superior, home of the Marquette Cement Plant).

Various spurs to serve quarries, coal mines and iron furnaces were built during the 1870s and 1880s to give the Iron a total length of 18.35 miles.3

Another railroad, the Scioto Valley Railway Company (later a part of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad) was constructing a railroad from Columbus to Portsmouth, and then along the Ohio River upstream to Ironton. The first train arrived in February 1881.3 The construction of the railroad delayed an extension of the Iron Railroad north due to duplication until May 1901,3 when work began on an extension from Lisman to Bloom Junction to connect to the Scioto Valley Railway (then known as the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Portsmouth Branch). Construction was finished on the 18.6 miles on June 13, 1903. The extension was built by the Detroit Southern. Trackage rights, via the Baltimore & Ohio, was obtained on February 4, 1893.

The Iron Railroad entered into an agreement on July 30, 1881 with the Toledo, Delphos & Burlington Railroad Company (TD&B), which later merged with its subsidiary, Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad (TC&StL) in 1882.3 15 The TC&StL was narrow-gauge, and in accepting the agreement, the Iron Railroad allowed the TC&StL to place its rails with a three-foot gauge within the rails of the 4.10-foot gauge Iron Railroad at Dean to Ironton. The agreement allowed the TD&B to operate its narrow gauge trains into Ironton from Wellston over that route. The (TC&StL route from Dean north to Wellston was abandoned in 1917.

The Iron Railroad and the TD&B merged on October 21, 1881, retaining the TD&B insignia until February 25, 1881, when the line was consolidated with the Frankfort, St. Louis & Toledo Railroad.3 The Frankfort, St. Louis & Toledo comprised the eastern part of the Toledo, St. Louis & Western Railroad, known as the Cloverleaf Route, which became part of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, the Nickel Plate Road and the Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad (first corporation), which comprised of the western portion of the Cloverleaf Route. The name of the railroad after the consolidation was the TC&StL (second corporation).

On May 5, 1883, the Cincinnati Northern Railway, later known as the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern Railway, was consolidated with the TC&StL.3 The railroad now controlled 783-miles of narrow gauge from Toledo to St. Louis, from Delphos to Ironton and from Cincinnati to Lebanon Junction.

As other railroads in the Midwest were standard gauge, the delay resulting in transferring freight at connections, the smaller capacity of the cars and financial woes, led the TC&StL to fall into receivership on June 28, 1884.4 The Iron Rail Company was organized on July 23, 1884, and was comprised only of the original Iron Railroad north of Ironton to Pedro. As the Iron Railroad was built to a slightly wider gauge than standard, the Iron Railway was converted to standard gauge in a single day on August 6, 1887.

The Iron Rail Company remained independent until September 25, 1902 when it was acquired by the Detroit Southern.4

Ohio River Barge

An interchange with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) in Ashland, Kentucky, opposite of the Iron Railroad in Ohio, was made via a river barge that began operations on March 19, 1892.24 The C&O provided a steam tow boat, barge and other facilities on the Kentucky side, and the Iron Railway provided identical facilities on the Ohio shore near Sarah Furnace. Car handling was done for $2.00 each, with the exception of coke and coal which were 50 cents higher.24 Anything less than a carload was handled at ten cents per ton.

The C&O contracted with the Ashland Coal & Iron Railway for the use of their tracks at Ashland for the unloading of cars for the ferry in April.24 In February 1904, the Detroit Southern (successor to the Iron Railroad), the Norfolk & Western Railroad and the C&O split the cost of $30 per day operation of the tow boat “Bob Ballard.” It was provided by the Ironton & Ahsland Transfer Company.

In 1909, the C&O signed an agreement with the Kanawha & Ohio Transfer Company for a barge and tow boat as it was cheaper.24 all service ended ended in 1917 when the C&O opened an interchange at Gregg, Ohio with the DT&I. The tracks to the ferry were removed in 1926.

Lines in Michigan

The segment of railroad from Chandler’s Curve, about one mile south of Trenton, Michigan to Durban, was once part of the Chicago & Canada Southern Railway (C&CS).3 Papers were filed in Ontario for construction of the line in October 1870. Between 1871-1873, the C&CS was built from Buffalo to a point opposite of Grosse Isle along the Detroit River via a car ferry,4 and from there south via Carleton, Dundee and Grosvenor to Fayette, Ohio. The western terminus of Chicago was proposed, but the recession of 1873 and the completion of some branch lines led this proposal to be tabled.15

The portion of the C&CS that was in the United States was sold to the Detroit & Chicago Railroad on November 23, 1888.3 4 The line was then operated by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, which later became part of the New York Central. On November 15, 1897, the portion of the line from Chandler’s Curve to Dundee, a distance of 27 miles, was sold to the Detroit & Lima Northern Railway.

