Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad

The Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad (M&C) is a defunct railroad that connected Cincinnati, Ohio to Parkersburg, West Virginia. Through acquisitions during the 1800s, the M&C commanded over 270 miles of railroad, from Cincinnati to Marietta and south to Portsmouth and Hillsboro. The line was later absorbed into the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, becoming its mainline between Cumberland, Maryland, and St. Louis. Significant portions of the route have since been abandoned.


The M&C was chartered on March 8, 1845, as the Belpre and Cincinnati Railroad (B&C) 2 3 to connect Cincinnati to either Parkersburg, Virginia, or Harmer. 3 8 11 The proposed route of the B&C would be via Athens and Chillicothe to a point on the Little Miami Railroad between Plainville in Hamilton County and the mouth of Obanon Creek in Clermont County. 11 It would be funded in part by subscriptions by the communities it would pass through. 8

It was not long before the B&C proposed to rename the railroad the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad by legislative enactment in an amendment to the Franklin & Ohio River Railroad Company (F&OR) charter, which was granted on March 12, 1845. 3 11 This amendment authorized the F&OR to construct its railroad from Marietta to a point on the B&C. 11 The F&OR also considered merging its stock with that of the B&C, in which event the F&OR would change its name to the M&C. An amendment to the charter on March 7, 1850, allowed the railroad to “construct its road to any point as to connect with any railroad or other improvement constructed to the Ohio River, on the Easterly side thereof, within the State of Virginia.” Another amendment on February 7, 1851, authorized the railroad extension to Cincinnati, with the privilege of connecting with or crossing the Little Miami Railroad.

On March 21, 1851, the B&C’s eastern terminus was moved to Marietta, and the name of the railroad was officially renamed to the Marietta & Cincinnati. 8 On the opposite shore, nine miles downstream was Parkersburg, where the Northwestern Virginia Railroad had recently completed a line from Grafton west to the city in 1857. The line had been leased to the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railway (B&O SW) in 1856, which later provided the B&O an important connection to the Midwest to the M&C via a car ferry between Parkersburg and Marietta.

Construction began on the 173-mile M&C between Harmar and the Little Miami Railroad at Loveland in the spring of 1851, which opened on April 9, 1857. 1 8 11 The M&C used trackage rights along the Little Miami to reach Cincinnati. 1 8

Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad Map
A map of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad between Cincinnati and Loveland. Source: Library of Congress; William Le Baron, 1860.

Approximately $12 million had been expended to build the line before a financial panic in August when the M&C became insolvent. 11 Litigation ensued and the railroad was placed into receivership. A decree for the sale of the railroad and other mortgaged property was rendered on January 7, 1860, and the sale was conducted on February 25 to the Trustees. The sale was confirmed on May 2, and the railroad was sold to the Trustees who operated the railroad until August 15 when they transferred the road to the reorganized company. The new company was named the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad Company as Reorganized.

The adoption of share capital, amounting to $36.8 million, was distributed. 11 By this reorganization and sale, about $4.5 million of the stock and debt was erased.

After the M&C reorganized, it was extended southwest for 24 miles, following the banks of the Little Miami River through Madeira, Madisonville, and Norwood before funding dried up. 4 5 In 1861 8/February 1866 11, a connection was made to the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad (CH&D) along Ludlow Grove at Ivorydale, which allowed the M&C to use the CH&D Baymiller Street depot. In 1865, the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railroad (IC&L) built a depot on Plum Street in Cincinnati, and the M&C began to use that depot instead, accessing it via trackage rights with the CH&D. The M&C extended for 190.8 miles from Harmar to its western terminus at Plum Street in downtown Cincinnati. 11

The M&C then constructed a 7,100-foot bridge over the Ohio River between Belpre and Parkersburg between July 1869 and January 7, 1871, replacing a car ferry. It was the longest bridge in the world. 18

Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad Bridge over Ohio River
An early view of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad Bridge over Ohio River between Belpre, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Hillsboro & Cincinnati Railroad

The Hillsboro & Cincinnati Railroad was incorporated on March 2, 1846. 3 11 Although not much is known about the railroad’s early history, it was acquired by the M&C in 1861. 11 The M&C had purchased 37 miles of track, 16 miles of which were merged into the mainline, with the remaining 21 miles becoming a branch from Blanchester to Hillsboro.

Ohio & Mississippi Railway

The Ohio & Mississippi Railway (O&M) was built between 1854 and 1857 and provided a connection between Cincinnati and East St. Louis, Illinois. 8 The O&M featured two branches. One extended from North Vernon, Indiana to Jeffersonville, and the other was from Beardstown, Illinois on the Illinois River to Shawneetown on the Ohio River. The O&M was acquired by the B&O SW in 1893.

