Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad
The Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad (DT&I) is a defunct railroad that connected Ironton, Ohio to Michigan. It had its beginnings as the Iron Railroad in southern Ohio, and through acquisitions and mergers, the DT&I stretched for over 370 miles from Ironton to automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan.
The Iron Railroad, proposed to connect Ironton to coal, charcoal, and timber reserves north of the city 3 was incorporated on February 11, 1848 4/March 7, 1849. 3 15 By 1849-50, the route consisted of six miles of broad gauge line from the Ohio River to the Vesuvius Tunnel, 3 and featured timber cross ties and stringers that held tight scrap rails from the Little Miami Railroad. 14 15 The 956-foot Vesuvius Tunnel opened to traffic in December 1851. 3 26
The first trains used locomotives that were brought to Ironton via steamboats 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 circa 1850 Stearns Creek trestle north of Ironton was replaced with a stronger 97-foot wrought iron bow-string truss in 1862. 16 The bridge type 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 Iron Railroad was eventually expanded north to Center Furnace, 13 miles north of the Ohio River, but no further construction was attempted because of a lack of funds in constructing a tunnel through Periscope Ridge to connect to the Belpre & Cincinnati Railroad (later Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad (M&C)). 3
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
Elsewhere, the Scioto Valley Railway (SV) was constructing a railroad between Columbus and Sciotoville, and then along the Ohio River upstream to Ironton, with the first train arriving in Ironton in February 1881. 3 The construction of the WV delayed further work on the Iron Railroad until May 1901 when construction began on an 18.6-mile northern extension from Lisman to Bloom Junction connect with the SV (then the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Portsmouth Branch). It was built by the Detroit Southern Railroad and opened on June 13, 1903.
On October 21, 1881, the Iron Railroad merged with the Toledo, Delphos & Burlington Railroad (TD&B); the TD&B merged with its subsidiary, the Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad (TC&StL) in 1882. 3 15 The narrow-gauge rails of TC&StL were placed within the broad-gauge Iron Railroad between Dean and Ironton, allowing the TD&B to operate its trains from Wellston to Ironton. (The TC&StL from Dean to Wellston was abandoned in 1917.) The Cincinnati Northern Railway was consolidated with the TC&StL on May 5, 1883, giving the railroad control of 783 miles of track from Toledo to St. Louis, from Delphos to Ironton, and from Cincinnati to Lebanon Junction. 3
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, theTC&StL went into receivership on June 28, 1884. 4 The Iron Rail Company (Iron Railway), comprised of the original Iron Railroad from Ironton to Pedro, was organized on July 23, 1884, and remained independent until it was acquired by the Detroit Southern on September 25, 1902.
Ohio River Barge
The Iron Railway interchanged with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) in Ashland, Kentucky via a river barge on the Ohio River, which began operations on March 19, 1892. 24 The C&O provided a steam towboat and a barge on the Kentucky shore while the Iron Railway provided identical facilities near Sarah Furnace on the Ohio shore.
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 towboat “Bob Ballard,” which was operated by the Ironton & Ashland Transfer Company. The towboat operator was switched to the Kanawha & Ohio Transfer Company in 1909 as it was cheaper. 24
All barge service ended in 1917 when the C&O connected to the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad (successor to the Detroit Southern) at Gregg, Ohio, and the tracks to the ferry were removed in 1926. 24
Springfield, Jackson & Pomeroy Railroad
The Springfield, Jackson & Pomeroy Railroad (SJ&P) was chartered on December 17, 1874, and incorporated in March 1875, with the goal of connecting Springfield, Ohio to the coal mines and vast timber tracts of the southeast part of the state. 3 4 6 7 8 15 The SJ&P was born out of the disappointments of the Dayton & Southeastern Railroad (D&SE), which was proposed between Dayton and Jackson. 4 It would have avoided some of the hillier grades on the D&SE and connect to additional towns.
