DT&I and B&O Oak Hill, Ohio Updates

Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad

DT&I and B&O Oak Hill, Ohio Updates

The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I) is a defunct railroad that had its beginnings in southern Ohio as the Iron Railroad Company, which connected Ironton to the coal and timber reserves in the southern part of the state. Through acquisitions and mergers, the DT&I stretched for over 370 miles from Ironton to the automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan. Between Jackson and Bloom Junction, the DT&I had trackage rights along the Scioto & Hocking Valley, later part of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O), a distance of 23.4 miles.

The DT&I and the B&O was heavily reliant on coal mines, clay pits, brick kilns and cement factories that provided a heavy industrial base and employed thousands throughout the snaking hills. In the early 1900s, branches of the DT&I and B&O and other railroads served dozens of mines; the DT&I alone connected to over 25 in the Wellston area alone. But as the mines expired, those branches became inactive and were scrapped – beginning with the Cornelia mines on the Wellston branch in 1918. Passenger service, which had been declining for years due to the advent of the automobile – and a general lack of population along the line, led to passenger service ending between Jackson and Ironton in 1932.

The B&O Portsmouth Subdivision from Bloom Junction southwest to Sciotoville, just east of Portsmouth, was abandoned in 1969. A lack of traffic and the ability to route trains via Chillicothe made the northeast cut inefficient. Eventually, the DT&I fell under the control of the Grand Trunk Western (GTW) by 1980, who then opted to file for abandonment of the 29-mile Ironton branch from the ex-B&O line at Bloom Junction to Ironton in August 1981. The tracks were removed beginning in November of the following year. The Ironton branch featured few industries and had the notorious unlined Vesuvius Tunnel.

The following is a photographic update of the DT&I/B&O from Jackson south. The crossings south of Jackson were marked at Exempt in December 2012, and crossings in Oak Hill were removed shortly thereafter.

Below: The spur to Cedar Heights Clay Division has been long removed along OH 93 south of Oak Hill. This was originally originally home to the Jones Fire Brick and Cement Company,7 which was organized by Benjamin Jones, Benjamin Smith, W.H. Merten, Hugh Jones and Charles H. Jones on March 13, 1906. The company had capital of $65,000 and a fire brick plant was built .5-miles south of Oak Hill. Financial pains in 1911 caused a proposed cement plant to be cancelled and the fire brick plant was shut down. Robert E. Miller and William E. Dee of Chicago purchased the plant two years later and manufactured building brick, building tile and fire brick, and later expanded into sewer pipe. The plant was damaged by fire in 1927 and closed in 1932 due to financial considerations.

The shuttered facility was bought by The Portsmouth Refractories Company a year later and sold to the General Refractories Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1939.7 General Refractories produced blast furnace stove and checker brick before closing in 1961 after a rapid decline.1 The plant was purchased in 1966 by The Cedar Heights Clay Company who leased the main building and kilns to the Plibrico Company. Parts were used for clay grinding.2 Part of the former brick shed was leased by The Nock and Son Company of Cleveland.1

The Cedar Heights Clay Company was founded in April 1924 by James G. Morgan, Roscoe Kerns and A.E. Howell.2 The company constructed a plant on the northern edge of Oak Hill who produced ground fire clay both in bulk and in bags for use in steel, iron and ceramic industries. Cedar Heights built a new plant on the south side of town in 1936.

Below: The DT&I/B&O siding for the Plibrico Company south of Oak Hill along OH 93 was removed in December 2012. The Plibrico Jointless Fire Brick Company was founded in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois and purchased the Fire Brick plant owned by the Hitchcock interests at Fire Brick six miles southwest of town on OH 140. At that site, Plibrico produced new refractory specialities that consisted of high temperature cements for brick laying purposes, unfired clay materials that were referred to as plastic fire brick, castables and other products. In 1969, the company leased the brick kilns and the main manufacturing building at Cedar Heights (pictured above) where it produced insulating aggregate and refractory cast blocks.

Below: The DT&I/B&O at Blackfork Junction.