Springfield, Jackson & Pomeroy Railroad

A railroad from Springfield, Ohio southeast to Jackson and Pomeroy was granted a charter on December 17, 1874.3 4 6 7 8 15 The narrow gauge proposal, the Springfield, Jackson & Pomeroy Railroad (SJ&P), was pushed by the citizens of Springfield who desired an outlet to the south and east for their finished goods and raw materials from the mines in the hills, such as timber, coal and iron. It was incorporated in March 1875.7

The SJ&P was a project born out of the disappointments of the Dayton & Southeastern, a line proposed from Dayton to Jackson via a rather circuitous route that avoided some of the larger grades due to the hillier terrain near Jackson.4 Some disgruntled communities that were missed by the Dayton & Southeastern, along with some Springfield interests, formed the SJ&P out of frustration.

After raising $800,000 in capital in two years,4 a contract was let for the Springfield to Jackson segment in October 1875.7 8 Construction began from Jackson northwestward on December 7 4 and a depot in Chillicothe was constructed in February 1877.7 From the west, work began from Springfield on March 26 and proceeded eastward.4 By May, the SJ&P was completed from Jackson west to Waverly.7 A 12-mile section from Springfield to South Charleston opened later that year.8 For a while, the SJ&P operated two unconnected segments until the last spike was driven on July 18 at Dills east of Bainbridge.4

Shortly after, the SJ&P went into receivership and all construction stopped.7 It resumed shortly after and in June 1878, a branch to Eureka (Coalton), north of Jackson, was completed.4  The entire 108.75 mile segment from Springfield to Jackson, was opened on August 3, 1878.8 15

The SJ&P was originally built to a three-foot gauge with 36 pound rail 8 but converted into standard gauge in 1879.4 An early timetable showed one passenger train each way from Springfield and Jackson which took 12 hours to complete, and one mixed train each way between Springfield and Bainbridge.8 By June 30, 1879, the SJ&P had 11 locomotives, five passenger cars, 49 freight cars and 226 coal cars.

To satisfy creditors, the SJ&P was sold to Samuel Thomas on October 11.4 8 Thomas in turn conveyed the loan on November 3 3 to Oliver S. Kelly who then deeded the line on December 15 to a new company, the Springfield Southern Railroad.8

Springfield Southern Railroad

The Springfield Southern Railroad was incorporated on November 3, 1879 9 with a proposed termini at Springfield and a point on the Ohio River opposite of Huntington, West Virginia at Rockwood near present-day Chesapeake.3 7 9 Huntington was then the western terminus of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.3 7 After purchasing the SJ&P, the entire line had been standard gauged, and the 4.5 mile Wellston branch between Coalton and the south end of Wellston was graded.9 A few coal mine spurs were also built.

Operating results for the second year ending June 30, 1880 showed 20,240 passengers and 47,441 tons of freight moved on its line, resulting in a deficit of $7,642. Capital stock was $225,500 and bonds at only $2,000 with bills payable and liabilities reaching $442,600.9 Rolling stock had greatly increased to 19 locomotives, four passenger cars, 49 freight cars and 631 coal cars.

Dayton, Toledo & Ironton Railroad

The Dayton, Toledo & Ironton Railroad was originated in an effort of the lower Scioto Valley residents and industrialists to shorten their connection with the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad, by avoiding the roundabout route via Hamden Junction.7

Ohio Southern

On May 23, 1881, the Springfield Southern was reorganized by eastern banking interests as the Ohio Southern Railroad Company.3 10 15 The company’s first act in July was to construct 4.5 miles of rail from Coalton to the south end of Wellston on land that was graded by the Springfield Southern.10

By May 1, 1881, the Ohio Southern had capital stock of $3.84 million and first mortgage bonds of $7.68 million. By the end of December 1882, the railroad had laid 67 miles of 60-lb. steel rail and the equipment had been upgraded to 19 locomotives, five passenger and baggage cars, 14 box cars, 75 dump cars, 30 platform cars and 750 coal cars. The line carried 113,848 passengers, 320,117 tons of freight and had net earnings of $120,500. A timetable showed that two passenger trains operated daily each day from Springfield to Wellston, which took 4.40 hours to complete.10

The Ohio Southern was leased by the Indiana, Bloomington and Western (IB&W) to be a connecting link between Indianapolis to Springfield, Ohio, and the Chesapeake & Ohio who was extending westward. The IB&W, which later became the Peoria and Eastern, reached Springfield but never made it as far as Huntington. In April 1892, the IB&W relinquished control of the Ohio Southern.4

