Journal-News, Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Ohio State Limited designed for business traveler
By Jim Blount
For Butler County business travelers, the Ohio State Limited was a convenient passenger train. The New York Central train allowed an executive or sales representative to leave work in mid afternoon and be in New York City to transact business the next morning. If business was brief, it was possible to return home on a similar schedule on the Cincinnati-bound OSL.
Although the eastbound Ohio State Limited originated in Cincinnati, most Butler County passengers boarded at the Middletown station. In 1938, train No. 16 departed Cincinnati Union Terminal at 3:30 p.m. and stopped in Middletown at 4:12. Other scheduled stops included Cleveland at 8:30 p.m., Buffalo, N. Y., at 12:05 a.m. and Albany at 5:30 a.m. with arrival in New York City at 8:20 a.m.
Westbound No. 15 had a 17 and a half hour schedule, leaving New York at 3 p.m., arriving in Middletown at 7:40 a.m. and terminating in Cincinnati at 8:30.
Both schedules were arranged to accommodate business travelers -- leaving in the afternoon and arriving at each end before 9 o'clock the next morning, plus connections to trains to other cities.
The Ohio State Limited either started or terminated at Grand Central Terminal in the heart of New York City at East 42nd Street and Park Avenue. The New York Central -- which had opened the magnificent terminal in 1913 -- described it as "an architectural as well as an engineering triumph" in its 1924 timetables.
Both legs of the OSL provided the comforts and conveniences that first-class business travelers demanded. It had started as an all-Pullman (sleeping car) train.
In 1938, the westbound train offered dining car service between New York and Syracuse (dinner) and Columbus and Cincinnati (breakfast) in addition to coaches, sleeping cars and a lounge car. It also included sleeping cars for Boston-Cincinnati, Buffalo-Cincinnati, New York-St. Louis and Boston-St. Louis passengers.
At Albany, N. Y., the eastbound OSL connected to trains serving Springfield, Worcester and Boston in Massachusetts.
The Ohio State Limited was one of 18 passenger trains that stopped in Middletown in 1938, according to the NYC timetable. Other named passenger trains included the Cleveland Special, the New York Special, the Knickerbocker, the Hudson River Express and the Midnight Special.
In 1946 -- a year after World War II ended as railroad passenger service returned to normal -- the NYC cut 45 minutes off the OSL schedule, making the Cincinnati-New York run in 16 hours and 45 minutes.
Ridership and service started to decline in the 1950s and 1960s. The New York Central -- known locally as the Big Four -- eventually merged with its former rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, as the Penn Central.
There was no Ohio State Limited listed on the last passenger timetable published by the Penn Central March 3, 1971, less than two months before newly-created Amtrak assumed responsibility for a reduced national passenger system.
The last Penn Central passenger trains through Middletown -- one in each direction -- were known as the Cincinnati Limited, numbers 77 and 78. Their routes were radically different than the OSL, bypassing Cleveland, Buffalo and Albany.
Between Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York, the 752-mile Cincinnati Limited was combined with the Spirit of St. Louis that connected St. Louis and New York via Indianapolis.
Only the schedule resembled the former Ohio State Limited. Eastbound No. 78 left Middletown at 5:02 p.m. and arrived in New York at 9:20 a.m.; westbound No. 77 departed New York at 4:05 p.m. and reached Middletown at 8:02 a.m.
Penn Central 77 and 78 made their last stops in Middletown April 30, 1971. Amtrak, which began operations the next day, has never included Middletown on its routes.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Cincinnatian: area's classiest passenger train
By Jim Blount
The classiest passenger train to operate through Butler County was the Baltimore & Ohio's Cincinnatian, a highlight of the final years of B&O passenger service. After being introduced as a Baltimore-Washington-Cincinnati train with limited stops, the Cincinnatian had its greatest success operating daily between Cincinnati and Detroit. It attracted lookers and admirers on both routes.
"It was the most talked about, most photographed train on the entire Baltimore & Ohio," said Harry Stegmaier, author of books on B&O passenger service. "Rail photographers came from everywhere to encounter this steam-powered streamliner."
Featuring a royal blue color scheme, each train was a matched set of cars and a stylish locomotive. The steam engines were the 4-6-2 Pacific type, all with presidential names (Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe). The B&O added a bullet-nosed shroud and sleek skirting to each of the four P7 locomotives, numbered 5301 through 5304.
Each passenger car bore a familiar Cincinnati area place name -- Fountain Square, Peebles Corner, Eden Park, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Winton Place, College Hill, Walnut Hills, Oakley and Norwood.
The Cincinnatian's first run between Baltimore, Washington and Cincinnati was Jan. 19, 1947. Trains 75 and 76 were scheduled to complete the 570 miles in 12 and a half hours. The westbound train left Baltimore and Washington at 8 and 9 a.m., respectively, and reached Cincinnati at 8:30 p.m. Eastward, departure from Union Terminal was 8:45 a.m. with arrivals in Washington and Baltimore at 8:15 and 9:15 p.m.