After raising $800,000, 4 a contract for construction was let for the Springfield to Jackson segment in October 1875, 7 8 with work beginning from Jackson on December 7 and Springfield on March 26, 1876. 4 By May, the SJ&P was. finished between Jackson and Waverly, 7 and a 12-mile segment from Springfield to South Charleston opened later in the 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 A branch to Eureka (Coalton) north of Jackson opened in June 1878, 4 and on August 3, the entire 108¾-mile SJ&P mainline from Springfield and Jackson was completed. 8 15
The SJ&P was built to narrow gauge 8 but was converted to standard gauge in 1879. 4 By June 30, the railroad boasted 11 steam locomotives, five passenger cars, 49 freight cars, and 226 coal cars. 8
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 which was proposed between Springfield and a point along the Ohio River at Rockwood (Chesapeake) opposite of Huntington, West Virginia. 3 7 9 Huntington was then the western terminus of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O). 3 7
By June 30, 1880, the Springfield Southern featured 19 steam locomotives, four passenger cars, 49 freight cars, and 631 coal cars. 9
The Springfield Southern was reorganized by banking interests as the Ohio Southern Railroad (OS) on May 23, 1881, 3 10 15 and company’s first act was to lay the rails on the Wellston Branch that had been previously graded by the SJ&P. 10 By the close of 1882, the railroad had 19 steam locomotives, five passenger and baggage cars, 14 box cars, 75 dump cars, 30 platform cars, and 750 coal cars. 10
The OS was leased by the Indiana, Bloomington & Western (IB&W) to serve as a connector between Indianapolis, Springfield, Ohio, and the C&O at a point west of Huntington. The IB&W, which later became the Peoria & Eastern, reached Springfield but never connected to the C&O. The IB&W relinquished control of the OS in April 1892. 4
The OS then began constructing a 68-mile extension from Springfield north to Lima on December 1892, 4 10 which opened on December 28, 1893, 3 10 and finished work on the Three branches were opened to serve coal mines near Wellston in May 1893, followed by the completion of a 9½-mile extension of the Wellston Branch to Cornelia in the spring of 1894, and the approval of three branches to coal mines near Glen Roy and Cornelia in September. 10
The SJ&P graded the 4½-mile Wellston Branch between Coalton and Wellston in early 1878 to serve numerous proposed coal mines, 2 but it had limited resources to lay the track until the SJ&P was reorganized as the OS in May 1881. 9 The OS opened the Wellston Branch after it installed rails in July 1881. 3 10
The area around Coalton, originally named Eurekaville, had the highest density of mines in Jackson County and the Wellston Branch proved to be extremely profitable for the OS. 2
Jeffersonville to Kingman Branch
The Waynesville, Port William & Jeffersonville Railroad (WP&J) was organized in December 1875 with the goal of constructing a line between the Waynesville and Jeffersonville. It was reorganized as the Columbus, Washington & Cincinnati Railroad (CW&C) on November 27, 1876, and by July 1878, the railway was open between Allentown (Octa) and the LM.
The CW&C was reorganized as the Cincinnati, Columbus & Hocking Valley Railway (CC&HV) in February 1881 and extended to Jeffersonville. The company became insolvent in July 1887 and the portion between McKay’s Station and Jeffersonville was acquired by the OS in 1894. The OS wanted to build a Columbus to Cincinnati route on a different alignment, especially as it descended into the Little Miami River valley.
The OS was only able to complete 31 miles between Jeffersonville and Sedalia, and from McKay’s Station to South Kingman before funding was exhausted. On May 9, 1895, the company went into receivership because very little of the line had been completed and because of the northerly extension of Lima proved to be too much of a financial strain.
Detroit & Lima Northern Railway
The OS completed its 68-mile northerly extension from Springfield and Lima in 1893. 14 The Lima Northern Railway (LN) was formed in March 1895 and built a 78¼-mile line between the OS in Lima and Adrian, Michigan. 14 15
The Detroit & Cincinnati Railway (D&C) was incorporated in March 1896 with the intention of building a railroad from the Ohio state line in Lenawee County, Michigan to Detroit. 4 The railroad was reincorporated as the Detroit & Lima Northern Railway (D&LN) in February 1897 3 4 15 and acquired the LN on May 10 and the Detroit & Chicago Railroad between Chandler’s Curve and Dundee on November 15. The D&LN then built an 11-mile track from South Adrian to Tecumseh, Michigan, and a 5-mile line from Durban to Dundee, Ohio. 4 15 The first train ran over the D&LN on May 27, 1897.
