At 10:00 on a Saturday morning, the 8 of August, 1885, a Cincinnati and Eastern Railway train left the Newtown Station on its spur to New Richmond. The train was flagged at the Locust Corner end of the trestle to take on a passenger and to let William Smith off. As the train began to pass over the 800-foot-long trestle at Three Forks of Nine Mile Creek (over what is known today as Bradbury Road), and began to apply its brakes, the trestle collapsed, plunging the engine, coal car, three flat cars, and combination passenger & baggage car 25-44 feet to the valley floor below. The wife of the Master Mechanic of the line was killed instantly, and William Smith of Locust Corner died a short time later at his nearby home. In total, 4 people eventually died, and about 10 were seriously injured.
Just two hours earlier, another train had safely passed over the same oak timber trestle, and the day before a train with four cars of bricks had traversed the same spot without incident. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the five-year-old trestle had been inspected by the C&E’s roadmaster and reported to be in first class condition.
This map, overlaying the route of the New Richmond spur of the Cincinnati and Eastern Railroad on a map of today’s streets and interstate highways, is courtesy of Jeffrey Jackucyk who has painstakingly sought out the track routes of all of Cincinnati’s historic streetcar, interurban and railroad lines, only a small fraction of which exist today. His complete map of the Cincinnati area is at http://jjakucyk.com/transit/index.html#map. The site also contains pictures of historic rail bed as they look today.
The map has been annotated to show the location of the 1885 trestle collapse.
Cincinnati & Eastern Railroad
The Cincinnati and Eastern Railway was a narrow gauge line that ran from Norwood, near Cincinnati, to Portsmouth, Ohio. At Norwood, it connected with the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern (CL&N) and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). At Portsmouth, it connected to the Scioto Valley Railway. The C&E was originally chartered as the Cincinnati, Batavia & Williamsburg in January of 1876, but only five months later changed its name to the C&E and extended its intended route to Portsmouth. Construction started immediately, and by October, 1876, 15 miles of track had been opened. On March 1, 1878, the Cincinnati and Eastern opened the first part of a branch line to New Richmond. The C&E soon ran into financial difficulties and went into receivership in 1879. Little work was completed while in receivership, but the branch line was extended to Blairville (today the location of the Duke Energy Beckjord Power Plant) in 1879 and to New Richmond on March 1, 1880. The receivership was lifted in March, 1881. The line went into receivership again in 1883, but the line was completed all the way to Portsmouth by August 1884. While still in receivership, the line started to convert to standard gauge, but the August 8 trestle collapse greatly aggravated the company’s financial problems. In 1866, the New Richmond branch line was sold to William P. DeVou, who renamed it the Cincinnati, New Richmond and Ohio River Railroad. But by July 1889, the line ceased operations and was dismantled nine years later.
Newspaper Coverage of August 8, 1885 Trestle Collapse
The C&E trestle collapse occurred on the same day as Ulysses S. Grant, the U.S. general and commander of the Union armies in the American Civil War and later the 18th president of the United States, was buried in New York City. Grant was born in nearby Point Pleasant, only a few miles upriver from New Richmond. As a result, the front several pages of both the Commercial Gazette and the Cincinnati Enquirer were dedicated to the funeral, and the story of trestle disaster was limited to only short stories in the interior pages of both papers.
Cincinnati Commercial Gazette
August 9, 1885
August 9, 1885
1.Cincinnati & Eastern Railroad”, ABANDONED – The story of a forgotten America, January 17, 2016, <http://abandonedonline.net/locations/railroads/cincinnati-and-eastern-railroad/>