In order to provide connections to the more northerly railroads, the Ohio Southern began constructing an extension northward from Springfield to Lima, a distance of 67.9 miles, in December 1892.4 10 The line was completed on December 28, 1893.3 10 An extension of the Wellston branch to Cornelia, 9.5 miles, was built from the spring of 1893 to the spring of 1894.10

Three small branches were authorized to serve coal mines near Wellston in May 1893, and two near Glen Roy and another near Cornelia was approved in September 1894.10

The Ohio Southern consisted of five branches: 3 10

  • Coalton to Wellston, at 4.5 miles, completed in July 1881. The line from Jackson to Coalton had been completed by the SJ&P in 1878.
  • Wellston to Cornelis, at 9.5 miles, completed in 1894. This branch left Wellston going northeast, followed Little Racoon Creek to Ratchford, then went east towards Lincoln Furnace.1 This line was known as the Cornelia Branch, the Lincoln Branch and the Hanging Rock Branch.
  • Springfield Junction to Lima, at 67.9 miles, completed on December 28, 1893.
  • Jeffersonville to Sedalia, 7.17 miles, completed in 1895.
  • Jeffersonville to Kingman, 23.93 miles, completed in 1895.

Coalton to Wellston Branch

For the segment from Coalton to Wellston, the SJ&P constructed a branch up Horse Creek valley from Jackson to Coalton in early 1878.2 The line served a coal mine that produced “number 2″ coal which was highly desired. Soon after the railroad was completed, numerous mines came online and the railroad built spur lines into seemingly every hollow to serve the burgeoning industry. Nine total spurs were built between Jackson and Coalton.

The area around Coalton, originally named Eurekaville, had the highest density of mines in Jackson County.2

The first spur was 3/4-mile north of Jackson, serving the Cresent Mine.2 A quarter mile north was the Price spur, which served several drift mines. Another quarter mile north was the Armstong switch. At Chapman Station was a spur that served two mines, which was followed by a spur at Springfield, Ada, Eagle and Hipple. Interestingly enough, the horse watering trough that was located on the south end of Coalton was fed by a water pipe draining out of the former Wilson mine, located alongside the railroad.

In December 1879, the Ohio Southern intersected with the Dayton and Southeastern when it was completed.2 The lines simply crossed over. In 1882, the railroad was extended eastward towards Wellston.  At Glen Roy, the Ohio Southern took the northern route into Wellston via Comet, serving several shaft mines.

In order from Jackson east, the spurs included,13

  • Crescent Mine Spur
  • Roderick and Jones and Price’s Mines Spur
  • Armstrong Mine Spur
  • Chapman Mine Spur
  • Keystone, Jackson Hill and Springfield Mines Spur at Chapman
  • Standard, Grace and Jones Mine Spur
  • Hall Mine Spur at Davisville
  • Hipple Mine Spur at Coalton
  • Acorn Mine Spur at Altoona
  • Alma Mine Spur at Altoona
  • Emma Mine Spur at Altoona
  • Twin-Ada Mine Spur at Glen Roy
  • Alma Cement Spur at South Wellston
  • Eliza Branch Spur at South Wellston
  • Domestic Coal Company Spur
  • Wainwright Loading Tracks
  • Superior Mine Spur
  • Elk Fork and Wellston Hill Mines Spur at Lincoln
  • McChee Spur
  • Iron Valley Mine Spur
  • Iron Valley Furnace, Etna Mine and J.H. Brown Mine Spur
  • Lehigh-Portland Cement Company Spur
  • Victory Colliery Spur
  • Backarack Mine Spur
  • Cadet Spur

Jeffersonville to Kingman Branch

Additional information on this branch can be found at the Cincinnati, Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad article.

The Waynesville, Port William & Jeffersonville Railroad (WPW&J) was proposed as a narrow gauge railroad between the Little Miami Railroad at Claysville Junction to Jeffersonville, where it would junction with the Dayton and Southeastern.4 The line would parallel the Little Miami south to Waynesville.3 Although most investors were related to the SJ&P, no work was completed.

A 15-mile segment of the railroad, from Jeffersonville to Port William, was completed from 1875 to October 1877.14

From November 28, 1883 to May 31, 1884, the Ohio Southern held ownership over the WPW&J.4 In November, the line was reorganized as the Columbus, Washington & Cincinnati (CW&C), and the line was proposed between Columbus and Cincinnati. Under the CW&C, the line was finished to Claysville Junction, now Roxanna, via McKay’s Station.14

In March 1884, part of the CW&C was purchased by the Ohio Southern in order to complete a Columbus to Cincinnati route on a different alignment, especially as it descended into the Little Miami valley.4 The portion of the CW&C from McKay’s Station west to Claysville Junction was abandoned in 1887, and the new alignment would diverge from McKay’s Station to Kingman. The Ohio Southern was only able to complete the segment from Sedalia to Jeffersonville and McKay’s Station in 1895, a distance of 31.1 miles, before they exhausted their funding. The line was built as a standard gauge.4 With very little of the railroad having been completed, and the portions that were completed being isolated, the Ohio Southern did not generate a profit.3

The Ohio Southern went into receivership on May 9, 1895 because the northerly extension of Lima proved to be too much of a financial strain.4 10 The railroad was purchased by a bondholders’ purchasing committee on October 15, 1898.3 The portion of the railroad from Jeffersonville west to Kingman was abandoned on November 18, 1932,3 just short of a connection at Waynesville at the Little Miami,4 and the segment from Jeffersonville east to Sedalia was abandoned in 1941,4 short of a connection to the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus.

