Little Miami Scenic Trail History


At a Glance

Name: Little Miami Scenic Trail
Length: 77.7 Miles
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Clark, Clermont, Greene, Hamilton, Warren
Surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete
State: Ohio

A Brief History

While you may not realize it, the popular Little Miami Scenic Trail maintains the same name as the railroad that originally built the corridor. The Little Miami Railroad (LMRR) was once one of Ohio’s first chartered lines and instrumental in opening the state to future economic opportunities during the mid-19th century. At the time, there were no roads or transportation arteries of any type besides waterways. Unfortunately, the north-to-south business advantages the LMRR hoped to reap from connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio River disappeared after railroads began arriving in Ohio from the East, looking to establish through-corridors east to west. Much more attractive, these lines eventually proved to be the preferred routes, and the LMRR became a second-tier railroad. Still, the road had advantages and was later acquired by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway, a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary, during the early 1870s. Following the Penn Central collapse in the 1970s, Conrail acquired the LMRR route and soon after abandoned and lifted.

Early railroad projects like the LMRR were often difficult to realize simply because acquiring the needed capital and financing was difficult. Because of the industry’s infancy and uncertainty at the time, few would back such risky projects, and in the case of the LMRR, this included Ohio itself. Despite the misgivings, the state eventually supported the project and granted a charter for the Little Miami Railroad on March 11, 1836—the state’s second such company behind the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad (MR&LE) of January 5, 1832. The two lines would, interestingly enough, become closely aligned in attempting to connect Ohio’s Lake Erie with the Ohio River. The builders’ intent with the LMRR was to construct a line north from Cincinnati and connect to the MR&LE (which was attempting to construct a line south from Sandusky along the lake) at Springfield via Xenia. Unfortunately, officials of the MR&LE had much more difficulty than the LMRR in obtaining funding and selling bonds for the proposed connection to Springfield.

By 1837, the LMRR began grading north from Cincinnati (where the right-of-way went due east 5 miles along the Ohio River before turning north and following the Little Miami River) and south from Xenia. On December 14, 1841, the LMRR opened its first 15 miles from Cincinnati to Milford; by mid-winter of 1842, the railroad had reached Fosters. This first section of the line used wooden strap rails to reduce costs but was soon upgraded to solid iron within a year. By 1843, the company’s first depot was in service at Pendleton (now part of Cincinnati), and it had also reached Loveland, giving it 25 miles of operational railroad. Construction proceeded quickly at this point; by August 1845, the entire 65-mile line to Xenia was open for service. A year later, the LMRR had opened the final 19.2 miles north to Springfield and the proposed connection with the MR&LE.

Unfortunately, that railroad was still struggling to come up with funding, which caused LMRR officials to look for another, more promising, terminus. This would come by way of the Columbus & Xenia Railroad (C&X), which connected its namesake cities by 1849 and opened for service on February 20, 1850. The C&X and LMRR soon after merged operations but remained separate entities. The long-sought connection with the MR&LE finally occurred in 1849, and the state now had an important transportation connection with two of its primary water routes. Unfortunately for the two railroads, the benefits of the new corridor were short-lived. In 1850, the Hillsboro & Cincinnati Railroad opened between its namesake cities and was later acquired by the Marietta & Cincinnati (M&C). The M&C became part of the growing Baltimore & Ohio, a major eastern trunk line that used the route as part of its main line to St. Louis via Cincinnati. Following the B&O was the Pennsylvania (PRR) and New York Central railroads, which likewise acquired smaller systems across Ohio to reach Chicago and St. Louis. For the C&X and LMRR, both companies were leased to the Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway (PC&StL) as of February 23, 1870, itself a subsidiary of the PRR.

Interestingly, the Little Miami Railroad, despite being merely a secondary branch line on the PRR for most of its existence, always remained an operating entity on paper. During these years the LMRR, which now makes up the Little Miami Scenic Trail, was often listed as part of the Cincinnati Division. However, changes began in 1939 when the northern segment between Xenia and Springfield was reclassified as part of the Columbus Division. This time also marked the line’s peak period of traffic when passenger and freight trains numbered two dozen in a single day. However, after World War II, passenger service ended over the route. In late 1955, the line was again reclassified when the Cincinnati Division was abolished and renamed the Buckeye Division. In 1964, it became known officially as the Cincinnati & Xenia Branch and, following the Penn Central merger of 1968, was called the Cincinnati & Xenia Branch, Cincinnati Division, Southern Region.

By this time, traffic was in severe decline, and the PC began rerouting most remaining trains over the superior former New York Central line between Cincinnati and Columbus. By the time PC fell into bankruptcy during 1970, the branch saw little use. Following the creation of the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) in 1976, the new owner wasted no time in abandoning the route and began pulling up the rails south of Spring Valley (near Xenia) that year on July 29. During the early 1980s, the Ohio Department of Transportation purchased the corridor and began converting it into today’s Little Miami Scenic Trail, which now stretches 78 miles from Terrace Park outside of Cincinnati to Springfield’s West Jefferson Street.

Railroad attractions near the trial include the Bradford Railroad Museum in Bradford; Cincinnati Railway Company (offering various types of excursion train rides); Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad in Nelsonville; and the Ohio Railway Museum in Worthington.

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