April 2010

Oneida and Western Railroad
Exploring the Big South Fork railroads

A few weekends ago, I made a trip down to the Big South Fork National Recreation Area to take up some backpacking on what turned out to be a most beautiful and sunny weekend. Hiking along many of the rugged and remote trails at Big South Fork, I stumbled across many aspects of forgotten railroading history. The Oneida & Western Railroad, for instance, is one of those interesting discoveries.

The long disused railroad existed between Jamestown and Oneida, Tennessee, and served vast pockets of virgin timber and coal mines before it was abandoned in 1954 after many years of financial troubles.

Initial planning began back in the late 1800s, and the Jamestown Railroad Company was incorporated in October 1912 by the Tennessee Coal and Lumber Company with the purpose of constructing a railroad from Glenmary to Jamestown. A lawsuit was filed by the Stearns Company of Kentucky that questioned the legitimacy of the newly formed company that had no charter. On August 5, 1913, the Jamestown Railroad Company issued a charter and amended the alignment, so that it existed between Oneida to Albany, Kentucky via Jamestown. The line was renamed the Oneida & Western Railroad (O&W).

Construction began on the O&W on November 4, 1913 at the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (Cincinnati Southern) at Oneida and was completed to the Big South Fork Cumberland River by June 1915. By 1930, the O&W reached Jamestown, stretching for over 37 miles.

At its peak, the O&W featured three daily roundtrips, carting both passengers and freight. But by 1936, motorcars had been dispatched to make the same journey and passenger service on the O&W ceased. Timber reserves were being depleted and the coal mines were being played out.

The last hope for the O&W came in 1942 when the Wolf Creek Dam was proposed in Tennessee. A construction company based out of Chicago proposed an extension of the O&W to the dam site to haul construction materials, but the company lost the bid after World War II. By 1953, there were only two to three trains per week operating on the line, and it was abandoned in 1954.

The O&W offices, located along U.S. Route 27 in Oneida, were later used by the Plateau Electric Cooperative. The junction with the Cincinnati Southern later became home to a coal tipple and crusher yard. Today, the O&W west of Big South Fork to Jamestown is a combination hiking and horse trail; to the east, it is a dirt road that provides access to the river.

Click through to the Oneida & Western Railroad for an in-depth historical overview of the line, complete with additional photographs, and to the Oneida & Western Railroad Big South Fork Cumberland River Bridge at my companion site, Bridges & Tunnels.

On the way out of the Big South Fork valley, I came across other abandoned railroad artifacts. The Cincinnati Southern New River Bridge is located in Scott County, Tennessee south of Oneida, and carried the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP, Cincinnati Southern). The iron modified Fink truss crossing was constructed in 1879, and was 930-feet long with a 730-feet iron trestle and a 200-foot main span.

The completion of the bridge and associated Tunnel 15 to the south completed the Cincinnati Southern between Cincinnati and Chattanooga. This alignment, from the Brimstone & New River Railroad south to Robbins, was bypassed and abandoned after phase four of the modernization project that began in 1961 eliminated the last of the small-bore tunnels along the CNO&TP. On July 10, 1963 at 12:05 A.M., the new New River bridge was opened to traffic.

While the trackage and approach to the New River crossing was removed, the center span was not.

Click through to the Cincinnati Southern New River Bridge for additional historical information.

Finally, while inspecting a railroad overpass on U.S. Route 27 east of New River that I believed was active, I came across the abandoned Brimstone & New River Railroad (B&NR). The B&NR is a disused railroad from the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP, Cincinnati Southern) at New River, Tennessee southeast to Lone Mountain.

The Brimstone, from Slick Rock north, was paralleled by the earlier Knoxville and New River Railroad (K&NR). The K&NR was chartered by the state on May 14, 1883, and was proposed between Robbins at the CNO&TP near Brickyard Hollow and the divide of the New River and Brimstone Creek near Lone Mountain. The 13-mile timber narrow-gauge railroad was planned to extend south of the Windrock Mountains and into Anderson County, where it would have connected to the Knoxville & Ohio.