Below: The DT&I/B&O at the end of the line in Monroe – Nock and Sons. This location opened on March 20, 1972. After three incidents that shut the railroad down for an extended period of time – a bad wheel bearing in September 2007, then bridge deterioration that shut the line for two months in early 2009 and a bridge fire later that summer, Nock and Sons began trucking in materials.

Nock and Son of Cleveland 4 leased a brick shed from The Cedar Heights Clay Company in 1968 where it produced refractory specialities. After experiencing a large sales increase, it constructed a new plant at Monroe in 1971 which began production on March 20, 1972 at which time production at the former General Refractories plant ceased.

Below: The remains of the Blackfork Branch to kilns at Blackfork south of Blackfork Junction.

The Blackfork Coal Company was founded in 1902 and the company had constructed houses, a store and coal mines.6 On November 7, 1912, The Cambria Clay Products Company was formed by the D.D. Davis family and associates, and was capitalized for $75,000. It was created to purchase the coal mines and building brick of Blackfork.

Cambria eventually closed the coal mines and converted the building brick plant into a stiff mud fire brick plant, and built a sewer pipe plant about .5-mile southwest of Blackfork.6 That plant featured 29 coal-fired periodic kilns and employed over 400.

During the 1920s, Blackfork boasted “150 company houses, a department store, motion picture theater, restaurant, pool room and barber shop.”6 On November 30, 1931, a fire destroyed the sewer pipe plant, but was replaced with a silica brick plant in 1936 that used the old brick kilns. The bricks were produced from silica conglomerate pebbles which was sourced from White Gravel 12 miles away. Production expanded to 100,000 bricks per day, making it the largest silica brick plant in the United States. Another silica brick plant was constructed in Liberty Township near Jackson in 1957. But the use of steel in construction led Cambria to close its Blackfork plants in 1961.

Below: A spur to what I believe was the Sivad Ceramic plant in Blackfork. D.D. Davis and family constructed the Sivad Ceramic Corporation on East Main Street in Oak Hill in 1953.5 It was jointly owned by the Ohio Fire Brick Company, the Davis Fire Brick Company and the Cambria Clay Products Company. The plant manufactured refractory specialities and operated at that location until August 1971 when it reused part of the silica plant at Blackfork, where it manufactured high temperature cements, mortars and plastic fire brick.6

Sources

  1. Davis, Evan Edward. “The General Refractories Company.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 41. Print.
  2. Davis, Evan Edward. “Cedar Heights Clay Company.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 47. Print.
  3. Davis, Evan Edward. “Plibrico Company.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 47. Print.
  4. Davis, Evan Edward. “Nock and Son.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 48. Print.
  5. Davis, Evan Edward. “The Sivad Ceramic Corporation.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 48. Print.
  6. Davis, Evan Edward. “The Cambria Clay Products Company.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 41-42. Print.
  7. Davis, Evan Edward. “The Jones Fire Brick and Cement Company.” Industrial History of Oak Hill, Ohio. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 40-41. Print.

3Comments

  • Faith & Mike / 12 November 2013 10:49

    Thank you for all the info. We moved to the Blackfork area in 2007 and are fascinated with the vast history. From our yard, we can see the road (Irish Hollow) that went back to the Cambria plant. Below Four Hill (on the backside) was another plant which I believe was also part of Cambria. The spur you mention that may have gone to the Sivad Ceramic Plant crossed present-day Route 93 and went back a hollow (from where the logging yard now is). That is the one “on the backside of Four Hill”.

    • Family Ties / 29 October 2014 4:14

      Not a real popular topic anymore since OU nearly destroyed the village history with undocumented publishing. From the ashes of Washington Furnace in 1902 until the final demise in 1988 Blackfork was a fairly peaceful place. Exceptions are the 1951 bombing of the gas lines etc.(Lies favor the bombers people) Until my grandfathers death in 1960,(Brick sales and home at end of Cambria Rd) I loved to play construction and place pennies on the rails above the county line. Very disappointed that the college and locals did not take up for the real locals. The righteous folks are gone for the most part.

  • Wayne / 14 December 2014 9:22

    I often walked the DT&I section in Lawrence County between Pedro and Royersville and the Tunnel there at Royersville, back in the 70’s and early 1980’s. Also rabbit hunted, dug gensing and Yelllow Root along there just for fun.

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