The history of transportation in Ohio is marked by three eras: the first, that of the stagecoach and freight wagon; second, the canal; and third the railroad. The opening of the canals at once brought a wonderful improvement in the material progress in the state.
The introduction of railroads was more gradual, but vastly more important in its effect.
The first railroad chartered and constructed in Ohio was the Mad River and Lake Erie (Sandusky to Dayton). Its charter was granted in 1832, and the road opened to Belleview (16 miles) in 1839. It was completed to Springfield by 1848 and extended to Dayton, connecting with the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad, thus providing competition with the Little Miami Railroad for traffic west. The first train left for Dayton on this road January 21, 1851.
Throughout the decade of the 1850’s railway construction in the State of Ohio increased rapidly. The Springfield, Mount Vernon and Pittsburg Railroad had its inception in 1851. There was a generous rivalry among the various companies seeking advantageous connections. Springfield was beginning to grow as a strong, competitive industrial power in the Midwest, and thus was at the forefront of establishing through lines both east and west to ship their goods and products more quickly, in larger quantities and, in the bigger picture, at a lesser cost.
Growing sectionalism and the conflict between the North and the South before the Civil War had tended to block large scale projects, but the war itself gave tremendous impetus to railroads, which aided in the transportation of troops and supplies. This was especially true in the north. After the Civil War had ended, the great battles of the railway financiers began. Moguls like Cornelius Vanderbilt consolidated the New York Central R.R. system, but he, like Jay Gould, Daniel Drew, and James Fisk were accused of acting with complete disregard for the American public. By the early 1870’s, the public were clamoring for more and better access to this mode of transportation. That clamor was being heard from the citizens here in New Carlisle, especially from the business community and the farmers.
The 25 years after the Civil War more than doubled the existing American Railroad track miles, changing the face of America forever. This allowed for products made in the east to be shipped to the expanding west less expensively than previous. It also allowed for an economy of scale-larger, more efficient factories. The agricultural heartland of America was no longer confined to a market of a single day’s trip by wagon. Railroad and railway construction became one of the largest industries during that era. By 1881, one out of 32 people in the United States was either employed by a railroad company, or engaged in railroad construction.
By the late 1870’s, there was once again here in the village spirited discussions going on among the residents about the possibility of a new railroad project, or rather the revival of an old one-that is, the building of a standard gauge railroad line (rails approximately six feet apart, while the ties are eight feet long) from Springfield west through, New Carlisle, Troy to Bradford Junction and onward to points west including Chicago.
An article appearing in the Springfield Republic newspaper on 1 January 1880, written by the editor of the local New Carlisle Sun editorialized as follows:
“The time has now come for the good people of Springfield City to consider for a moment that they want a road which will answer the best purposes, and by the shortest, quickest route to connect them with the northwest and Chicago. A standard gauge suits our people here in New Carlisle; it suits the best men of Troy, and our prospects is fair now to lay hold at the opportune moment and finish the link by passing the Springfield Southern Railroad through New Carlisle and Troy on to Bradford Junction, thus making the route direct to Chicago. Tis’ the most feasible, the best, the most direct and passes the best and most level country. It also meets the approbation of our best citizens. You men of Springfield should care something for New Carlisle, your own country village, and help us to take up and pass through the best project presented to you-Eh?”
Consideration was being given at the time to run the line further north through Sidney., Ohio. The correspondent voiced the opinion of the local farmers, merchants and residents by suggesting that the proposed route through our City would connect the Western outlet to Chicago by a far shorter line. Also. it could be build for a far lesser cost, and above all, he remarked, “it will pass through your own county, carrying the products of Clark County and her citizens, and in so doing bring back to us coal we so much need in this part of the county.” He further exclaimed, “Think of it! Think of it! But don’t think too long. The next best thing is to act.”