While the M&C east of Cincinnati was standard-gauge, the O&M was broad-gauge, which required passengers and freight to be moved between the two railroads via horse-drawn carriages and wagons in Cincinnati. It was not until 1871 that the O&M was converted to standard gauge.

Union Railroad

The nine-mile Union Railroad was chartered on September 13, 1858, for a railroad between Scott’s Landing in Washington County to a junction with the M&C at Belpre. 11 Work began immediately after and was open to traffic in 1860. The Union Railroad was then acquired by the M&C for $127,000.

Columbus & Cincinnati Midland Railroad

The 70-mile Columbus & Cincinnati Midland Railroad (C&CM) was finished in 1885 between Columbus, and Midland City, where it interchanged with the M&C. 8 The C&CM was acquired by the B&O SW in 1890, thus providing a through route for the B&O between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati via Wheeling and Columbus.

Scioto & Hocking Valley Railroad

The Scioto & Hocking Valley Railroad (S&HV) was chartered on February 20, 1849, to construct a railroad from Portsmouth to Newark. 11 23 The S&HV was planned to follow along with the east side of the Scioto River from Portsmouth north to Circleville, east to Lancaster, and north to Newark. But although interests in Portsmouth desired the railroad and subscribed $128,000 toward its construction, the country districts did not and managed to defeat the proposal within Scioto County by seven votes while Pike County cast a majority of 280 against it. 23 The route of the S&HV was then revised to connect Portsmouth to Jackson, Hamden, McArthur, Logan, Somerset, and Newark because of the development of the Jackson Coalfield. 11

In July 1850, the S&HV was organized, and a contract was let in January 1851 for the building of the first 20 miles of line between Hales Creek and Jackson. 23 The first ties were laid in Scioto County in July 1852, and by September, the first locomotive appeared in Portsmouth. The first 35 miles were opened from Portsmouth to Oak Hill on June 2, 1853, with the arrival of The Bloomfield. 15 An additional nine miles to Jackson was finished in August at the cost of $796,788. 11 15 The completion of the initial line was heralded by the organizers of the Jefferson Furnace who had promoted this line over the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad (DT&I). The S&HV opened between Jackson and the M&C at Hamden Junction, a distance of 12 miles, in December 1855. 11

The Quakertown No. 2 mine in Petrea in Jackson County was the first coal mine to be serviced by the M&C after the end of the Civil War. 13 About ¼-mile west of Petrea was a small coal loading dock, where coal was brought to the dock via a mule-powered ½-mile narrow-gauge rail tram to a small slope mine. 13 This was replaced with a spur built by the M&C in 1866.

Construction commenced on the 91-mile segment of the S&HV from Jackson to Newark in February 1853 11 but only 42 miles of line had been graded and another 37 miles cleared of vegetation before all work stopped because of financial difficulties. 11 14 23

The S&HV was placed into receivership between March 1858 and May 1863 when it was sold to several Providence, Rhode Island capitalists for $411,000. 14 24 The S&HV was reorganized as the Portsmouth & Newark Railroad on January 20, 1864, 15 24 and then sold in May under a decree in the Perry County Court of Commons Pleas to the M&C. 11 24 The S&HV, from Hamden Junction south to Portsmouth became the M&C Portsmouth Branch.

After the acquisition of the S&HV, the M&C boasted 276 miles of track, 80 passenger and freight depots, ten engine houses and shops, and 20 water stations. 11 Primary train depots were located at Cincinnati, Loveland, Chillicothe, Marietta, Hillsboro, and Portsmouth. A roundhouse was added in Wellston in the early 1880s. 12

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

The M&C became the Cincinnati, Washington & Baltimore Railway (CW&B) on February 16, 1883, wholly owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. 3 12 14 24 The CW&B, along with the Cincinnati & Baltimore and the Baltimore Short Line railroads, merged to become the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad (B&O SW) on December 20, 1889. 14 The B&O SW acquired the C&CM in 1890 and the O&M in 1893, giving the railroad a connection to St. Louis. In 1900, the B&O SW was absorbed into its parent, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), which formed the basis for their St. Louis mainline.

Owing to heavier carloads, the Ohio River crossing between Belpre and Parkersburg required structural enhancements, beginning with the replacement of the approach spans between 1898 and 1900 and the rebuilding of the main channel spans between 1904 and 1905. 18 The original piers were retained, but the steel structures atop the piers were rebuilt between 1914 and 1917.

