Saturday, July 18, 2009

Building Xenia Junction.

Xenia developed into one of Ohio’s railroad towns, a species of place that had some importance to railroading due to repair facilities and as a junction point for the railroads that criss-crossed Ohio during this era.

On the map this looks quite confusing, so this post will attempt to untangle the knot of railroads via a chronology.

The story starts with a pioneer railroad, one of the very first in the state. The Little Miami Railroad reached Xenia in 1845, five or six years before Dayton received it’s first railroad. The early lines didn’t have powerful engines, so grade was a consideration. One can see this in the Little Miami right-of-way; The Little Miami took a valley route into Xenia, departing the Little Miami bottomlands at Spring Valley and following the valley of Gladys Run into town:

The Little Miami Railroad, entered town on the exceptionally wide Detroit Street (on the east side of the street), which was a bit unusual for Ohio (there are at least two examples of this in Kentucky, in Frankfort and Lagrange).

Xenia railroad lore says that a promoter donated a building on Detroit Street as a station, with the proviso that trains would stop there for all time. And apparently passenger trains did continue to stop there after the union station was built in the 1850s.

Next a few diagrams showing the evolution of the junction.
Xenia, starting with the Little Miami.

In the mid 1840s Columbus had no railroads, so a daily line of mail stages went into operation between the railhead at Xenia and Columbus and Dayton.

The next year the line was extended to Springfield. The original route was to be via Clifton and it’s big mill, but the promoters of Yellow Springs offered money to route the line through that town. The route via a mill might have been because the railroad was initially conceived, in part, to provide an outlet for the merchant millers of the Little Miami valley.

At Springfield one took a stage to make the connection with the Mad River Railroad railhead at Bellefontaine. There was also a line of “daylight stages” to connect with Columbus, perhaps via the National Road. The journey from Cincinnati via Xenia, Springfield, stage coach to Bellefontaine, overnight in Bellefontaine, then on to the lake port of Sandusky took around 27 hours in 1847.

The next line was the Columbus and Xenia, which presumably replaced the stage to Columbus.

This line would eventually connect with the Columbus and Cleveland railroad, and ultimately to the eastern seaboard via the Lake Shore Railroad east from Cleveland, becoming a main line into Cincinnati, relegating the old Little Miami north of Xenia to branch line status.

The C & X entered Xenia via the valley of one the forks of Shawnee Creek, joining the Little Miami in the valley just south of the forks of Shawnee. The Xenia junction was starting to form

The Columbus and Xenia had originally projected to connect to Dayton. Instead, a railroad was projected east from Dayton. This was the Dayton, Xenia and Belpre.

The DX&B was intended as a “resource road”, connecting the Hanging Rock Iron region (and early coal fields) to Dayton manufacturers, and also offering a connection to tidewater via the Baltimore and Ohio branch across the river from Belpre at Parkersburg.

This line was never completed. Grading extended as far as Jamestown and then work ceased.

In the 1870s there was a second attempt at a “coal road”, a narrow gauge line from Dayton to the vicinity of Wellston and Jackson in Appalachian Ohio. Narrow gauge is usually associated with logging and mining railroads out west, but here it was used as a long distance cross-country line.

This line was eventually converted to standard gauge and taken over by the Baltimore & Ohio.

Xenia Junction in Detail

This vignette shows the old 1850s two story union station. Union because it served more than one railroad at the time. These lines soon went under joint operation and eventually merged. Ultimately they were taken over by the great east-west railroads. In this case the Pennsylvania and Baltimore and Ohio.

The junction in the 1870s. One can see the station, a roundhouse, a freight house, and some sidings.

By the 1890s one sees the Baltimore & Ohio branch swinging into the junction area, with its’ own depot. This is probably a fairly accurate track configuration for that era.

Xenia Junction in the 1930s, from the air. This was the peak of railroading in Xenia, with various shop and support facilities, a small yard, and some sidings. One can see that structures from the 1850s, 70s, and 90s survived into the 1930s. The Greene County historical society has a collection of artifacts, photos, and a scale model of the junction, worth a visit for railfans and history buffs.

The same site today. All the railroads are gone and the junction is now a cycling center, with Xenia Station as a visitors center for bike trails radiating from Xenia on the old railroad right-of-ways.

Another view of the junction. The building is a reconstructed baggage station and railway express office, and has a small exhibit on railroading in Xenia.

And in this aerial one can see how the bike path follows the old Little Miami grade out of the valley to Detroit Street. Some surviving buildings are keyed from old maps to the aerial, showing how some of old Xenia survived into our time (although it should be noted that the station is a reconstruction).

It might be worthwhile taking a closer look at the Sanborn maps to how much of industrial Xenia has survived. Though it had good rail connections Xenia didn’t develop into an industrial center the way nearby Springfield did. And why that was is a good question for econmic history.

Another future post would be to investigate the development of the railroad system in south & west Ohio, since there might be an interesting economic geography story to be told. This would look at the rise of Cincinnati & Dayton as a railroad centers as part of the development of a regional network. Maybe more the subjec of a book or journal article than a blog post, though.


Anonymous said...

Jefferey, fantastic work as always.

The area around Dayton has had several odd little rail lines.

The "Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati" line formed the alignment of the current Rt 48 bypass around Lebanon; it crossed Old Rt 122 at Dodds, went up through the village of Lytle, ran north through Centerville and present day Kettering, and ended somewhere around present day Spaulding Rd. in East Dayton. The line was vacated in the early 50s, but there were still remnants of railroad crossings on east west streets throughout the entire alignment up through the early 80s. See

Another weird little local rail line that nobody currently living has ever seen was the Cincinnati, Columbus & Hocking Valley Railway. It ran across northern Clinton County from Port William to present day Roxanna (near the bike trail.) It was started in 1877 and shut down in 1933. See:

There's also an old railroad grade that is a spur off the Little Miami RR that starts in Morrow and runs through the Todds Fork creek valley into Clinton County. I have seen plans for a rail trail (bike trail) there. I'd love to see that happen, but it's pretty remote country. Let's lobby Congress for some pork barrel stimulus money there, there's their "shovel ready". :)

Jefferey said...

There was also a narrow gauge line that arced through West Dayton and then up through Englewood, Union, West Milton, and up to Delphos. Almost all of it was abandonded, but a part converted to standard gauge and is still used to deliver things to a factory in West Dayton.

c.s.giscombe said...

I'm writing about the Dayton railroads and the West Side and your blog has been extremely useful. Can you give any more details on the "narrow gauge line that arced through West Dayton and then up through Englewood, Union, West Milton, and up to Delphos"? What was its route? Is it the track that parallels McCall Street and Home Avenue, the one that ended--in my memory of my youth in Dayton--at the V.A.? Thanks for all your work and your insights.--CSG

Anonymous said...

There was also a narrow gauge line that arced through West Dayton and then up through Englewood, Union, West Milton, and up to Delphos.
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