The initial alignment, which became operational in 1885, extended to Slick Rock. The railroad lasted only seven years when the timber reserves were depleted and financial woes forced the railroad to default.

The primary uses for the Brimstone line was to assist in the extraction of timber and coal. There were two coal mines at Hughett and Lone Mountain. Timber were taken to the W.M. Ritter Mill, located at the railhead at New River.

On July 10, 1963, a new New River crossing for the CNO&TP was completed approximately one mile north of the community of New River, and several miles of the CNO&TP was abandoned. The tracks from Helenwood to New River were kept to allow access by the Brimstone Railroad.

In 1965, the railroad was reorganized as the Brimstone & New River Railroad, and again as the New River Railway just one year later when the W.M. Ritter Company merged with the Georgia Pacific.

Traffic on the line became scarce during the latter-half of the 20th century because coal within Scott County had less-desirable high sulfur coal.

In 1970, the line was purchased by the CNO&TP, with trackage rights by the Southern, which later became part of Norfolk Southern. The rail line was used for another ten years until its eventual disuse. Today, the railroad is abandoned with no active coal mines along the route.

Click through to the Brimstone & New River Railroad page for an in-depth history on this long disused railroad. Enjoy this lengthy update!

Little Miami Railroad
Little Miami and the B&O SW Spring Grove Industrial Track

Two rail lines in Cincinnati, Ohio frame today’s Abandoned update. Covering the Little Miami Railroad — the second railroad in the state and the Baltimore and Ohio Southwest Spring Grove Industrial Track, both present a bit of history that is becoming long forgotten.

Chartered as Ohio’s second railroad, the Little Miami connected Cincinnati to Xenia and Springfield. It later connected with Columbus. The Little Miami was one of the most profitable railroads in the United States, although its usage and importance declined after World War II. After consolidations and mergers, the Little Miami was dismantled in 1976, and was revived less than a decade later as the longest rail to trail in the United States.

The following photographs are from the end of the line at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse east of downtown Cincinnati to the Undercliff Yards. Fellow historian Jeffrey Jakucyk, of Cincinnati Traction History, gave additional background to the railroad, which is penned below.

The second feature is small and modest. The Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad (B&O SW) Spring Grove Industrial Track was located in Cincinnati, Ohio and is currently out-of-service.

The former single-track alignment split from the mainline at the B&O SW Coleraine Avenue underpass, and proceeded south east of Spring Grove Avenue. By 1912, the line extended south to Brashears Street, but was extended as far south as Monmouth Street, where the trackage split to service two customers.

The rail line once served the manufacturing center of the Crosley Radio Corporation. It has been out of service for over a decade, with all track crossings removed.

Kauffman Brewing Company
Christian Moerlein to bring back brewing to Over-the-Rhine

The Christian Moerlein Brewing Company announced today that part of the former Kauffman Brewing Company space along Hamer and Moore streets that will be renovated for the production of specialty beers that are currently produced out-of-state. The location also once hosted the Husman potato chip plant.

The Kauffman and Company moved along Vine Street in 1860 and opened operations after having been previously located along Deer Creek. It was renamed the Kaufmann Brewery in 1863, and three years later, a new brewery complex was completed along Vine and Hamer streets. The brewery folded after Prohibition was enacted in 1919.

Moerlein signed a multi-year lease with an option to purchase the 125,000-square-foot structure. The company intends to sublease approximately a third of the building to other tenants, and to utilize the remainder for the brewery.

Production of specialty beers by Christian Moerlein will begin in early 2011, when the manufacture of some beers will shift from out-of-state under-contract breweries to the new plant. Over the period of two years, Moerlein and the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company, it’s subsidiary, will shift production from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to Cincinnati.

