A view of the Cincinnati, Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad, the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad and a Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad spur.
Update 1 (September 2): I’ve added photographs of the abandoned Chesapeake & Ohio Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Spur at the bottom.
There is something fascinating with exploring abandoned railroads. Whether it is the history that is within the physical and psychological connections with the rail line, or the communities that it impacted, or the industries that it served, these tracks were partially responsible for the industrialized growth of the United States and helped us win both World War I and World War II. And through consolidations and dismantlements due to the foreclosures, relentless highway industries, population shifts and the loss of our industrial heritage, many legacies of our railroad past remain in tatters.
Where to even begin with Railfanning in Ohio, Part II? Let’s begin in the central part of Ohio, with the short-lived Cincinnati, Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad (CC&HV).
The CC&HV is a defunct railroad that was later purchased by the Ohio Southern, and was a route extending from Sedalia to Kingman via Jeffersonville, Ohio. It was once proposed as a connection between Columbus and Cincinnati generally along what is now the Interstate 71 corridor. The line was originally proposed by the Waynesville, Port William & Jeffersonville, a narrow-gauge railroad between the Little Miami Railroad at Claysville Junction to Jeffersonville, where it would junction with the Dayton and Southeastern. The line would parallel the Little Miami south to Waynesville. No work on this proposal was completed.
Between late-1883 and mid-1884, the Ohio Southern held ownership over the line, and 15 miles were completed from Jeffersonvilel to Port William by October 1877. In November, the line was reorganized into the Columbus, Washington & Cincinnati (CW&C), proposed obviously between Columbus and Cincinnati. Under this new management, the line was finished to Claysville Junction, now Roxanna, via McKay’s Station.
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 in regards to the descent into the Little Miami valley. 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. 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.
The Ohio Southern went into receivership in mid-1895 because of a northerly extension of Lima proved to be too much of a financial strain. The portion of the railroad from Jeffersonville west to Kingman was abandoned in November 1932, just short of a connection at Waynesville at the Little Miami, and the segment from Jeffersonville east to Sedalia was abandoned in 1941, short of a connection to the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus.
A much longer railroad, with a fairly turbulent history, impacted central Ohio and led to the eventual involvement of Henry Ford, the owner of the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I) is a defunct railroad that had its beginnings as the Iron Railroad Company, which connected Ironton to the coal and timber reserves in southern Ohio. Through acquisitions and mergers, the DT&I stretched for over 370 miles from Ironton to the automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan.
Although the history is far too large to replicate in this blog post, the DT&I had its beginnings with the Iron Railroad, one of the earliest railways in the state of Ohio. Connecting Ironton to the coal, charcoal and timber reserves north of the city, the initial 6-mile broad-gauge line was completed in 1850, and included one tunnel — Vesuvius. One notability of the line included the Stearns Creek crossing, which was replaced with a wrought iron bow-string truss in 1858. Patented by W.H. Moseley and manufactured in Cincinnati, it remained in use until 1924 when it was removed and placed on exhibition in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Iron Railway was eventually extended north to Center Furnace, but no further work was done. It was not until the Scioto Valley Railway Company, later a part of the Marietta and Cincinnati, attempted to build a line from Columbus to Portsmouth. Although the portion of the line south of Jackson was finished in 1881, it was not until 1903 when an extension from Lisman, near Pedro, to Bloom Junction, was completed. In 1906, the DT&I shops at Jackson were completed, which included a paint house, repair shop and a machine shop.
Later in DT&I’s history, after World War I, Henry Ford purchased the railroad because a vital crossing to one of his plants in Dearborn was on the verge of being out of service. The DT&I, after being run down into the ground during the war due to the federalization of the railroad network, was financially strained. With Ford’s purchase, the DT&I was essentially rebuilt. New ties, rails and ballast were laid, new locomotives and cars were purchased, and a portion of the line was electrified as a demonstration project.
The first wave of abandonments on the DT&I came in 1929, when the Wellston branch was dismantled due to the closure of most coal mines in the region. The Bartles to Dean segment — an original portion of the Iron Railroad, was abandoned in a year later. Passenger service between Jackson and Ironton ceased in 1932. The final passenger run was not until May 8, 1954, when a mixed train, consisting of both freight and passengers, left Springfield for Jackson. 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. The DT&I utilized nine-miles trackage rights over the Wabash. A portion of the Toledo branch, the former Toledo-Detroit Railroad line from Petersburg Junction to Lambertville, was abandoned in 1965.