Detroit & Lima Northern Railway

In 1893, the Ohio Southern constructed a northerly extension from Springfield to Lima, a distance of 68 miles.14 The Lima Northern Railway Company was organized in Ohio on March 27, 1895 4 and the Lima Northern constructed a line from Lima to Seneca, Michigan at Lima Junction at the Wabash. From there, it reached Adrian over the Wabash for a total distance of 78.25 miles.14 15

The Detroit and Cincinnati Railway (D&C) was incorporated in Michigan on March 27, 1896 to construct a line from the state line in Lenawee County, Michigan to Detroit.4 The only work completed, however, was from the Ohio state line north to the Wabash connection near Seneca by the Lima Northern in 1895 and 1896. The rails were laid by the Lima Northern, not by the D&C.

The D&C reincorporated in Michigan as the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway on February 20, 1897.3 4 15 The D&LN acquired the Lima Northern on May 10. An amendment increased the capital stock and modified the terminus to Detroit and an area three miles east of Morenci, Michigan on April 10, 1898. Another later amendment authorized an extension of the D&LN to Lima as to incorporate the Lima Northern.

On November 15, the Detroit and Lima Northern (D&LN) purchased the Detroit and Chicago (formerly the Chicago and Canada Southern) from Chandler’s Curve to Dundee. As a result, the D&LN built a 11.14-mile line from South Adrian to Tecumseh, Michigan, and a 5.05-mile line from Durban to Dundee, Ohio.4 15 The first train ran over this segment on May 27, 1897, using the depot of the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw (CJ&M) at Tecumseh. In August, the D&LN acquired the CJ&M Michigan Division, which had been reorganized as the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad (DT&M).

The D&LN also constructed a 13-mile line from Chandler’s Curve to West End Avenue in Detroit in 1898, and acquired trackage rights from Dundee to Tecumseh via the CJ&M.4 15 With this, the D&LN had a continuous railroad from Lima to Detroit, a distance of 137.58 miles, and the first freight line ran northbound in May 1898.

On January 8, 1898, the Detroit Northern Railway, which was incorporated on December 5, 1896, sold approximately 3/4-mile of line from the main line of the D&LN at Lima to the Lake Erie and Western Railroad and the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway.3 Freight and passenger stations were completed. The D&LN began operations over its track between Lenawee Junction and South Adrian soon after.

Back in Ohio, the D&LN had become a partner in the planning of a railroad from Columbus, Ohio to Fort Wayne, Indiana.4 The Columbus Northwestern Railway (CNW) was incorporated on August 8, 1897, and had completed a 40.7 mile line from Columbus Junction, now Salter’s, to Peoria in August 1898. An additional 17 miles from Columbus Junction to St. Mary’s was finished by November 1. An additional 14.6 miles was leased from the Ohio Southern from Lima to Columbus Junction, which provided a connection to the D&LN. The purchasers of the Ohio Southern, however, did not renew the lease on December 1, 1900, and the DL&NM divested itself from the CNW, thus ending D&LN service into Columbus via the Toledo & Ohio Central.

The Furguson Construction Company began work on an extension of the D&LN on August 21, 1897 from Dundee to Detroit.4 By using the recently-purchased DT&M between Tecumseh and Dundee, the D&LN now had a southern access route into Detroit. A portion of the former Chicago & Canada Southern from Chander’s Curve to one mile south of Trenton to Dundee was purchased from the Lake Shore & Michigan in March 1898.

On April 15, the DL&N suspended operations and on June 1, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern (LS&MS) purchased the DT&M. The D&LN line to Detroit was completed in May and trackage rights were secured to run D&LN trains over the Dundee-Tecumseh segment of the LS&MS.4 At around the same time, 4.75 miles between Dundee and Durban were abandoned, which was actually part of the South Eastern Michigan Railway that had merged with the Chicago & Canada Southern on July 11, 1871. Most of the remaining Detroit & Chicago was purchased by the LS&MS.