Each train in each direction was limited to five cars. The first was a combination baggage-buffet-lounge and the last was a round-end observation car that seated 23 people in the dining area and 21 in a lounge.
The B&O advertised the Cincinnatian as a "deluxe, all-coach, daylight streamliner" with "extra comfort, extra thrills and a break for your budget." Amenities included lounges, diner, coffee shop, stewardess-nurse service, radio programs, "refreshing air conditioning" and "plenty of room for walking about."
But the Cincinnatian didn't meet ridership expectations and by 1949 it was losing money. Trains 75 and 76 made their last trips between Baltimore and Cincinnati June 24, 1950.
The next day, June 25, 1950, the B&O reassigned the royal blue train sets as No. 53 southbound and No. 54 northbound on the Cincinnati-Detroit corridor through Butler County.
A 1953 timetable had the Cincinnatian making the 258.1-mile trip in five hours and 50 minutes with 13 stops. Another train (No. 355) with numerous stops covered the same route in seven hours. Southbound it left Detroit at 3:10 p.m. with stops in Dayton at 7:30, West Middletown 7:58, and Hamilton 8:15 with a 9 p.m. arrival in Cincinnati. In 1956, diesel-electric locomotives replaced the four steam engines.
A decline in service was evident by 1964 when the northbound schedule was changed to overnight, leaving Cincinnati at 11 p.m., stopping in Hamilton at 11:54 and arriving in Detroit at 7:15 a.m., eight hours and 15 minutes in duration. Food and beverages were available en route, but not in the style of the Cincinnatian diner of earlier years.
In 1970 and 1971, the Cincinnatian was the only B&O train on the Cincinnati-Detroit route. The trains no longer offered checked baggage. Passengers had to carry their own luggage on and off the coaches.
Food wasn't available either. The 1970 timetable said "food and beverages may be purchased at Toledo station during station stop." That meant a long wait for hungry northbound riders who left Hamilton at 10:47 a.m. and arrived in Toledo at 2:30 p.m. Southbound, the train departed Toledo at 11:45 a.m. and stopped in Hamilton at 3:25 p.m.
The B&O was still using the name and same numbers when the railroad ended passenger service April 30, 1971. Northbound 54 left Hamilton depot at 10:47 a.m.; the southbound Cincinnatian departed at 3:25 p.m. Amtrak, the federal rail system that began operating the next day, May 1, has never offered Cincinnati-Detroit service.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Three to six inches of snow surprised area May 21, 1883
By Jim Blount
Normal May temperatures for Butler County range from highs between 68 and 77 and lows from 45 to 54 degrees, and the average temperature for the 31 days in the month varies from 56 to 66. But May 21, 1883 -- with three to six inches of snow covering Hamilton -- wasn't a normal day in May. It is the latest measurable snow in the area since the start of official weather records in 1871.
"The severe snow storm Monday sent fear and consternation to each heart. In the memory of the oldest inhabitants a snow storm has never taken place in this vicinity as late as May 21st," noted the Butler County Democrat.
With trees in leaf, the weight of snow caused branches to droop or break. Some trees split and had to be cut down. Crop damage was reported in rural Butler County by the unexpected winter blast. A newspaper said "there are grave apprehensions" for the fruit and wheat, and that many fruit trees "were also broken down."
"The heavy rain storm that commenced here Saturday evening continued unabated until last evening when it turned to snow," reported the Tuesday, May 22, 1883, edition of the Hamilton Daily News.
"For several hours the snow fell as rapidly as at any time during the past winter. The trees were overloaded and many branches were broken off because of the heavy weight. About 9 o'clock last night the streets presented a picturesque appearance," the newspaper said.
"For the 21st of May it was certainly a peculiar storm," said the Daily News of the surprise snow that extended over parts of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. "The heaviest fall was through the center of this state from west to east. At Lima the fall is reported to have amounted to 12 inches and at Upper Sandusky it was the worst storm of the year. The mercury was nearly down to the freezing point, and there are grave apprehensions lest the fruit and wheat will suffer. Sunday night there was a severe storm on the lakes, and losses are reported to shipping."
A three-day storm began May 20 on Lakes Michigan and Huron, damaging and destroying about 100 vessels on Lake Huron. The May 20-21 storm dumped five inches of snow on Detroit, interspersed with rain and wind up to 36 miles an hour. That still ranks as the latest measurable snow in Detroit. May 18, 1883, a tornado killed 52 in central and northern Illinois.