In March 1913, some of the largest storms on record at the time caused the B&O crossing of the Scioto River southeast of Chillicothe to collapse. It was replaced with a five-span Warren through truss structure.

The Jackson Coalfield began to decline after 1925, corresponding to a steady decline in railroad traffic for the B&O. The Wellston roundhouse and yard were discontinued on January 18, 1961. 12 In 1972, one channel span on the Ohio River crossing had to be replaced after a barge transporting an empty gasoline tanker exploded under the bridge. 18

Downgrading and Abandonment

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) took financial control of the B&O in 1963. 16 In 1973, the C&O, B&O, and the Western Maryland Railway (WM) were brought together under one identity, the Chessie System. The WM was formally merged into the B&O in 1976. In 1980, the Chessie and the Seaboard Coast Line, which controlled the Louisville & Nashville, the Clinchfield, and Georgia railroads, merged to form the CSX Corporation. Despite the consolidation, CSX never had its own identity until 1986, when all of the merged entities were renamed CSX Transportation (CSX). In April 1987, the B&O was formally absorbed into the C&O, which merged into CSX in August.

As a result of trackage rights agreements worked out between the B&O and C&O, four B&O through manifests were removed between Cumberland and Cincinnati in July 1985, including No. 88, Gateway 97, Wilmington Trailer Train, and the St. Louis Trailer Train, 19 all but downgrading portions of the line from mainline status. 17 20 Through trains were discontinued between Parkersburg and Cincinnati On December 20, 1985. 22 Traffic was rerouted from Cumberland through Pittsburgh to Deshler, Ohio where it utilized the Toledo Subdivision to Cincinnati, or south along the B&O’s River Line to the C&O Cincinnati Division via Huntington, West Virginia. 10 17 Sixteen pool crews at Chillicothe were abolished, with two remaining to handle local traffic; 50 employees were laid off at Chillicothe. 19 By routing traffic through northern Ohio, Chessie could concentrate trains where there was more local industry to generate revenue for the line.

It was hinted by Chessie that the Chillicothe to Parkersburg line might someday be abandoned because of a lack of originating traffic. 19 Specifically, the segment between Hamden and Belpre had essentially little to no originating traffic.

Spooked at the thought of potentially losing rail access, especially after Chessie announced plans of abandoning its Wellston to Firebrick track in 1985, the city of Jackson began looking at ways of acquiring that track to allow a shortline operator to service industries in that area. 21 But after Chessie downgraded the former B&O St. Louis mainline, the city expanded its efforts in acquiring all of the remaining track east of Chillicothe toward Jackson.

On March 31, 1987, the city of Jackson formalized the purchase of 52.10 miles of CSX track between the connection with CSX (ex-C&O Northern Subdivision) at RA Junction at Richmond Dale and Firebrick for $2.02 million. 21 It included 3.9 miles of the B&O’s Renick Subdivision (ex-Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton) from RA Junction to West Junction through Richmond Dale, 14 miles of the B&O Parkersburg Subdivision (St. Louis mainline) from West Junction to Hamden, 32.75 miles of the B&O Portsmouth Subdivision from Hamden south to the end of track at Firebrick, and 5.3 miles of the former C&O Jackson Subdivision from Coalton to Jackson (which had gone to B&O operation in the late 1960s during the consolidation of the two lines in the Hamden and Jackson area). Also included as a condition that allowed for the acquisition of additional track should the CSX connection at RA become inactive, which would allow the city to connect with the Norfolk & Western in Chillicothe.

The acquisition was funded through a $1.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, a $60,000 loan from the city of Wellston, a $360,000 loan from shippers organized as the Jackson Rail Transportation Authority, and a conventional $200,000 bank loan. 21 Effective April 1, operation of the trackage was assumed by the Indiana & Ohio Railroad (I&O) which formed the basis of their Eastern Division, serving eight regular clients including Cedar Heights Clay Company, CountryMark, Goodyear, Jackson Corporation, Jeno’s Pizza, and the Philbrico Brick Company.

Between Greenfield and Chillicothe, and Red Diamond to a point just west of Grosvenor west of Athens, rail was removed by CSX crews in late 1988 and early 1989. 20 The line remained intact from Athens east to Parkersburg for a rumored unit coal train, but the traffic never materialized and the former mainline between Athens and Parkersburg was dismantled in November 1991. 10 22

From Cincinnati Junction to Midland City, the line remained intact and formed part of CSX’s new Midland Subdivision. 20 Between Midland City and Greenfield, the line was retained by the city of Greenfield and operated by the Indiana & Ohio Railroad to service several industries.