On July 15, 1898, the D&LN established a northern terminus in Detroit and set up its general offices in the city.4

Detroit Southern Railroad

The D&LN went into receivership on September 6, 1898 and would not re-emerge until May 25, 1901 when it was sold to Frederick J. Lisman, who deeded the railroad to the newly formed Detroit Southern Railroad.11 He had purchased trackage from Delray, Michigan (now a part of Detroit) south and west to Dundee, a distance of 39.4 miles, and from Tecumseh to Lima, and a short branch at Lima, which totaled 138 miles.4 In addition, the Detroit Southern had purchased the Ohio Southern on June 1.3 4 10

On September 25, 1902, the Detroit Southern purchased the Iron Railway from Ironton to Center, 12.75 miles, and three branches that totaled 4.85 miles.11 The Iron Railway extension from Lisman to Bloom Junction was built from January 21, 1903 to June 15.3 11 25 27 The Ironton branch was connected to the Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Portsmouth Branch via trackage rights from Bloom Junction to Jackson that were secured on February 4, 1903. The first through freight train operated from Ironton to Detroit on June 13, 1903, and a passenger run occurred two days later.11 15

Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway

The Detroit Southern was placed into receivership on July 5 3 6 15/July 16,4 12 1904 and was sold under foreclosure on May 1, 1905 to the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railway (DT&I), incorporated on May 2 3 6 12 15/May 5,4 1905. Improvements to the 396.9 mile railroad, of which there was 65.68 miles in Michigan and 331.22 miles in Ohio, began shortly thereafter, when 85-pound rails were laid.4

On December 17, 1904, the Jackson Herald announced that the new Detroit Southern Shops would be located on a 28-acre site on Athens Street on land that was formerly the Jackson Racing Park.6 The former shops were located in Springfield, Ohio, which employed 250-350. The rationale on the selection of Jackson for the shops was due to the amount of traffic that the region generated, and the probability that the DT&I would be extended into the coal fields of Kentucky and West Virginia. The new shops were designed to be larger than those in Springfield, with all of the repair work to be completed in Jackson employing up to 500.

A portion of the agreement for the shops was for local citizens to raise $28,000 by public subscription.6 On December 19, 1904, the first day of the drive, $10,000 was subscribed. Four days later, the subscriptions had totaled $19,525, and by December 22, the entire amount was guaranteed.

The plans called for a,6

  • 110 by 200 feet machine shop,
  • 75 by 100 feet boiler shop,
  • 60 by 80 feet blacksmith shop,
  • 75 by 145 feet mill,
  • 50 to 160 feet passenger car paint shop,
  • 70 to 225 feet freight car repair shop,
  • 50 by 100 feet store house,
  • 49 by 100 feet store room and office,
  • 25 by 50 feet oil house,
  • and a roundhouse with 18 bays, 83 feet deep.

A contract to construct the shops was let on April 18, 1905 to the Pittsburgh Construction Company.6 On April 23, crews began removing the grandstand from the race track, and by the following day, track was being laid to the site. By October, inspections revealed that the foundations that were being poured were faulty, and were strengthened by November 15. The roofs were reported to be complete on January 24, 1906, along with the full installation of all doors and windows. Two large boilers, which provided power, had arrived, and foundations for the roundhouse and store room were complete. By July 11, the finishing touches were being added to the shops.

From June 1 to November 25, 1910, the DT&I and the Ann Arbor Railroad operated under one management,3 15 via the purchase of 72% of Ann Arbor stock by the DT&I.4 But the DT&I’s receivership proved this deal to not be financially viable, and the Ann Arbor stock was sold at auction, where it resumed independent operation.

The DT&I went into receivership on February 1, 1908.3 12 By this point, the railroad was not being adequately maintained and was in poor condition.12 In addition, the American Car and Foundry Company repossessed 30 locomotives, 1,786 coal cars, 495 box c ars and 196 flat cars due to deficit of payment.

The sale of the Northern Division, from Delray, Michigan to Lima, Ohio, and the Southern Division, from Bloom Junction to Ironton, Ohio, was held on June 28, 1913.4 The Ohio Southern Division (also known as the Middle Division) from Lima to Rockwood, in Lawrence County, Ohio, was sold on April 27, 1913. On March 2, 1914 the above divisions were merged back into a newly formed Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, which was organized on February 21, 1914.3 4 12 13

Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad

Under the new incorporation, new, heavier rail was installed, and all of the trestles in Michigan, and some in Ohio, were rebuilt.4 In addition, new ballast and fences were laid and built. The DT&I also purchased the 22.28 mile Toledo, Ann Arbor & Jackson interurban electric line, which was to connect Jackson and Ann Arbor, Michigan with Toledo, Ohio and Detroit. Only the portion of the Toledo and Detroit line from West Toledo to the junction with the DT&I at Dundee was saved, although grading towards Ann Arbor had been completed. The self-propelled McKeen motor vehicles on the parallel Ann Arbor Railroad defeated plans for the interurban to enter Ann Arbor.