In 1880, New Carlisle was a thriving agricultural community with some of the finest and most fertile farmland in the Miami Valley. It was also noted for its nurseries, bee supply manufactory, force and lift pump manufactory, creamery, woolen, grist, flour and saw mills, all operated by water power. The population in 1880 was 818 people. It was noted as one of the more attractive villages in this part of the state, but the absence of railroad facilities was a serious drawback to its growth. It was certainly understandable then that when the people became aware that the railroad might possibly becoming their way they would become aroused from their lethargy and build up great expectations for the future of the village. The citizens did become aroused and the village took on new life, made extensive improvements and by November of 1880 the editor of the Sun reported that the railroad fever was greatly affecting our community. He wrote, “We hope that the disease may spread and really become a contagion until our business men, moneyed men, and everybody shall have it and thereafter we do immediately want the railroad itself. Give her a “hyste,” boys. It must come this time.”
And then in December of 1880, through the Springfield Republic newspaper, the editor once again chastised the men with pocket books, ‘to slap down their thousands, for mind you, he said, that is the way railroads are built.”
By January 1881, it seemed more positive that the railroad was to be built through our village. It was reported that the engineers for the railroad were in Miami County surveying and would shortly be in the New Carlisle area to do a thorough survey as to the best possible location for a rail line. It was indicated that the prospects looked good.
One major concern for the engineers was the hilly condition and the heavy limestone concentration of the county near the mad river west of Springfield. They were uncertain whether the present line could be run that way or not. Upon reaching Springfield, it was not known whether the line would come up the creek valley toward the city or travel in a northwest direction. By late January 1881 the engineering surveyors had reached Black Horse Tavern located near Marquart, and Black Road in Pike Township. The engineers were progressing about one-mile per day.
By February 1881 the Springfield Republic reported that “if ever you wish to see a town red hot on any subject you might drop down on New Carlisle and listen to the people talk, think, and dream railroad.” “The meetings here were reported to be quite large and enthusiastic, and the farmers, without a single exception, had taken a strong interest in the project. The bona fide subscriptions were considerably more than twenty-five thousand dollars with more available if needed.” It was later reported that approximately thirty-five thousand dollars was raised in total in less than two weeks. which finally solidified the direction the railroad was to follow.
On March 24, 1881, a Consolidation by Agreement between the Indiana, Bloomington and Western, and the Ohio, Indiana and Pacific Railway companies was concluded. By April 23, 1881 it appeared that the railroad business was settled. The great “Moguls,” were those very days determining the exact location as to where the line would pass through New Carlisle. I. B. and W. formally announced the construction of the railroad through Troy, Rex Station, New Carlisle and points east on May 10, 1881.
The following day, May 11th, New Carlisle residents were rejoicing that there is no longer any doubt of the I. B. & W. leaving New Carlisle out in the cold. The paper reported that “the flags were waving in the breeze, and I’ll bet were glad. ‘Nuff’ said.”
Work began in earnest on Monday June 1, 1881 about one mile east of town. The intervening six miles of grade, which passed through town, and five miles west was to be undertaken in a few days. Our entertaining New Carlisle correspondent when learning of this news exclaimed, “then look out for the cow-catcher in a few more months-Whoop-but hold on, guess we had not ought to be yelling until we get out of the woods!”
In anticipation of the imminent coming of the railroad to New Carlisle, Mr. A.N. Brooks, the enterprising grain dealer here in New Carlisle, and Mr. James Hamilton of London, Ohio, one of the most extensive and experienced grain dealers in this part of the state, consummated a joint agreement. Together they purchased a tract of land at the most convenient and accessible points on the I. B. & W. R.R. on which they were to erect one of the largest and most complete elevators and grain warehouses in this part of the county. It was to contain all the modern improvements and conveniences by which the labor of unloading the grain from wagons and loading it onto cars would be reduced to the minimum.
The corn sheller, which they intended to put in the building, was to be one of the most improved patterns, and of sufficient capacity to shell all the corn raised in the vicinity. The power to operate the sheller was by steam engine. The work on the building was to begin as soon as they knew exactly where the track of the I. B. &. W. road was to be laid.
