Cincinnati & Eastern Railroad

Railroad / Ohio

The Cincinnati & Eastern Railway (C&E) is an active and out-of-service a railroad between Claire near Cincinnati, Ohio east to Portsmouth, operated today by the Cincinnati Eastern Railroad. At its western terminus, it connected with the Cincinnati, Lebanon, and Northern (CL&N) and the Pennsylvania Railroad Richmond Division (PRR), and to the Scioto Valley Railway at its eastern terminus.


Proposed to extend between Cincinnati and Williamsburg, the Cincinnati, Batavia & Williamsburg Railway (CB&W) was chartered on January 11, 1876. 5 The name was changed to the Cincinnati & Eastern Railroad (C&E) and the eastern terminus was modified to Portsmouth by May, and it was projected that the C&E would become a primary coal-hauling route from the Jackson County coalfields. 4a 5

Construction began almost immediately on the C&E and by October 18, 1876, the route was open for 15 miles between Batavia Junction and Batavia. 5 By August 4, 1877, the line had reached Winchester, a distance of 48 miles. The C&E opened five miles of a branch towards New Richmond from the Cincinnati, Georgetown & Portsmouth Railway at Richmond Junction to Tobasco on March 1, 1878. 5

A 5½-mile western extension of the C&E to the Miami Valley Railroad (MV) was completed in June. 4b The MV had proposed a narrow-gauge connection to Cincinnati via a tunnel through the Deer Creek valley, but after the Deer Creek tunnel project ran into financial difficulties, the C&E found that its connection to Cincinnati was useless and forced the carrier to enter into receivership on January 27, 1879. 5 Nonetheless, the New Richmond branch was extended to Blairsville by early 1880 and to New Richmond on March 1, a distance of 14 miles.

Excited by the prospects of connecting the C&E with the vast coal reserves of the southern part of the state, shareholders voted to increase the capital stock from $500,000 to $2 million and authorized a bond issue to finish the railroad from Winchester to Portsmouth, and to then build an extension to Gallipolis on November 21, 1880. 5

The C&E exited receivership on March 1, 1881. 5 In February 1882, the railroad signed an agreement with the Cincinnati Northern to use 3.8 miles of its line between Idlewild and Court Street via the Deer Creek valley to provide the C&E with a direct connection to its Court Street depot in downtown Cincinnati. 4b The C&E began operations with daily runs to Irvington, Winchester, and New Richmond from Court Street on April 4, 1882. 5 The C&E mainline had been finished to Peebles by the close of the year, to Rarden by May 1883, and to the Scioto Valley Railway at Vera Junction just north of Portsmouth in August 1884, which included the erection of a 1,000-foot crossing of the Scioto River. 2 5 The high expense of the bridge and building an alignment through the Scioto Brush Creek valley caused the C&E to enter receivership again on September 14. 5

Gauge Conversion

The C&E began preparation to convert its route from narrow-gauge to standard-gauge shortly after the completion of its railroad to Portsmouth. 5 But by February 1885, tits finances had not improved and another receiver was appointed for the railroad. The C&E east of Winchester to Vera Junction had been converted to standard gauge by May but no money had been appropriated for standard gauge cars. A court authorized receiver approved the expenditure of $180,000 to convert the line west of Winchester to standard gauge, but the collapse of the 800-foot Nineveh trestle on the New Richmond branch on August 8 scuttled those plans. The disaster greatly aggravated the railroad’s financial issues and another receiver was appointed who felt it was necessary to reconvert the standard gauge from Winchester to Portsmouth back to narrow gauge in order for the line to generate a profit.

By early 1886, the C&E was once again narrow gauge. 5 The railroad was sold to a representative of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton (CH&D) on September 1, however, it defaulted on payments and the railroad was resold on January 5, 1887, to H.B. Morehead who formed the Ohio & Northwestern Railroad (O&NW). Separately, the New Richmond branch was sold to William P. DeVou on September 1, 1866, who reorganized it as the Cincinnati, New Richmond & Ohio River Railroad (CNR&OR). DeVou planned to extend the CNR&OR east to Aberdeen but the line had ceased operations by July 1889.

Columbus & Maysville

The Columbus & Maysville (C&M) was incorporated to connect Columbus and Maysville, Kentucky via Washington Court House, Hillsboro, Sardinia, Georgetown, Ripley, and Aberdeen on April 27, 1877. 5 6 Construction began on the 19-mile Hillsboro to Sardinia segment in 1878,  and 12 miles of the C&M were finished by the end of the year, followed by another 5½-miles  to the junction of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad 1½ miles west of Hillsboro by 1879. 5

The first train operated over the C&M on May 8, 1879, 8 after which the line was subsequently was leased to the C&E. 6 Local interests formed the Hillsboro Railroad Company in 1880 and constructed the Hillsboro Short Line to bring the C&M further into town. 6 7 It was subsequently leased to the C&M.

