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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Little Miami Railway Was Important In County History

Dallas Bogan on 10 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

While the finishing touches are being put on the bike and walking trail along the Little Miami River, I thought an article on the first survey along this scenic part of the county would be appropriate.
The trail is on the direct path of the most successful railroad in early railroading history, the Little Miami Railroad.
Ormsby M. Mitchel, of whom the writer made a report on in one of his earlier articles, made the survey.
O.M. Mitchel's services were secured at the projection of the Little Miami Railroad as a surveyor. The railroad was very fortunate to have such a man as Mitchel.
He was its first civil engineer and a man of scientific distinction. He was a graduate of West Point and taught mathematics at this institution.
He afterward attained the same position at Cincinnati College in 1836. (We should keep in mind that Prof. Mitchel was but 23 years of age at this time.)
The Little Miami Railroad Company was chartered March 11, 1836. Prof. Mitchel spent his first vacation plotting a practical route for the railroad. His examination began June 12, 1837; his report of the survey is dated August 24 of the same year.
The original charter did not stipulate that the railroad was to run along the Little Miami River, but through the river valley. The terminals were to be Springfield and Cincinnati; the mid-terminal point was to be Xenia. The road was to run down the valley of the Little Miami and the Ohio River to a juncture in Cincinnati.
Prof. Mitchel's first examination of the layout was made by horseback between Xenia and Springfield. He afterward began the survey with instruments Xenia.
His observation found two tentative routes from Xenia to Springfield, one by way of Yellow Springs which would cross the Little Miami above Old Town, the other by way of Clifton in Greene County, which purposed to cross the river at that location.
Costs of the project expenses of the two differed so little that neither had a decided advantage.
At Clifton it was decided that the bridge abutments were natural to the lay of the land; the distance of rock to rock could not exceed thirty feet. Actual expenses to the bridge would be minimal.
The Yellow Springs route was adopted because it was shorter by a mile and a quarter.
In an examination of the lower section of the line between Xenia and Cincinnati it was proposed to run down the valley of Glady Run (near Spring Valley) for six miles to the Little Miami valley.
He planned to cross the Little Miami below Waynesville and follow the west side of the river to the Ohio.
This would avoid bridges being built over Caesar's Creek, Todd's Fork and East Fork. Also he proposed on the fourteenth mile from Xenia, a point opposite Waynesville, a sufficient crossing at the river could be found on the third quarter of the sixteenth mile at Smith and Evan's mill.
The cost of the bridge at this location was estimated at $10,000.
Due to the time factor, the Professor did not have time to survey both sides of the river at this time. His recommendation was that an accurate survey of both sides be done.
The railroad was eventually located on the east side the greater portion of the way. It crossed to the west side only a few miles above the Ohio. Subsequently, bridges were built over Caesar's Creek and Todd's Fork, but not over East Fork.
The upper portion of the road contained the steepest grades; the quota allowed was only 32 feet per mile. On the lower section the grades were constant with a variance of 8 to 24 feet to the mile. No excessive cutting or filling was needed on this portion.
On the deepest excavations the dirt needed to be handled but once and more than half the excavation could be made without a cart of wheelbarrow.
Curves appeared quite often on the lower portion. Because of possible friction caused on the sharper curves, the minimum radius of curvature permitted in the original estimates was 1000 feet.
Only one long bridge on the road was called for, one of 132 feet. It could be built entirely of timber. Five smaller bridges would be built along the same lines.
The rails for the locomotive and cars were to run on wood on which was to be laid iron less than one inch in thickness. The structure of the wood and rail were thus: "Trenches across the road bed were to be dug, four feet from center to center, and filled with screened gravel or broken stone, and on this foundation timbers about seven feet long, like modern cross-ties, were to be firmly embedded.
"Upon these, rails of oak, six by eight inches and twelve feet long, would be fastened and upon them the iron rail would be placed and fastened by bolts, or spikes."
Prof. Mitchel stated: "This superstructure is in general use in the United States and is found to answer quite as well as any other.
"The string pieces usually employed on Eastern roads are Carolina pine; we propose to use the timber of our own soil which may not be quite as durable, but is believed will answer a good purpose. The iron rail estimated for us is of the usual size, five eights of an inch thick and two and a half inches wide.
"I would recommend to the company the adoption of a thicker rail if heavy locomotives are to be employed. The additional expense would not be great, to diminish the width to two inches and increase the thickness to one inch." (The old flat rail was used until 1850 when it was removed and replaced with the heavy T rail.)

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