No enterprise connected with the I. B. &. W. extension was of more interest to the farmers in this community than this bit of news. The value of the grain crop depended largely upon the facility from which it could be marketed and shipped. With a modern facility like this the local farmers could be assured that they would receive fair and reasonable prices for their produce. It was further reported that this facility would also handle the sale of coal and lumber. This part of the business was of much interest to the people of the town as well as those of the surrounding community, as they proposed keeping all kinds of coal constantly on hand and delivering it to consumers at lower prices.
By late fall of 1881, officials of the Indiana, Bloomington and Western Railroad Company were predicting that with mild winter weather they could be through laying rail by the first of May 1882. Contractors were pushing their work vigorously with rails being laid eastward and westward from Lynn and New Castle, Indiana, and from Arcanum, Ohio, and the road is nearly completed between this city and Troy. When completed in May of 1882, the trunk line will run from Peoria, Illinois, eastward through Bloomington, Illinois, Indianapolis, Indiana, thence to Troy, New Carlisle, Springfield and on to Columbus, Ohio. With Springfield serving as a center for several rail lines through the city, I. B. & W. will have radiating outlets in all directions south, east, north and west.
The last spike in the Eastern Division of the I. B. & W., was driven at a point between Losantiville, Indiana and Ludlow Falls, Ohio on Sunday, May 1, 1882. Over 2500 people including Dr. Benjamin Neff and an entourage from New Carlisle were present to witness the completion of the line and the driving of the ceremonial spike. It was to be noted that for them to get the line open, several fills and permanent bridges were not yet in place and temporary trestles had to be used.
On Monday, the second day of May 1882, the I. B. & W. Railway Director’s car (combination of sleeper and dining car) with locomotive, left Union Deport in Indianapolis at 8:00 a. m. They traveled east making stops in New Castle, Indiana, Troy, New Carlisle, and arrived in Springfield just before eight o’clock that evening. The party on board consisted of C. E. Henderson, General Manager, Charles W. Fairbanks, General Solicitor, Col. H. C. Moore, Chief Engineer, Honorable William A. Harding of New York, and George Burnett, Assistant Chief Engineer.
This was a tour for inspection of the work completed-track, sidings, bridges, culverts, etc. The run was slow with no attempt for speed. Much of the road was yet unballasted and the entire force of construction hands were at work completing this job. It was reported that the opening to general traffic would not likely be made until the work had been complete in the best possible manner, which was to consume four to six weeks.
The party was well satisfied with the inspection tour and believed the road to be one of the best in the country. The section between Springfield and Troy was exceptionally well done. It was possible for them to make a mile a minute over this section.
On arrival in Springfield, the car was placed on a side track at the passenger station and the officials were taken to the Lagonda House for supper, afterwards holding business consultation with local officials until 10:30 p.m. They then returned to their quarters on the car. They left the next morning for Columbus for a continuation of necessary business transactions and returned to Indianapolis that evening.
The Springfield Republic reported in the May 13, 1882 edition that the Indiana, Bloomington and Western Railway were to open for traffic June 15 or July 1st. It also reported that this West/East line, running through the heart of the country, was one of the most important and promising railway organizations in the country. The system embraces 800 miles of excellent road, is completely and absolutely under one management and that management is liberal and public-spirited as well as intelligent, experienced and capable. Its main track stretches over the territory of the three richest agricultural States of the Union, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
Company officials further reported that there would be three trains daily with a possible fourth to run from Peoria to Columbus through New Carlisle and Springfield. Sleepers were also to run from Peoria through Springfield and Columbus to Baltimore, Washington and New York over the lines of the Baltimore and Ohio Company, and an. arrangement contemplated as to which passenger trains would travel through Springfield to the Atlantic seacoast by the same route.
The following official circular was released By I. B. & W. on Wednesday May 30, 1882 announcing that two passenger trains would run each way, except Sunday, between Springfield, New Carlisle and Troy. The time of arrival and departure of passenger trains on the new road was as follows: The accommodations leave Springfield at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Troy at 8:25 a.m. The afternoon passenger train will leave Springfield at 2:00 p.m. and arrive in Troy at 3:30 p.m.