Not all was abandoned, however. 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.
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. 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.
The DT&I’s independence, however, was threatened with a proposal from the Norfolk and Western (N&W) and the Chessie System. Eventually, the Grand Trunk Western (GTW) requested to purchase N&W’s half-interest in the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line, and in 1979, the GTW purchased the DT&I. Unfortunately, deferred maintenance and a lack of business led to the abandonment of the former D&LN Wauseon-Tecumseh main line in May 1978. The N&W assumed operations on the Adrian-Tecumseh to serve a Fisher Body plant, but south of Adrian, the line was dismantled.
In 1982, with most major industries having been shuttered and mines closed, the DT&I Ironton Branch was abandoned south of Bloom Junction. 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. The railroad shops at Jackson were closed on March 27, 1984, and the line from Jackson to Waverly was abandoned, as well as the trackage rights that were secured just two years prior.
The GTW sold the former DT&I trackage from Springfield to Washington Court House to the Indiana & Ohio (I&O) in 1990. 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.
Update 1 (September 2)
The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (USEC), located in Piketon, Ohio, was part of a United States government program to produce highly enriched uranium to fuel nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Operations began in 1954 and ended in May 2001, when enrichment operations were moved to Paducah, Kentucky. In 2002, transfer and shipping operations were also consolidated at Paducah. Today, the USEC is home to the American Centrifuge Demonstration Facility and work has begun on the American Centrifuge Plant, a next-generation uranium enrichment facility.
The plant was served by a Chesapeake and Ohio spur from Germany westward, which was constructed prior to the USEC’s opening in 1954. It included a significant trestle above Happy Hollow. The line was dismantled some time after 1995 and before 2006. The facility was also served by the Norfolk Western, now known as Norfolk Southern, from the west, which remains active.
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Hi, I came across this post years ago and really appreciate your sleuthing! Local Port William, OH resident Mike Mason and I wrote a book we published in June of 2017 on the “Grasshopper” railroad, or originally The Waynesville, Port William and Jeffersonville Railroad. Mike and his family have been in PW since the 1800 if not earlier. He had a huge collection of history, but no way to do a book. I was chasing down the history and together we managed to get a book done that is very accurate to history. Most online info is on Facebook, but I’ve got a small page up here on the book: http://grasshopperrailroad.com/. If you or any of your readers would ever like to schedule a talk or chat on the Grasshopper (as it was called locally), we’d love to do that! – Roger
Thanks so much for this article. Although I grew up in Illinois I was born in So. Ohio as my father worked on the construction of the plant at Piketon, OH. I’ve sent this link to several relatives who would find this interesting. As an aside, I look at your website frequently as I’m extremely interested in railroad and industrial history.
Some corrections to my earlier post for those of you interested in the old C&O branch line to the Piketon atomic energy plant. I have just re-posted my comment above, but with some corrections (I got my directions wrong in a couple of places!).
As a youth I was quite familiar with the spur which ran from the mainline to the atomic energy plant. In my mind, I would probably think of it more as a “branch’ line rather than a spur as it was about three miles long, had two trestles, etc. I remember it even had a shed with a speeder inside as years ago myself and some friends discovered it unlocked (the shed was somewhere between Bobo Road and WEST to Happy Hollow Road) (no- we were not vandals, we were just looking .
It’s ashame they removed the track and trestles, it would have made quite a tourist run if it HAD been perserved. Hard to see how that much effort was made to build the trestles, make the cuts through the hills, and lay the track, all be removed later.
I remember hearing a train make it’s run through there back in the 1970′s, we were about a half-mile or less from the tracks on McCorkle Road and heard it screeching through the hollows, my sister and I ran to see it.
WEST of McCorkle Road (and just a lttle WEST of the Taylor Ridge area) there was a sign along side the tracks that read “Atomic Jct” or similar, near a spiked plate laid on the tracks to keep cattle from getting through.