The Toledo-Detroit Railroad Company, which owned a line between Toledo and Dundee, Michigan, was controlled and operated by the DT&I via stock ownership. Portions of the line had been constructed as an interurban electric line in 1905-1906.3 The DT&I operations lasted from May 1, 1916 to December 29, 1931, after which the line was sold to the DT&I.

Between January 1, 1918 and March 1, 1920, the DT&I was operated by the United States Railroad Administration.3 During this time, maintenance on the DT&I was kept to a bare minimum,4 and the DT&I was unable to afford to provide any continued maintenance on the line due to very high traffic levels, failing infrastructure and bad equipment.5 In 1920, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered the DT&I to rebuild the Rouge River bridge in Dearborn, Michigan to provide lake access to Ford’s automobile factory. The DT&I, however, lacked the resources to do so.

Henry Ford’s involvement

Henry Ford could not afford a delay on the lack of a reliable crossing over the Rouge River.5 On July 10, 1920,4 6 13 Henry Ford purchased the DT&I for $5 million so that he would have a reliable source of transportation from his factory. Ford inherited 455 miles of main line and 155 miles of branch lines, 80 locomotives, 2,800 freight cars and around 12 passenger cars.4 6 Ford immediately began improvements along the DT&I due to the deplorable conditions that existed due to the federal government control.3 Improvements included new ballast, ties and heavy rail, ditching, bank widening, bridge and culvert replacements, double-tracking near Detroit, and the rebuilding of locomotives, cars, machinery and physical structures. Obsolete buildings were removed and the right-of-way was cleaned. In addition, new cars were purchased and wages were raised to employees.

Henry Ford became president of the DT&I in March 1921, and made frequent trips along the railroad, often sitting in the locomotive.4

Ford organized two new organizations to construct additional railroads.

  • The Detroit and Ironton Railroad Company, incorporated on June 29, 1920 as a subsidiary of the DT&I, constructed a double-track railroad from Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Michigan 13.5-miles south to the DT&I three miles north of Flat Rock Station.3 4 The work included a new classification yard at Flat Rock.4
  • The Ford Transportation Company, incorporated on June 25, 1923, constructed a large terminal yard near Flat Rock, Michigan, which comprised of 25 miles of tracks, car repair facilities, track scales and a water station.15
  • From 1925 to 1929, a cut-off, 55.5-miles long, was constructed from Durban, Michigan to Malinta, Ohio.15 Ten miles of which, Durban to Petersburg, Michigan, were a connection was made with the Toledo branch (formerly Toledo-Detroit Railroad), was double track. The old line from Dundee and New York Central Railroad to Tecumseh was abandoned, and the old line from Malinta north to Tecumseh became the Tecumseh branch. The former line was 76.2 miles long, and contained sharp curves and steep grades, whereas the new line had two gentle curves and grade separations at major junctions.

To improve access to his factory along the Rouge River, Ford began building the Dearborn branch on August 8, 1922. Work was later turned over to a contractor, who completed the 13.6 mile, double-track line from the plant to the Detroit & Ironton junction on October 1, 1923.4 The DT&I had purchased the telegraph lines along its railroad from the Western Union Telegraph Company on June 15.3 The lines were rebuilt with copper wires, and telephone dispatches and communications were put into operation.

The electrification of the DT&I was an idea that Henry Ford had envisioned, not only from the Rogue River plant to Ironton, but beyond into Kentucky to the junction of the electrified Virginian Railway.4 On June 1, 1925, trial runs were made on a 17 mile stretch of the DT&I that featured concrete arches which held power lines. Two dark green and red articulated, motor-generator electric locomotives were used, and were designed by Ford engineers with Westinghouse electrics. Each unit weighed 785,600 pounds, and had a tractive force of 250,000 pounds. A 2,200 volt AC current was converted to 600 volts DC for the traction motors, with power deriving from the Ford Highland Park factory, with supplementary power later coming from the Rogue River plant. The top speed of the line was 43 MPH.

The electric vehicles were put into full use in 1926, although the electrification pursuit was later abandoned in 1930.4 By the end of the 1920s, Ford had grown tired of the restrictions imposed by the Interstate Commerce Commission and decided to sell his railroad interests.13

On June 27, 1929,4 13 the securities of the DT&I were purchased by the Penroad Corporation, a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad, for $36 million, but no changes were made in the owning and operating the DT&I.3 4 Ford profited $31 million from the sale.4 On December 23, 1929, the Toledo-Detroit Railroad merged with the DT&I, which was a wholly-owned subsidiary since its purchase 15 years prior.4

The two companies were operated by the DT&I until December 29, 1931.3 The only exception was the tracks of the B&O SW between Jackson and Bloom Junction, Ohio, a distance of 23.4 miles, that the DT&I had trackage rights to.