The morning passenger train from Troy will leave the city at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Springfield at 10:15 a.m. The afternoon accommodations leave Troy at 4:15 p.m. and arrive in Springfield at 6:30 p.m. The stations along the road from Springfield to Troy will be located at the New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio Crossing in Durbin, 5 miles west of Springfield; Snyder’s, 8 miles; New Carlisle, 13 miles; Brown’s Station (Rex, west of New Carlisle at Dayton-Brandt Road) 15 miles; Pleasant Run, 19 miles; and Troy, 25 miles.
On June 1, 1882, the first regular train west from Springfield left on time that morning, consisting of a passenger car, baggage car, and several freight cars. There were several passengers. On the return trip from Troy the train brought to the city a delegation of leading citizens from New Carlisle who spent several hours shopping and then returned to New Carlisle on the 2 p.m. train. The Republic reported that “it was a great day for the citizens of New Carlisle whose great longing for the railroad was at last supplied. The excursionist positively beamed!”
Less than a year later the Town Council passed an ordinance granting permission to erect and maintain a system of telegraph in the village. By October of 1886 Council approved a contract with Mr. F. J. Hughes to extend the telegraph system by erecting a line of poles from the Post Office to the railroad depot.
The I. B. & W. was at first an enterprising business, running three or four passenger trains each day, as well as through or local freight trains. There was even hope that the railroad would be an inspiration for possible growth in manufacturing enterprises here in New Carlisle. But that hope was never realized. Passenger traffic from Springfield to Indianapolis via New Carlisle became less profitable over the years, especially after the invention of the automobile. It was finally discontinued in October of 1949. The road was used exclusively for freight after that date. The citizens of the community in the early days humorously applied the nickname to the railroad as “Indiana Bologna Works,” or “I’d Better Walk.”
Unfortunately, the newly created rail line was destined from the very beginning to struggle and experience financial problems in making a go of it. Its problems were heightened by the depression in the early to mid-1880’s. Just five years after the March 24, 1881 consolidation, the Indiana, Bloomington and Western Railway entered receivership on July 1, 1886. This news created quite a sensation throughout the area.
The United States District Court for the District of Indiana appointed C. E. Henderson (General Manager) as the Receiver. Apparently, the Cincinnati, Sandusky and Cleveland road was demanding a higher lease payment for use of lines from the Indiana, Bloomington and Western railroad than they were willing to agree to. The I. B. & W. were already paying C. S. & C. $75,000 per annum. The C. S. & C. was demanding an additional payment of $70,000. It argued that under the original terms of the contract they were entitled to this amount.
The day following the announcement by the Indiana District Court, it was reported that the appointment of the receiver was conditional until and upon like action being taken by the Court of the Sixth Ohio Circuit Court, and that it will not be operative until such action is taken. This was necessary because a part of the railway system was outside the jurisdiction of the Indiana Court.
During the last year of the depression the Indiana, Bloomington and Western had paid Cincinnati, Sandusky and Cleveland company more than its fixed charges, and more than the I. B. & W. earned by operating its roads. They refused to pay. C. W. Fairbanks, General Solicitor of the I. B. & W. Railroad, reported that the affairs of the company had been conducted in a prudent and conservative manner. He further reported that Mr. Corbin, who owned a considerable share of the I. B. & W., and the friends of the company had stood by it faithfully through the recent depression, and continue to believe the company has excellent prospects for the future in the west. (C. W. Fairbanks was later to be elected to the U. S. Senate from Indiana, and in 1904 Vice President to Theodore Roosevelt.)
On March 28, 1887, a receiver’s sale took place, which resulted in the formation of the Springfield and Western Railway Company. This deal consisted only of the trackage in Ohio and may have existed only as an instrument of reorganization. Later in 1887, the Ohio, Indiana and Western Railway Company formed because of the reorganization of the I. B. & W., Springfield and Western, and the Indiana and Western Railway, which was the Indiana segment of the I. B. & W. This merger was back in receivership by November 11, 1887 and foreclosed on January 9, 1890.