Built to narrow-gauge standards, the C&M was converted to standard-gauge in early 1880, and extended to Aberdeen by May. 5 No further work on the railroad was completed over financial concerns. 6 The C&M was sold to other interests in 1885, became insolvent, and sold to the O&NW on February 12, 1887. 5 6

Ohio & Northwestern

The O&NW moved immediately to standard gauge the ex-C&E mainline between Cincinnati to Portsmouth which was completed by November 1887. 5 The O&NW then shifted its western terminus from the Cincinnati Northern depot to the Little Miami Railroad depot. Like its predecessors, the O&NW became insolvent and went into receivership on June 15, 1888.

Under receivership, the O&NW completed five miles of its long-awaited Gallipolis extension between Portsmouth and Sciotoville in February 1889. 5 The O&NW was sold on March 13, 1890, and reorganized as the Cincinnati, Portsmouth & Virginia Railroad (CP&V) on June 24, 1891.

The C&M was sold separately on May 5, 1890. 5 The CP&V was unwilling to resume the lease on the line but continued to operate over it informally. Fearing abandonment, the town of Hillsboro formed the Hillsboro Railroad, assumed the lease, and began to operate over it as a short line 6 until December 1900, when the CP&V voted to purchase the Hillsboro Railroad. 5

The Norfolk & Western (N&W) merged with the CP&V in October 1901, 1 5 and the Cincinnati to Vera Junction (Portsmouth) segment becoming the N&W Cincinnati Division (nicknamed the Peavine). The Hillsboro branch was acquired by the N&W and became the N&W Hillsboro Branch on July 1, 1902. 5 6

Later Improvements and Closure

The Scioto River crossing at Vera Junction was replaced with new multi-span truss bridges fabricated by the American Bridge Company in 1913. 9 The mainline between Peebles and Jaybird was realigned in 1947 when a quarry opened along Plum Run that required the line to be rerouted, which included the erection of a new trestle above Cedar Fork and the laying of several miles of new track. The quarry became the primary source of ballast for the N&W and added a significant amount of traffic to the Portsmouth Branch until the mid-1980s.

Because of the Portsmouth Branch’s sharp curves, steep grades, and a lack of customers, Norfolk Southern (N&W’s successor 2) railbanked the Peavine between Peebles and Vera Junction in 2001. On March 21, 2014, the Cincinnati Eastern Railroad (CCET) filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to lease and operate the Portsmouth Branch between Clare (Mariemont) and Williamsburg. NS’s T51 made its last run to Peebles to collect all of its cars and equipment on April 24 before the CCET took over operations on April 27.

In late 2016, the CCET filed with the STB to lease and operate more of the Portsmouth Branch between Williamsburg and Plum Run east of Peebles for the storage of cars. The railroad filed with the STB to extend the lease with the goal of restarting railroad operations at the Plum Run quarry. 10


Idlewild to Claire Yard

Sardinia to Winchester

Winchester to Seaman

Seaman to Peebles

Peebles to Portsmouth



  1. Interstate Commerce Commission. 26 Val. Rep. 255: Valuation Docket No. 343, Norfolk and Western Railway Company. Washington: n.p., 1929.
  2. “Corporate Timeline of the Norfolk & Western Railway.” Norfolk & Western Historical Society. 14 Dec. 2008 Article.
  3. Jakucyk, Jeffrey. Norfolk & Western to Portsmouth – Norfolk Southern, Cincinnati District, Lake Division (Peavine). “Cincinnati Traction History.” 14 Dec. 2008 Site.
  4. Hauck, John W. Narrow Gauge in Ohio: The Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern Railway. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1986.
    4a. “Lebanon’s Railroad.” pg. 15-28. 4b. “The Little Giant.” pg. 48-66.
  5. Hilton, George Woodman. “Cincinnati & Eastern Railway.” American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. 464-465.
    5a. Stewart, Ken. “The Cincinnati & Eastern Railway and The Cincinnati, New Richmond & Ohio River Railroad.” The Fractured Frog 2.10 (May 1985): 11-13. Newsletter of the Queen City Division Railroad Enthusiasts.
  6. Ohio Railway Report. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs:Part II: History of the Railroads of Ohio. Comp. J. C. Morris. 1902. Transportation History Sources. 14 Dec. 2008Article.
  7. Jack, George S., and Edward Boyle Jacobs. “History of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company.” History of Roanoke County. N.p.: Stone, 1912. 155-157.
  8. Hibben, George C. “Chapter XI: The Samuel Entriken Hibben Line.” A Social History of the Pioneer Hibben Family, 1730 to the early 1900s. Charleston, MA: Acme Bookbinding, 2003. 467-470. 14 Dec. 2008 Article.
  9. Bridge plaque.
  10. Wimbish, Robert A. “Re: Docket No. FD 36370.” Received by Cynthia T. Brown, 10 Dec. 2019.