Iron Railroad

On February 2, 1848, a Special Act of the Ohio General Assembly authorized the incorporation of the Iron Railroad Company, and during 1849-50 a six-mile 4′ 10″ gauge line was built from Ironton to the Vesuvius Tunnel Mines and extended in 1853 to Center Station. The first trains used locomotives brought to Ironton via boats along the Ohio River. The only tunnel in the D T &I system is located near the north end of this original segment of the Iron Railroad. Typical of the era’s primitive construction methods, cross ties were placed every six feet supporting timber stringers to which were spiked strap rails said to be obtained from the Little Miami Railroad. Timber bridges were supported by stone abutments. By 1858, though, the structure spanning Sterrns Creek north of Ironton was considered too weak to carry increased loads and a wrought iron bow-string truss bridge, patented by Thomas William Moseley and built by Moseley Iron Bridge Company and fabricated in Cincinnati, was erected over the stream. This wrought-iron bridge remained in service until 1924, when it was removed and placed on exhibition in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, some years later. The only tunnel in the D T &I system is located near the north end of this original segment of the Iron Railroad and was opened in 1851 with a length of 956 feet.

July 30, 1881, the Iron Railroad Company entered into an agreement with the Toledo, Delphos and Burlington Railroad Company (TD&B). The TD&B was narrow-gauge, and in accepting the agreement, the Iron Railroad allowed the TD&B to place its rails with a 3-foot gauge within the rails of the 4.10-foot gauge Iron Railroad at Dean to Ironton. The agreement allowed the TD&B to operate its narrow gauge trains into Ironton over that route. The Iron Railroad and the TD&B merged on October 21, 1881, retaining the TD&B insignia.

February 25, 1881, the line was consolidated with the Frankfort, St. Louis and Toledo Railroad. The name of the railroad after the consolidation was the Toledo, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad. As other railroads in the Midwest were standard gauge, the delay resulting in transferring freight at connections, the smaller capacity of the cars and financial woes, led the Toledo, Cincinnati and St. Louis to fall into receivership on June 28, 1884. The Iron Rail Company was organized on July 23, 1884, and was comprised only of the original Iron Railroad north of Ironton to Pedro. In a single day, April 6, 1887, the Iron Railway was converted to standard gauge of 4′ 8-1/2.” Another source gives the date as August 6, 1887.

Various spurs to serve quarries, coal mines and iron furnaces were built during the 1870s and 1880s to give the Iron a total length of 18.35 miles. For another 18 years, until September 25, 1902 when it was acquired by the Detroit Southern, the Iron Railroad continued its independent existence. Construction of an 18.6 mile extension north from Lisman to a connection with the Scioto Valley Railway, later known as the Baltimore & Ohio South Western’s Portsmouth to Hamden branch, at Bloom Junction was started May 1, 1901 by the Detroit Southern. Trackage rights over the B&O SW into Jackson were gained and service into Ironton began June 13, 1903.

About 1929 permission was given by the ICC, to remove the two-mile branch built by the Iron Railroad form Bartles to Dean.


The Iron Railroad, built in 1849, was only 13 miles long…Iron rails were laid for the “Iron Horse” to replace the ox cart that traveled in the mud, hauling pig iron from seven charcoal furnaces to the wharf at Ironton for river shipment…that’s how the line was named “Iron Railroad.”

The first stop for conductor “Joker” Hannon’s “Accomodation” after leaving the Ironton depot on its 13 miles run, was at LaGrange Furnace….the distance was 3 miles and the fare in the little coach at the end of a 6-car freight train was a dime.

The train had to be short because hills were steep…from LaGrange the rails went through a 1000-foot long tunnel to Vesuvius [the Royersville Tunnel – see below], six miles up Storms Creek Valley from Ironton…Vesuvius, built in 1833 later became the first hot blast pig iron furnace in America…Today the federal government owns the old furnace site where a big dam forms a lake covering 142 acres for boating, bathing, and fishing.

Royersville Tunnel in 1982

Royersville Tunnel in 2012

Royersville Tunnel entrance in 1982

Royersville Tunnel entrance in 2012


Pine Grove crossing was the third station, 7 miles from Ironton…that stop later became known as Royersville… The furnace and company store were closer to the river via Hanging Rock, but St. Mary’s church, the grave yard and picnic grounds were within walking distance of the railroad.

Etna Station, was 8 and a half miles north of Ironton via rail… The furnace was erected in 1832…. After Big Etna was built in Ironton in 1875, the name of that station was changed to Pedro… Lawrence Furnace was next…Located ten miles north of Ironton, now on Ohio 75, Lawrence was known as Lisman Junction and also Bartles Station… The furnace was built in 1834 and operated until after World War 1.

Center Station was at the end of the rails, 13 miles from Ironton… it served Center Furnace. The community is known today as Superior, home of the Marquette Cement Plant… Old Centre, erected in 1836, was owned by Lindsey Kelly during the late 1880s…. At the time of the Spanish-American War, Mrs. Nannie Kelly, whose second marriage changed her name to Wright, was the owner, manager and operator… She was the only woman in the nation ever to superintend a pig iron furnace. [ She was NOT the only woman – NC

The Iron Railroad later became the DT&I.