In August, the D&LN acquired the CJ&M Michigan Division, which had been reorganized as the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad (DT&M). 4 15 In 1898, the railroad built a 13-mile track from Chandler’s Curve to Detroit and acquired trackage rights from the CJ&M between Dundee and Tecumseh. With that, the D&LN had a continuous 137½-mile route between Lima and Detroit with the first through freight operating in May.
Detroit Southern Railroad
The D&LN went into receivership on September 6, 1898, and was sold to Frederick J. Lisman who rechristened it as the Detroit Southern Railroad (DS) on May 25, 1901. 11 The DS then acquired the OS on June 3 4 10 and the Iron Railway mainline between Ironton and Center and three branches on September 25, 1902. 11
The DS then extended the Iron Railway from Lisman to the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Portsmouth Branch at Bloom Junction, which opened on June 15, 1903. 3 11 25 27 From Bloom Junction north to Jackson, the DS utilized B&O trackage rights and the first through train for the DS operated between Ironton and Detroit on June 13. 11 15
The DS consisted of 396.9 miles, 331.22 miles in Ohio and 65.68 miles in Michigan. 4
Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway
The DS went into receivership in July 1904. Nevertheless, the company announced that it would erect new car shops on the former Jackson Racing Park on Athens Street in Jackson on December 17. 6 The new facility would be closer to the originating traffic and would replace a facility in Springfield. A portion of the agreement for the shops was for local citizens to raise $28,000 by public subscription. On December 19, the first day of the drive, $10,000 was subscribed and by December 22, the entire amount had been secured.
A contract to build the Jackson Car Shops was let to the Pittsburgh Construction Company on April 18, 1905. 6 Crews began removing the race track on April 23 with tracks being laid to the shops on April 24. Inspections in October revealed a poor foundation, which was soon corrected with reinforcements.
The DS was sold to the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway (DT&I) on May 1, 1905. 2 4 6 12 15 By mid-July, the finishing touches were being completed on the new Jackson Car Shops.
The DT&I went into receivership on February 1, 1908, 3 12 and the Northern Division between Lima and Delray, Michigan and the Southern Division between Ironton and Bloom Junction were sold in April 1913. The Northern and Southern Divisions were merged back into the newly formed Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad (DT&I) on March 2, 1914. 3 4 12 13
Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad
Under the DT&I, new, heavier rail was installed, and all of the trestles in Michigan and some in Ohio were rebuilt. 4
In 1915, the Toledo-Detroit Railroad (T-D), which owned a line between Toledo and Dundee, Michigan, was leased to the DT&I, which gained control of the T-D by stock ownership on May 1, 1916. 3
The DT&I was operated by the United States Railroad Administration between January 1918 and March 1920. 3 During this time, maintenance on the tracks was kept to a bare minimum, 4 and the railroad was unable to afford to provide any continued maintenance on the line due to very high traffic levels, failing infrastructure and bad equipment. 5
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered the DT&I to rebuild the Rouge River bridge in Dearborn, Michigan to provide lake access to Henry Ford’s Rogue River facility, but the railroad lacked the financial resources to do so. Not able to afford a delay on the bridge failing, 5 Henry Ford purchased the DT&I for $5 million on July 10, 1920. 4 6 13 The company inherited 455 miles of mainline, 155 miles of branch lines, 80 locomotives, 2,800 freight cars, and around 12 passenger cars. 4 6
Ford immediately began making improvements to the DT&I, including new ballast, ties, and heavy rail, ditching, bank widening, bridge and culvert replacements, and the rebuilding of locomotives and cars. 3 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 & Ironton Railroad (D&I) was incorporated as a subsidiary of the DT&I on June 29, 1920. The D&I constructed a 13½-mile double-track railroad between Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Michigan south to the DT&I near Flat Rock Station and a new classification yard in Flat Rock. 3 4
- The Ford Transportation Company was incorporated on June 25, 1923. It constructed a large terminal yard near Flat Rock that included 25 miles of tracks, car repair facilities, track scales, and water station. 15
The 13½-mile Dearborn Branch was built in 1922-23 to improve access to Ford’s Rogue River facility, 4 which was followed by the construction of a 55½-mile cutoff from Malinta, Ohio and Durban, Michigan in 1925-29, which included double-track between Petersburg, Michigan, and Durban. 15 It replaced 76-miles of sharp curves and steep grades. The old mainline from the New York Central Railroad at Dundee and Tecumseh was abandoned while the line from Malinta and Tecumseh became the Tecumseh Branch.