The Daily News said "at 5 o'clock [May 21 in Hamilton] our thermometer had dropped to 34 degrees, with the snow still filling the air. At 6 o'clock there was a betterment of the situation by one degree. By 11 o'clock the thermometer had risen still further, 36 degrees being marked." By 2 p.m. Tuesday, the local temperature was up to 47.
"The lowest temperature for the month so far, according to the Signal Service, is 35 degrees," the Daily News said. "Since 1871 the nearest approach to this fall was on May 1, 1876, when the thermometer dropped to 36 degrees. This year we have not only one degree colder than the 1876 record, but it comes 20 days later in the month."
"The deep snow was the capping event of a cold, backward month of May," said the Butler County Democrat. Through May 22, 1883, that month's warmest Hamilton reading had been 85 degrees on May 9.
May 21, 1883, is the record late snow in western Ohio, according to Thomas W. Schmidlin and Jeanne Appelbans Schmidlin in their 1994 book, Thunder in the Heartland, A Chronicle of Outstanding Weather Events in Ohio.
"May snow has fallen several times in Ohio history, usually an inch or two during the first week of the month. The event of May 21, 1883, stands out as an exceptionally late, heavy snow in western Ohio, one that has not been matched in more than 100 years," wrote the Schmidlins.
"The heavy snow was limited to western Ohio and eastern Indiana," according to the Schmidlins. "Little snow fell at Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland." Cincinnati reported only a trace of snow, but the 1.76 inches of precipitation, mostly rain, is the record for that date. The Queen City's all-time low temperature for May 21 remains the 36 degrees recorded in 1883.
The May 21 highs and lows for the last five years in the Hamilton-Fairfield area have ranged from 36 to 86 degrees. They include a high of 86 and a low of 72 last year -- 66 and 51 in 2003 -- 56 and 36 in 2002 -- 76 and 52 in 2001 -- and 70 and 54 in 2000.
According to the National Weather Service, the average date for the last spring freeze (32 degrees or less) is April 12 in Cincinnati; April 19 in Columbus; and April 20 in Dayton.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Market superintendent had many responsibilities
(A revival of the courthouse market continues under the sponsorship of Historic Hamilton Inc. The market operates Saturdays from 7 a.m. until noon in downtown Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
A vital part of Hamilton commerce for more than a century was the market conducted three days a week around the Butler County Courthouse under the close supervision of the superintendent of markets, an important appointment by the mayor. The popular market began before 1820 and its location was moved several times.
The superintendent -- formerly known as the market master -- was paid $150 a year, according to an 1876 ordinance that outlined his numerous duties and powers.
The city established the market "for the sale of meats, fish, vegetables and other articles necessary for the sustenance, convenience and comfort of the inhabitants" Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday "from daylight in the morning until 12 o'clock noon" under the 1876 regulations.
In the ordinance, city council reserved the courthouse sides of High, South Second, Court (then Basin) and South Front streets for the market. It had been located there since 1861.
The ordinance also specified that the south side of High Street between Monument Avenue (then Water Street ) and Front Street was exclusively for meat and fish vendors, and "no meat or fish shall be sold or offered for sale" in other market spaces. Front Street was reserved for dealers in wood and hay.
The superintendent was required to maintain a scale and other implements "at some place convenient to market" and "whenever requested, weigh or measure any article presented" and "test every suspected weight and measure."
He was responsible for placing wagons and other vehicles "so as best to suit the convenience of buyers and sellers," and "to adjust, arrange and direct the stands and situations for the sale of all articles not sold from wagons."
Managing the placement of vendors was a complicated task in the late 19th century when from 75 to more than 100 sellers showed up for the Hamilton market. A part of the ordinance stated that there should be "as little vacant space between them [sellers] as is reasonably necessary."
At peak times the demand exceeded curbside space and some dealers were double and triple parked in the street.
The superintendent had the authority "to remove all obstructions and all nuisances" and "to seize and immediately destroy all tainted or unsound meat or other provisions."
He also had the "power to remove all disorderly persons" and those who "violate the regulations of the market."
Violators faced prosecution before the mayor. Those convicted of resisting the superintendent were fined $10, plus the costs of prosecution.
Sellers were prohibited from placing wagons, other vehicles, barrels, boxes, benches or other articles in the market place "until the evening preceding the regular market day." They also were required to remove all items when the market closed at noon.
Meat dealers had to weigh sales "upon beam scales, unless the quantity so sold exceed 30 pounds."
A section of the 1876 ordinance declared it unlawful "to sell or offer for sale . . . any tainted or unsound meat, or any unwholesome, damaged or spoiled provisions of any kind, and it shall likewise be unlawful for any person to lay or place any garbage, offal, filth or rubbish in any part" of the market area.
All items were required to be sold by the standard weight and measure under Ohio law.
Other prohibitions included the auction or sale of personal property during market hours, and the resale of provisions and articles purchased at market. The latter restriction was in force not only in the market area, but throughout the city.
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