In addition, Moerlein plans on producing some new lagers and ales within the next month, which could ultimately be produced at the new brewery.

The plant will initially employ around 20 workers, but many of those will be transfers from an existing manufacturing facility in Middletown. By the time the transfer is completed by 2013, the plant is projected to employ many more.

The move allows for Moerlein to revitalize the Cincinnati beer market by introducing classic beer brands through scale and volume.

The renovation of the former Kauffman structure is entirely privately financed. The site was under contract for a year, but the developers ran into difficulties with legalities.

“To have operating breweries back here is a great thing, icing on the cake. But it shows it’s possible to do business in Over-the-Rhine, whether it’s brewery-related or otherwise.”

-Steve Hampton, architect and head of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation

Vernon Manor
Renovation of Vernon Manor begins

The gutting and renovation of Vernon Manor has begun.

The Vernon Manor, constructed in 1924, was once one of the premier hotels in Cincinnati, Ohio and is located near the University of Cincinnati and it’s associated hospital complex. It closed in March 2009 due to deteriorating market conditions and the availability of newer, updated units from competitors closer to downtown and the university. Al. Neyer Inc. and local investors hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking today for the $37 million project, which will involve the renovation of the hotel into an office building for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the construction of a 440-space parking structure.

More than 600 employees will relocate to the Manor in May 2011, which will help consolidate the hospital’s administrative functions into one building. The renovation project is being privately funded, although it received nearly $10 million in federal New Market tax credits and $1.3 million in federal historic preservation tax credits.

Old Taylor Distillery
Old Taylor Distillery

Old Taylor Distillery is a defunct distillery located south of Frankfort, Kentucky. Constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1887, Old Taylor was known for a fine, quality product that was the first to produce one million cases of straight bourbon whiskey.

Taylor was involved in financial and political interests for the commonwealth, and was politically well connected. He was a descendant of James Madison and Zachary Taylor, two U.S. presidents, and as a result of this, he served as for 16-years as mayor of Frankfort and as a state representative and senator.

Taylor was essentially responsible for revitalizing the liquor industry that had little to no confidence from consumers due to product quality. He passed laws that would ensure quality, such as the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which was a federal subsidy via a tax abatement for products produced under particular government standards.

When the Old Taylor Distillery was constructed, it was considered a showcase of bourbon making in the entire state. The complex included a peristyle spring house, sunken gardens and gazebos. The main office and plant were constructed entirely of Tyrone, Kentucky limestone. Inside were gardens and rooms where Taylor entertained guests and politicians. Visitors arrived on the “Riney-B,” or the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad, where they would be given a tour of the facility.

Old Taylor was the first distillery to reach one million U.S. Government certified cases of straight bourbon whiskey. Times were great, to the extent that National Distilleries purchased Old Taylor Distillery in 1935. National Distilleries operated the plant for years before it passed to the Jim Bean Corporation. All production ceased in 1972. Jim Bean stored and aged bourbon whiskey in the warehouses until 1994, when the space was declared surplus.

Various proposals have been floated to revitalize the distillery complex. Cecil Withrow, a former employee of National Distilleries, along with Robert Sims, his business partner, purchased the property and incorporated Stone Castle Properties. Renovations began in 1996 at Old Taylor and in 1997, an arts and craft mall opened in the former bottling house. Withrow planned on including a natural spring bottling operation and a whiskey distilling business by 1999, but those plans failed due to financial ills.

In May of 2005, the property was sold to Scott Brady, who has been completing selective demolition of several warehouses that are in various stages of collapse or decay, and to renovate existing buildings. Wood and other materials from the warehouses are being marketed under Heart Pine Reserve.

The photographs presented are the first published photographs of the interior since the facility ceased operations in 1972. If you are able to identify any particular rooms or can clue in on particular functions, please feel free to call or e-mail. Be sure to click through to Old Taylor Distillery for more photographs of the facility!