At Chillicothe, CSX maintained a one locomotive District Switcher to handle local industries, mostly Mead Paper, that interchanged on the east side of town with the CSX Northern Subdivision at Vauces. 20 In order to get to Vauces, B&O trackage was maintained from Chillicothe to West Junction to RA Junction at Richmond Dale on the Northern Subdivision.

The trackage from RA Junction to West Junction, and from West Junction east to Hamden was acquired by the city of Jackson and operated by the Indiana & Ohio Eastern Railroad to service local industries in and around Jackson. 20 A small segment of the B&O mainline was retained between Hamden and Red Diamond which continued to be served by CSX.

The Moonville Rail Trail is being developed on the former B&O mainline between Zaleski and Athens. Currently, 16 miles of the Moonville trail are open for passive recreation between Zaleski and Mineral, with the goal of connecting to the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway and the Athens-Belpre Rail Trail in Athens. Concurrently, the Athens-Belpre Rail Trail is being developed between Athens and Belpre, with the goal of linking with the Moonville Rail Trail and the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway to the west and the North Bend Rail Trail in West Virginia to the east. Currently, 8.6 miles of the Athens-Belpre trail are open for passive recreation over three discontinuous segments.

Portsmouth Subdivision



  1. Tipton, Rick. “The PRR in Cincinnati.” The Pennsylvania Railroad in Cincinnati. By Rick Tipton and Chuck Blardone. Altoona: Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society, 2004. 3-103.
  2. WP
  3. Morris, J. C., comp. “1840’s History.” Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs. N.p., 31 Dec. 1902. Web. 10 Aug. 2010. Article.
  4. “The Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad Company.” Letter. New York Times 26 Nov. 1865: n. pag. Article.
  5. Jakucyk, Jeffrey B. “Baltimore & Ohio to Columbus – Indiana & Ohio, Midland Subdivision. “Cincinnati Traction History. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
  6. “MOVEMENTS IN THE WEST.; Bridges on the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad Burned by the Rebels–Exchange of Rebel Prisoners–Indiana and Ohio Troops Marching on.” New York Times 23 Aug. 1862: n. pag. Article.
  7. “Burning of a Tunnel on the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad and Loss of Life.” New York Times 29 Sept. 1868: n. pag. Article.
  8. Reynolds, Kirk, and Dave Oroszi. “Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern.” Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Osceola: MBI, 2000. 30. Print.
  9. Holder
  10. Dupler, David W. “CSX Tracks Through Athens Ohio – The Final Years.” Dupler RR. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
  11. Wright, George B. “Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad.” Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs to the Governor of the State of Ohio for the year 1867. Columbus: Myers & Bros., 1868. 237-241. Google Books. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
  12. “B &O Railroad Era.” Wellston Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. Article.
  13. Ohio Genealogical So Jackson County, Ohio Genealogical Society. “Discovery and Pioneering Development of Jackson County Coal.” History & Families of Jackson County, Ohio. Paducah: Turner, 1991. 33. Google Books. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. Article.
  14. “Transportation and Communication: Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern.” 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. 97-98. Print.
  15. Davis, Evan Edward. “Iron Horses.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 19-21. Print.
  16. Volin, Rudy. “Perryville and Havre De Grace, Md.” Trains, 6 July 2006.
  17. Robie, Dan. “Parkersburg to Clarksburg-Waist of the B&O Main part I.” WVNC Rails, n.d. Article.
  18. United States. Dept. of the Interior. Sixth Street Railroad Bridge. Comp. Eliza Smith and Christina Mann. Washington: National Park Service, Dec. 1981. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. Article.
  19. Mundy, Eric. “Major Operational Changes Sweet System.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Nov. 1985, p. 11.
  20. Jones, Dwight. “‘Quest-A-Peek & A-Why-O.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, May 1989, p. 14.
  21. Arnott, George. “Southeastern Ohio Trackage Sold.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Aug. 1987, p. 12.
  22. Clements, Clifford. “The C&O and NYC at Athens, Ohio and Armitage, Ohio.” Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, Summer 2013, pp. 4-21.
  23. Willard, Eugene B., Daniel W. Williams, George O. Newman, and Charles B. Taylor. “Transportation and Communication.” A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio. Lewis Publishing Company, 1916, pp. 96-98.
  24. “Portsmouth Branch of the M&C RR.” History of Lower Scioto Valley, Ohio. Inter-State Publishing Company, 1884, pp. 133.


Add Yours →

Remember seeing B&O trains in Chillicothe, Ohio in the late 1960s going west bound towards Franklin and Greenfield, Ohio. Coaling station remains can still be seen in Chillcpothe. Have also seen remains f roumndhouse and two story station, which now have been totally removed from Chillcothe.

Leave your comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.