Mergers and abandonments

The first major closure was the last mile of the Wellston branch at Cornelia was abandoned prior to June 30, 1918, reducing the total branch mileage at 17.64.13 In May 1923, passenger service was terminated between Wellston and Jackson,13 and as of 1928, spur tracks were reduced to just six mines: Armstrong Mine, Jackson Hill Mine, Standard Mine, Wainwright Loading Tracks, McGee Spur and Victory Colliery. Only the Jackson Hill Mine was active at that time.

On June 20, 1929, the DT&I petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon 17.43 miles of the Wellston branch, leaving only a short spur at Jackson.13 Trains were operating only to Wellston three times per week, and beyond Wellston only once a week. The exhaustion of the Quackerton Coal Seam around 1923 was a major factor in the line’s decline, along with the arrival of the Hocking Valley and B&O railroads in the region. The request was granted and the railroad was placed out of service on December 29.

This was followed by the removal of the two mile branch the Iron Railroad had constructed from Bartles to Dean in 1930. A 4.9 mile portion of the former mainline from Durban, Michigan to the New York Central connection was dismantled in May 1930.  That year also saw the demise of the electrification program, when the two electric locomotives were scrapped. Many of the concrete supports were removed in 1947 for a rip-rap project at Mosquito Lake in southern Ohio.

On August 22, 1951, the first regular diesel-powered locomotives began running between Springfield and Flat Rock, with additional diesels being delivered for runs elsewhere on the DT&I.4 6 On Christmas Eve, 1954, all steam power ended on the line.

In November 1931, the DT&I requested to the ICC that all regular passenger service end.4 Passenger service north of Springfield was discontinued on April 18, 1932,13 and passenger service between Jackson and Ironton ceased on September 18, 1932.6 25

On February 28, 1951, the controlling interest of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Company was sold to the Pennsylvania and Wabash Railroads.13 The Railway Post Office route between Springfield and Jackson was abolished on September 15, 1953, and with the removal of the profitable post office ventures, passenger service between the two cities was discontinued on May 8, 1954.

On March 3, 1958, the DT&I abandoned a portion of the Tecumseh branch following the completion of the Malinta cut-off, from Lear at the junction of the D&LN, to Page.4 The DT&I utilized nine-miles trackage rights over the Wabash.

The sale of the Wabash-controlled Ann Arbor Railroad was proposed on February 27, 1961, which was approved by the ICC on August 29, 1963.4 Trackage rights were then obtained from the DT&I over the Ann Arbor from Diann, south of Dundee, into Toledo,5 a distance of 19.8 miles. A portion of the Toledo branch, the former Toledo-Detroit Railroad line from Petersburg Junction to Lambertville, was abandoned in December 23, 1965.

In 1966, a $4.5 million Flat Rock yard improvement project took three years to complete, and included a 36-track classification yard with semi-automatic retarders.4 On February 14, 1966, the DT&I began operations on parallel B&O trackage between Leipsic and South Cairo, Ohio, approximately 21 miles north of Lima. The DT&I also abandoned 17.33 miles of former D&LN trackage in Michigan.

The Ann Arbor Railroad entered into receivership as a result of a large amount of money that was owed to the Pennsylvania Company, the principal stockholder of the DT&I.4 While the Ann Arbor was under the control of a court-appointed trustee, the DT&I continued operating with Ann Arbor as a contractor. The railroad, however, was a drain because it involved the high cost of the Lake Michigan car ferry operation, the lack of traffic due to other cross-lake routes, and increased car lengths that made the ferries even more costly and unreasonable. There was also a lack of traffic originating in Ann Arbor.

In 1970, the Pennsylvania went into receivership and was later absorbed into Conrail, which resulted in the DT&I being sold off.5

In early 1975, there were proposals floated to abandoned all DT&I trackage south of Lima as a method of restructuring railroads in the Midwest and Northeast.4 While this radical proposal failed, the consolidation of the railroad companies progressed further, especially once Conrail was put into service. Within a few years, the DT&I could be spotted via Conrail trackage rights, in Cincinnati via Springfield and South Charleston.

In June 1977, the Norfolk and Western (N&W) and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) attempted to take over the then-bankrupt Penn Central for $15 million.17 22 The companies signed a letter of intent earlier in the month, which excluded the Ann Arbor Railroad which was undergoing reorganization at that time. The Ann Arbor was owned by the state of Michigan and operated under contract through Conrail. Profits for the DT&I in 1976 were $54 million.

