Historic Railroads

1898 Lawrence County Railroad Map


The Iron Railroad was built when Ironton was founded to transport pig iron made at the furnaces. If you look at the GPS map on the iron furnace page, you’ll see the general route of the railroad, which coincides (approximately) with present day St Rt 93. The railroad started in Ironton at the river bank and Railroad Street and ended at Center Station in Decatur Township. The Royersville Tunnel (formerly called Vesuvius Station) was carved out for the Iron Railroad locomotives. It is still there but in poor condition. Eventually the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton (DT&I) Railroad took over the Iron Railroad, utilizing the tracks and tunnel while adding a few more tunnels at Dean State and Telegraph.

Iron Railroad

Detroit, Toledo and Ironton (DT&I) Railroad

Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton (CH&D) Railroad

Norfolk & Western Railroad

Norfolk Southern 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], 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.

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 “Essex” locomotive




Excerpt from “A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio” by Eugene Willard. Available at Briggs Library in Ironton and viewable online HERE.

Iron Railroad Round House Number 113…..there were several of these in Lawrence County including along the riverbank close to Big Etna Furnace and at Center Station, which was the end point of the Iron Railroad (present day State Route 93 between County Road 41 North and South in Decatur Township).

THIS ARTICLE by the Forest Service says the Iron Railroad ended at Center Furnace, which is incorrect. Look at the map below.

Click Here to read about the “John Campbell” locomotive explosion of 1898


1887 Map of Decatur Township section 33 shows where the Iron Railroad ended….in Center Station NOT Center Furnace as some sources claim.

Ironton Register, March 3, 1887 – Sunday, April 3, is the time fixed now for widening the Narrow Gauge. This is, also, said to be reliable. Also same date: It is time to widen the Narrow Gauge. We heard a furnaceman remark that it was dangerous to ship pig iron over it.



1864 Iron Railroad schedule

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Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I)

Stories About Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DTI) Lawrence County Ohio and Photos Photo Courtesy of Facebook Group - Old Photos from Southern Ohio

Click Here for a well-written history of the DT&I

Stories About Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DTI) Lawrence County Ohio and Photos Photo Courtesy of Facebook Group - Old Photos from Southern Ohio



DT&I coming out of the Royersville Tunnel. One end of this tunnel is located at: 38.603863,-82.672141


The tunnel, pictured above, is shown on the 1885 map when it was used for the Iron Railroad. You can see the map HERE and you’ll see that the lands around it were owned by the Belfont and Lawrence Mills and Hecla Iron and Mining Co. Back then this area was called Vesuvius Station and later was called the Royersville Tunnel when the DT&I used it.

Awesome video of the DT&I going through Ironton and the Royersville Tunnel (Thank you Dr. Dave Lucas!)

This is a 26 February 1982 view of the Royersville tunnel. The last train ran through just a few weeks later in early April 1982, before a large rock fell from the ceiling and the RR decided to close it. The CH&D RR shared this tunnel from 1882 to 1917 and for them they called it tunnel #4.

Photos of the Royersville Tunnel taken by Nicole Cox in 2012


DT&I on bridge over Storms Creek, 1980s

Same bridge in early 2000s

Abutment of DR&I bridge next to LaGrange Furnace

Excellent photos of the Iron Railroad locomotives, DT&I and CH&D trains…click HERE.

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Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton (CH&D) Railroad 

Construction of the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad (CH & D) began in the Miami Valley in 1846. The railway was completed in 1851 and officially began operation connecting Cincinnati and Hamilton, Ohio. Soon, the railroad stretched onward to Dayton. The line originally ran a total of 59.07 miles.

The Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railway Company, who owned and operated the CH & D, began to acquire more railroad lines throughout the next 40 years. Beginning in 1863, it operated the Dayton & Michigan RR. Joining the Atlantic and Great Western RR in 1865 gave commuters access to New York and other eastern points. The Ohio and Mississippi RR became part of the CH & D RR linking Cincinnati and St. Louis and western points through Indiana and Illinois. Eventually the CH & D operated additional lines connecting to Indianapolis, Chicago, Richmond, Ironton, Louisville, and Decatur.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the company controlled over 640 miles of track. There were 34 locomotives, 30 passenger cars, and 437 freight cars. The railway included parlors, cafe-coaches, dining cars, baggage, and mail cars. Construction supplies as well as agricultural and petroleum products were transported in freight cars. In 1904, the railroad was not able to handle the volume of passenger and freight business. With this came financial challenges and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad agreed to purchase the line in 1909. Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad was sold at auction in Dayton and became part of the Baltimore & Ohio.


Tunnel #2 in 2012

Tunnel #2 was built around 1882 by the narrow gauge Toledo, Cincinnati & St Louis Railroad. It was standard guaged around 1887 after a series of receiverships and acquisitions. It eventually became part of the CH&D in 1891. The tunnel was originally rock lined with timber portals. It was 693 feet long and was rebuilt/lined in 1916, creating the concrete portals now visible. The CH&D was absorbed into the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) network and became the Toledo Division. The railroad south of Wellston, totaling 35 miles, was abandoned due to a lack of originating traffic and flooding that had washed out much of the line.

Tunnel No. 1 is located on the former Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad (CH&D) Ironton Branch near Hoadley, Ohio. The tunnel, completed in 1882 by the Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad (TC&StL), featured a brick lining.