The DT&I was a large part of my family history. My grandfather, John Houseman, was section boss out of Jeffersonville and my dad, Harry Houseman and at least two of my uncles worked on the DT&I at various times. Dad and one uncle worked during the Henry Ford days and Grandpa John would never own any automobile but a Ford. Dad used to tell about hunting rabbits along the ROW of the old “Grasshopper branch”. He said it ran so slowly he could ride on the caboose, shoot a rabbit, jump off and retrieve it, then run and catch up and jump back onto the caboose. He said there was one hill the little old engine could not pull, it might have to stop, back up, build up steam and make a run at full throttle to get up enough momentum to get over the top, which might take several tries before they finally made it. As a kid we lived in Jeffersonville on Railroad Street right across the street from the big grain elevator which was across the tracks from the Jeffersonville depot, all of that is now gone. As a teenager I used to walk the tracks out of Jeffersonville toward Washington CH to “the old tank” where the tracks crossed Sugar Creek to fish the creek and hunt along the tracks coming and going, guess you couldn’t do that today.
wts the matter with the us .a lot off good men worked on rail road when it was being built many yers ago why do we abandon all railroads bring back the steam engs
As a youth I was quite familiar with the spur which ran from the mainline to the atomic energy plant. In my mind, I would probably think of it more as a “branch’ line rather than a spur as it was about three miles long, had two trestles, etc. I remember it even had a shed with a speeder inside as years ago myself and some friends discovered it unlocked (the shed was somewhere between Bobo Road and east to Happy Hollow Road) (no- we were not vandals, we were just looking :).
It’s ashame they removed the track and trestles, it would have made quite a tourist run if it has been perserved. Hard to see how that much effort was made to build the trestles, make the cuts through the hills, and lay the track, all be removed later.
I remember hearing a train make it’s run through there back in the 1970’s, we were about a half-mile or less from the tracks on McCorkle Road and heard it screeching through the hollows, my sister and I ran to see it.
East of McCorkle Road (and just a lttle easy of Taylor Ridge area) there was a sign along side the tracks that read “Atomic Jct” or similar, near a spiked plate laid on the tracks to keep cattle from getting through.
One other note of interest, operating railroads at location Greggs Hill can still be observed, only now are CSX and Norfolk Southern. Also, short distance north from Greggs Hill, short passage where DT&I ducked under former C&O, after passage over Scioto River, still exsits. Right-of-way of former DT&I very clear here. Passage along River Road. South of Greggs Hill, very nice curved double track steel trestle passes over a road, (cant 'remember name of road) for the present day CSX. Very nice photo opportunity!
When last in Jackson, Ohio, railroads shops still remain, although turntable as well as all trackage leading to shops has been long gone. Have followed old route from Washington Court House to Jackson. Although bridge decks from railroads many crossings of Paint Creek all along it's route, sandstone piers and abutments do remain in many places. These also include bridge at Bainbridge, Ohio, two piers standing in creek bed, abutments on either bank, bridge piers in Scioto River bed where railroad crossed this river near Glen Jean, Ohio. At point east and south of Glen Jean, at one time were three railroads visible from point called "Greggs Hill". They were the N&W, DT&I, and C&O. Although DT&I now gone, right of way still very present. Incidentally, former DT&I bridge piers are adjacent to N&Ws bridge crossing same river. After flood of 1913, DT&I bridge was washed away, was rebuilt, then abandoned later on when it was determined it was too frail to accomidate increaslingly heavier rail cars and locomotives. Agreement was reached with N&W to utilize their bridge to cross river, then DT&I would go back to own trackage after crossing river, to continue to interchange it had with C&O at Greggs. Interchange also was had with N&W at Glen Jean, where two railroads crossed. Tracks still can be seen at Greenfield, Ohio, albeit with weeds growing among them, where DT&I passed through "tunnel",under B&O. Interchange also took place here between two railroads, via a connection before underpass. DT&I once served Blue Rock quarry at Greenfield. Only true tunnel on DT&I at Royersville, or, sometimes also called Vesuvious Tunnel, still remains, although at last visit had about two feet of water in it. South end of tunnel is collapsed, despite efforts by National Park service to keep it accesible. Interesting fact about tunnel is it was engineered along an old coal seam, was on a slight uphill grade, and, had a slight curve in the middle of it. Enginnering headache for most of it's operating life, tunnel was subject to cave-ins, locomotives constantly pelted with loose rock when passing through it. Tunnel passage barely able to accomdiate diesel locomotives, as existing photos do portray.
Thanks Garrett! It's been my pleasure.
John, I have not. The area around Waverly is still unexplored, although the ROW should be fairly visible at this time of the year. I should stop down and check it out soon!
Have visited Summitt Hill where remains of DT&I right of way very present. Locals keeo right i=of way all across Summitt pretty clear to access strawberry picking. Have also heard lots of tales of runaways in this area. Lots of fun exploring old railroad.
Thanks for your posts on abandoned railroads. The historical detail you bring share makes your posts a pleasure to read.