The Arches is a 665-foot, 17-arch viaduct in Hamilton. John S. Earhart's legacy is a highly-visible one -- the stone arches which have carried the railroad over the low land and into the hill immediately west of the Great Miami River since 1855.
Earhart -- who designed the arches in 1853 -- was born March 10, 1824, in Jacksonburg. His family moved to Hamilton in 1826. Following in his father's footsteps, he studied civil engineering at Ohio Farmer's College in College Hill (now a Cincinnati suburb), and assisted his father in projects, including the building and maintenance of turnpikes, hydraulic canals and railroads. The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad -- the first to enter Hamilton (1851) -- was more than three years from completion when another line was planned, this one extending west from Hamilton. The Junction Railroad was incorporated Feb. 15, 1848, by the Indiana legislature to connect Hamilton, Oxford, College Corner, Connersville, Rushville and Indianapolis. Similar action was taken March 8, 1849, by the Ohio General Assembly.
The Junction Railroad faced several obstacles, including rival railroads which hoped to capture a portion of the promising Cincinnati-Indianapolis business.
The plan was to approach Oxford via Darrtown, a more gradual grade than the route it eventually followed. The scheme was thwarted when a rival, the Four Mile Valley Railroad, gained the right-of-way through Darrtown. Planners and investors realized that building the Junction Railroad directly west from Hamilton (elevation 601 feet) to Oxford (elevation about 1,000 feet) posed some engineering challenges. The grade from the CH&D depot in Hamilton for four miles west to the summit averaged 65 feet to the mile. Major tasks included bridging the Great Miami River and climbing the steep Rossville hill (between present South C and South D streets). Earhart decided to overcome the Rossville incline by building a gradual approach from Hamilton on the east side of the river. This would include (1) embankments on the east side of river, (2) a high bridge of about 700 feet in length over the Great Miami, (3) a stone viaduct over the low area in Rossville and (4) cutting the railroad into the hillside below ground level for several hundred yards to a point near present Millville Avenue. A key to Earhart's plan was the 665-foot,17-arch viaduct through what is now Hamilton's West Side. The coping and heading stones for the viaduct were purchased from Dayton quarries, but the bulk of the stone was taken from what then was the farm of C. K. Smith on then Eaton Turnpike, near the mouth of Four Mile Creek.
Work on the 98-mile railroad began in September 1853 -- two years after the CH&D started operations into Hamilton. Thanks to Earhart's engineering skill and the financial and political leadership of John Woods, the new president of the railroad, the Junction opened to Oxford June 4, 1859. The railroad reached the Ohio-Indiana line at College Corner in November 1859.
When the Civil War started in April 1861, Earhart was chief engineer on the middle section of the Miami-Erie Canal. He left that job to take command of Company C of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Later, Earhart was appointed a topographical engineer, service that capitalized on his civilian training and experience. Earhart became ill while serving at Camp Thomas, near Winchester, Tenn. He died Aug. 10, 1863, at age 39. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton. (See Rossville and Rossville Historic District.)