Ford had long eyed the electrification of the DT&I with the long-term goal of having a unified electrified route between Detroit and the electrified Virginian Railway in Kentucky. 4 Trial runs were made on a 17-mile electrified stretch of the DT&I on June 1, 1925. Two green and colored electric locomotives, designed by Ford, were outfitted with Westinghouse electrics. The top speed of the line was 43 MPH. The locomotives were put into full use in 1926 but the electrification pursuit was abandoned in 1930. (Many of the concrete arches that were installed by Ford in his electrification project were removed and reused for a rip-rap project at Mosquito Lake near Cortland, Ohio in 1947.)
Ford had grown tired of the restrictions imposed by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) by the close of the 1920s and decided to sell his railroad interests. 13 The securities of the DT&I were purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad for $36 million on June 27, 1929, 4 13 and on December 23, the T-D merged with the DT&I. 4
Changes and Decline
Brought on by the exhaustion of the Quackerton Coal Seam near Wellston in 1923, the DT&I petitioned the ICC to allow it to abandon 17.43 miles of the Wellston Branch in June 1929. 13 The Jackson Hill Mine was the only coal mine open along the line, and trains were operating only to Wellston three times per week and beyond Wellston only once a week. The ICC granted the request and the Wellston Branch was placed out-of-service on December 29.
The DT&I then abandoned a two-mile branch between Bartles and Dean in 1930 and then dismantled a five-mile portion of the mainline between Durban and the New York Central Railroad (NYC) connection in May. The railroad ceased passenger service north of Springfield on April 18, 1932, 13 and between Jackson and Ironton on September 18, 1932. 6 25
The controlling interest in the DT&I was sold to the Pennsylvania (PRR) and Wabash railroads on February 28, 1951. 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.
The DT&I abandoned a portion of the Tecumseh Branch on March 3, 1958, 4 followed by a segment of the Toledo Branch (former T-D Petersburg Junction to Lambertville) on in December 1965. 5 The railroad then abandoned its mainline in lieu of operating on parallel B&O tracks between Leipsic and South Cairo and dismantled 17 miles of former D&LN track in Michigan. It did greatly improve Flat Rock with a new 36 track classification yard with semi-automatic retarders in a $4.5 million project between 1966 and 1969. 4
In 1968, PRR merged with the NYC to form the Penn Central Transportation Company (PRR), which went into receivership in 1970. Early efforts to save costs called for all DT&I track south of Lima to be abandoned in 1975, but it was never acted upon. The viable parts were transferred to Conrail in 1976. 5
The Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) acquired the DT&I in December 1979, 23 with the deal finalized in December 1983. 6
A lack of customers and deferred maintenance led to the abandonment of the former D&LN mainline between Wauseon, Oho and Tecumseh, Michigan in May 1978, 4 and N&W assumed operations between Tecumseh and Adrian to service a Fisher Body factory. The GTW filed for abandonment of the 29.35-mile Ironton Branch between Ironton and Bloom Junction in August 1981, 5 19 and tracks began to be removed in November 1982. 21 The line between Waverly and Washington Court House was also abandoned that year after trackage rights were secured over the B&O and C&O.
The railroad shops in Jackson were closed on March 27, 1984, 6 and the line between Jackson to Waverly was taken out of service. 5
The GTW sold its Springfield to Washington Court House alignment to the Indiana & Ohio (I&O) in 1990, although the GTW continued to operate between Flat Rock and Springfield until that portion was sold to the I&O on February 15, 1997. 5