An initial offer of $23.625 million, plus the assumption of $2.3 million in debt, was countered by the Grand Trunk Western (GTW), who requested to purchase N&W’s half-interest in the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line.4 18 On July 23, 1979, the courts gave approval for the GTW to purchase the DT&I, which was confirmed by the ICC on December 3, 1979.23 The ICC stated that the merger would retain competitiveness between Cincinnati and Detroit, and allowed the GTW six months to make a final agreement with the Pennsylvania on the sale. The DT&I officially became part of the GTW on June 24, 1980.6 20

Unfortunately, deferred maintenance and a lack of business led to the abandonment of the former D&LN Wauseon-Tecumseh main line in May 1978.4 The N&W assumed operations on the Adrian-Tecumseh to serve a Fisher Body plant, but south of Adrian, the line was dismantled.

In August 1981, the GTW filed for abandonment of the 29.35 mile Ironton branch from Bloom Junction south to Ironton.5 19 Tracks began to be removed in Ironton on November 30, 1982.21

The line from Washington Court House to Waverly was also abandoned that year, when trackage rights were secured over the B&O and C&O railroads. In December 1983, the merger of the GTW with the DT&I was finalized. Under the GTW, the DT&I locomotives were painted in the red and blue paint scheme of the GTW, but retained the DT&I logo. The railroad shops at Jackson were closed on March 27, 1984,6 and the line from Jackson to Waverly was abandoned, as well as the trackage rights that were secured just two years prior.5

The GTW sold the former DT&I trackage from Springfield to Washington Court House to the Indiana & Ohio (I&O) in 1990.5 The GTW continued to operate the former DT&I from Flat Rock to Springfield until February 15, 1997, when most of it was sold to the I&O. The line south of the Ann Arbor Junction at Diann, Michigan was included.


  1. Ohio Genealogical So Jackson County, Ohio Genealogical Society. “Mines of the Eastern Hill Coals.” History & Families of Jackson County, Ohio. Paducah: Turner, 1991. 35. Google Books. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. Article.
  2. Ohio Genealogical So Jackson County, Ohio Genealogical Society. “Mines of the Famous 2 ‘Quakertown Coal.’” History & Families of Jackson County, Ohio. Paducah: Turner, 1991. 33-34. Google Books. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. Article.
  3. Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Company. “HISTORY OF THE DETROIT, TOLEDO AND IRONTON RAILROAD.” DT&I Modelers Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. Article.
  4. Pletz, William C. “The Railroad That Went No Place.” Inside Track 1979: n. pag. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. Article.
  5. Landrum, J. Erik. “A Brief History of the DT&I .” Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Historical Web Site. N.p., 7 Jan. 1998. Web. 31 Aug. 2010. Article.
  6. Ervin, Robert. “The D T & I Car Shops.” Jackson, Ohio. Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, 201. Web. 31 Aug. 2010. Article.
  7. “Transportation and Communication: Dayton, Toledo and Ironton.” A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio. Ed. Eugene B. Willard et al. Vol. 1. 1916. Marceline, MO: Walsworth,, n.d. 99. Print.
  8. “Springfield, Jackson and Pomeroy Railroad.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1. Print.
  9. “Springfield Southern Railroad Company.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 2. Print.
  10. “Ohio Southern Railroad.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 2-3. Print.
  11. “Detroit Southern Railroad.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 4. Print.
  12. “Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railway.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 4. Print.
  13. “Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Company.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 5-7. Print.
  14. “History of the DT&I Taken From DT&I Railroad News.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1-6. Print.
  15. “History of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1-6. Print.
  16. Collett, Charles. “DT&I Excursionists To See Local Lore.” Ironton Tribune n.d.: n.p. Print.
  17. “Chessie, NW To Buy DT&I Railroad.” Ironton Tribune 1977 June: n.p. Print.
  18. “Railroad to Challenge DT&I Sale.” Ironton Tribune 7 Nov. 1977: n.p. Print.
  19. Mayne, Don. “DT&I may abandoned rail lines.” Ironton Tribune 25 Aug. 1981: 1-2. Print.
  20. “Grand Trunk takes over DT&I.” Associated Press 26 June 1980: n.p. Print.
  21. “Rail work begins.” Ironton Tribune 30 Nov. 1982: n.p. Print.
  22. “Western to acquire DTI.” Ironton Tribune 11 Dec. 1979: n.p. Print.
  23. “DT&I to be sold.” Ironton Tribune 31 Dec. 1979: n.p. Print.
  24. Trostel, Scott D. “The Ironton River Barge.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. Fletcher: Cam-Tech, 1988. 59-61. Print.
  25. Davis, Evan Edward. “Iron Horses.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: 1973. 19-21. Print.
  26. Collett, Charles. “DT&I Excursionists To See Local Lore.” Ironton Tribune n.d.: n.p. Print.
  27. Unknown book title. 56. Print.