During these early years of rapid railroad expansion, competition and abuses were rampant. During the turnpike and canal building booms, the federal and state governments had done much of the financing, consequently, during the panic of 1837 the State of Ohio, as well as other states found it necessary to repudiate the debts thus incurred. This experience discouraged government participation in the railroad boom that was just beginning and accounted in large part for private instead of public ownership of railroads in the United States.
Finally, in 1987 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was established to cope with the abuses that had resulted in part from the rapid expansion of the railroads, who’s steadily increasing power, excessive rates, and rebate policy had caused much popular discontent. For years the ICC sought to establish adequate controls over the railroads but lacked the necessary power. Its authority was accordingly increased over the next several years by additional legislation until, in 1906 the Hepburn Act gave it, among other powers, that of fixing rates. Subsequent legislation further expanded federal regulatory power.
During the 1913 Dayton Miami Valley Great Flood, Honey Creek turned into a little “Mad River” as described by one New Carlisle resident. It, like all the other tributaries throughout the valley, poured its contents into the lowlands in the surrounding community. Though not effected itself by the floodwaters, New Carlisle was surrounded on the east, south and west by the floodwaters. The railroad trestle over Honey Creek at the south end of town was damaged severely while the Traction Line Bridge entering the village was destroyed completely. Two additional bridges and considerable track were washed out on the line between Springfield and New Carlisle, thus disrupting service for some extended period.
In 1917 the federal government took over control of the railroads for the duration of World War I. Although the transportation Act of 1920 returned the railroads to their private owners, it also granted the ICC general control over the lines including the right to mediate labor disputes, which had become an important factor. Organization of railway labor began with the unionization (1864) of locomotive engineers; by 1900, railroad personnel were organized on an almost nationwide basis. The many unions were headed by the Big Four-the brotherhood of the engineers, the fireman and engineers, the conductors and the trainmen.
The decline of the railroads continued at an accelerated pace in the 1920’s. Mismanagement, the popularity and competition of the automobile caused passenger travel to decline. After World War II, Steam Power engines begun a rapid decline and diesel power locomotives that were lighter, faster, more streamlined, build of steel and aluminum, and air-conditioned were introduced, and for a time, seemed to increase more long-distance passenger train routes. Despite the changes, however, especially passenger travel failed to revive the industry.
In 1968. the Pennsylvania Company and New York Central Transportation System merged to form the Pennsylvania-New York Central Transportation Company, the largest railway system in the United States. Two years later in 1970 they went into bankruptcy and collapsed.
The Railroads Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, and later the Staggers Act of 1980 deregulated the industry by making it easier for railroads to set their own rates, abandon unprofitable lines, and buy other railroads, thus creating economies of scale. But even these measures of intended assistance seemed incapable of halting the decline.
On April 7, 1976, John Stratton, editor of the New Carlisle Sun, reported in that day’s edition of the paper about the last diesel-powered train through New Carlisle. The date was Wednesday 31 March 1976. On hand at the Big Four station, were members of the New Carlisle Historical Society, including Henry Brubaker, Arthur Clark, Marion (Bud) Clark, Charles and Cathy Harvey, George and Jane Herold, and Cindy Harshbarger. The following is an account written by Cindy of the historical significance of that day. “Although Wednesday was a cold and gray day, this by no means chilled our excitement. The train stopped at the site of the depot (nothing is left of the building now except the foundation) and we had a chance to talk with crew and take quite a few pictures. Three of the local on-lookers were treated to a short train ride. They were Henry Brubaker, Cathy Harvey and Cindy Harshbarger. After a short stay, the train left foe Arcanum and dissolved into nothing more than a historical footnote.” The crew of this last train through town included engineer, B. F. Mann from Lynn, Indiana; fireman, A. J. Werton; conductor, M. L. Lafferty from Indianapolis, flagman, K. R. O’Donnell and brakeman, M. D. Gerald from Bloomington, Indiana.