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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Cincinnati's Railway Tunnel Goes Through Many Changes

Dallas Bogan on 6 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

On February 6, 1847, the Cincinnati general assembly passed an act which endorsed the incorporation of the Dayton, Lebanon, & Deerfield Railroad Company. Its purpose was to construct a railway between these locations, connecting with the Little Miami Railroad at or near Deerfield, now South Lebanon. This maneuver was to give Dayton another access to Cincinnati.
One year later the project had changed, whether by choice or circumstance is not known. Accordingly, a secondary act changed the name of the corporation to the Dayton, Springborough, Lebanon, & Cincinnati Railroad Company. This rail line was also to be constructed between the Queen City and the Gem City.
However, a change in the alignment of the line resulted in construction plans only to the valley of the Little Miami below Gainsborough, now Kings Mills.
Another act incorporated the following year (1849) changed the name to the Dayton & Cincinnati Railroad Company. Power was granted this enterprise to consolidate its interests and take the name of any other railway company.
The first president and directors report of this new enterprise appeared in 1852. A decision was made that determined engineer Erasmus Gest would direct the fixed points of the two cities named. He was to survey a practical straight-line route between them.
Construction of the line out of Cincinnati involved the building of a tunnel through the ridge dividing the valley of Cincinnati from the broad basin at the northern end.
Gest's outline reported that a line would start from a point in Cincinnati, location, the intersection of Pendelton Street and the Lebanon turnpike, now U.S. 42.
It would run along the west side of that road for a short distance and proceed three-quarters of a mile further, crossing the Walnut Hills turnpike, where it would enter the hill. It then would pass through the hill by means of a tunnel and then proceed to the Lebanon turnpike, traveling on to Reading, Sharonville, and to Dayton.
This proposed route was 52 miles from Dayton whereas the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad spanned a distance of 60 and 3/10 miles from city to city.
Gest's first report suggests a tunnel of 5,500 feet through Walnut Hills, with a gradual rising grade the entire distance.
A change was later made in the Cincinnati terminus, destination point, Broadway between Court and Hunt streets. This action resulted in a new calibration of the tunnel. An additional 35-foot lower level would now have to be included in the original proposed survey.
The new route was to enter the hill in the east line of the Walnut Hills turnpike to a rise intersecting a point on Ross Run, northwest of Lane Seminary. This change resulted in a tunnel length of 10,000 feet, or nearly two miles, versus the "actual" tunnel plans which called for a distance of 7,903 feet.
This grand enterprise was to handle a double track. The tunnel was to be arched with brick, and constructed upon stone sidewalls that allowed for arching. The approaches were to be a distance of 2,200 feet, with an extreme height of 20 feet.
The tunnel width was to be 26 feet with the peak 20 feet in height. Double tracks would be apportioned for both standard or broad gauges, thus accommodating four lines of rails on each set of ties.
Original cost estimate of the project was $8,700 for the right of way, which included approaches and land purchases to the shafts. An actual tunnel construction cost estimate was placed at $412,187. In all, adding this amount to actual rail construction, costs came to about $2,000,000. This was a rather huge sum in those days, but subscriptions were distributed resulting in a go-ahead of the work.
A contract, which included the total job, was authorized to Ferrel & Dunham on December 10, 1852. Just six days later the job was launched.
Excavation was rather easy, the limestone composing the hill being effortlessly drilled and blasted. Fabrication of the roof framework was built in such a way that it was made waterproof. This procedure was planned and conceived well ahead of time, as well as the arching.
Actual work was abandoned the following year just north of the tunnel. However, Daniel Becker subcontracted for the job and by March 1, 1854, 2,800 feet of the tunnel and approaches had been unearthed, with 750 feet wholly completed, which included arches, sidewalls, etc.
For operational purposes, eight points, one at each end, and one each way at each of three shafts sunk from the surface of the hill were positioned. Employing this method meant that the work would move along at a rapid pace.
Each function proceeded with rapidity. Water seepage and noxious vapors were minimal. Needless to say, there were many casualties from blasting and other causes, by which several persons lost their lives.
The tunnel by March 1, 1855, had been completed for a distance of 3,336 feet, except for the arching of 1,872 feet and the walling of 575 feet. The remainder of the tunnel had been penetrated for a distance of 1,878 feet.
Work on the tunnel during this year had slacked off, the same being true with other parts of the line. No work at all had been performed between the tunnel and the Cincinnati terminus. Subsequently, the entire project had to be discarded after an expenditure of $475,000.
The "Short Line" ultimately engineered its way out of Cincinnati. A line north of the dividing ridge, by the valley of Mill Creek, was the route used, thus giving up its "tunnel" advantages.
The Dayton & Cincinnati Short Line, in 1871, became the newly accepted name of the old Dayton, Lebanon & Deerfield Company.
The D&CSL was reorganized January 21, 1872, as the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company. Its purpose was to complete the old tunnel project and extend a rail line through it from Sharonville, proposed distance, 12 1/2 miles. From here connection could be made with the Cincinnati & Springfield Railroad, other names for the latter being the Dayton Short Line or the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis.
Nothing of note was done in that year. However, there was a possible resurrection brewing amongst some projectors concerning the enterprise.
Mayor Davis, in his annual message, stated that a new railroad entrance into the city should be controlled so that all railroad companies should benefit, with the actual control given to none. He also expressed utilization of an affordable and favorable means for quick and cheap transit from the overcrowded city to the beautiful section of country that lies back of Walnut Hills.
Construction plans of the Kentucky & Great Eastern Railway Company included a route to run from Newport along the Ohio to Catlettsburgh. This measure would allow its line to cross from Newport to Cincinnati via the just completed railroad bridge between the two cities. Proceeding on, the line would travel east out of the city and intersect the routes leading to all points north, via the Walnut Hills tunnel.
Work was again started on the tunnel in 1873-74, but it was soon abandoned.

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This page created 6 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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