Chesapeake & Ohio Railway

In February 1892, the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad was formally consolidated into the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.[i]  In 1895, the Belt Line Railway was purchased.[ii]

Locomotives #90 and #87 (Class A-16) at Union Station, July 1919   <C&OHS>

Locomotive #73 (Class A) with a passenger train at Lexington, July 1919   <C&OHS>

Locomotive #275 (Class A-16S), heading Passenger Train #26, May 1931   <C&OHS>

Locomotive #472 (Class F-17), at Netherland Yard, August 1936  <C&OHS>

Locomotive #540 (class J-1) on turntable at Netherland Yard, 1938   <C&OHS>

In 1932, the railroad also established the George Washington, an overnight deluxe Pullman passenger train to the capital.  This train was named to honor the bicentennial of first President’s birth.  Service from Lexington to Washington was 13½ hours.

Locomotive #473, of the George Washington, at the Netherland Yard, circa 1930   <Battaile Collection, Lexington Public Library>

Passenger Train #26, pulled by Locomotive #275 (Class A-16S), at west end of Netherland Yard, leaving Lexington, 1938   <C&OHS>

George Washington Special leaving from Union Station on Water Street, toward Louisville, 1938   <C&OHS>

Chesapeake & Ohio Train #21, the George Washington beside Midland Avenue approaching Main Street enroute Union Station, circa 1942    <Marion Eldridge>

George Washington Train #22, double headed enroute to Union Station, near Viley Station, circa 1945   <Coleman – Transylvania>

George Washington, near Viley Station, running 60 mph.  Circa 1940s    <Coleman – Transylvania>

George Washington, near Viley Station (on siding), 1942    <Coleman – Transylvania>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #545, Train #23, the Fast Flying Virginian passing Netherland Yard enroute to Union Station, Lexington, circa 1946    <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Train #21, the George Washington at Union Station, enroute to Louisville, location is Limestone and Water Street (Phoenix Hotel is left and Ritz hotel and Railway Express Agency at right), circa 1946   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Yard Engine and cars from Southern Railway Interchange Track enroute to Netherland Yard passing through Louisville & Nashville Yard, scale house is on left, circa 1946   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Passenger Train #22, the George Washington double-headed at east Louisville & Nashville yard, Union Station, scale house is at left, circa 1946   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #979 at east Netherland Yard, in switching service   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #1024 at Netherland roundhouse, circa 1950    <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #1194 on dead end track at turntable, Netherland Yard roundhouse is in background, circa 1950    <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive backing toward coaling tower, Netherland Yard, circa 1950    <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #1194 on dead end track at turntable, Netherland Yard, roundhouse in background, circa 1950   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio Locomotive #1166, Freight Train #93, enroute to Louisville leaving Netherland Yard, circa 1953   <Marion Eldridge>

Chesapeake & Ohio mainline along Midland at Main Street, circa 1950   <Battaile Collection, Lexington Public Library>

Chesapeake & Ohio passenger train at Union Station, circa 1950s  <UK / Herald Leader>
In 1949, the Lexington Planning Commission proposed rerouting the tracks from downtown to ease congestion on the city streets.  During the 1950s, the city obtained an estimate of $20,331,861, excluding the value of the land, to remove these tracks.[iii]

Chesapeake & Ohio’s Engine #7029 pulling a passenger train in Lexington, Kentucky, January 1958

In 1964, newly elected Mayor Fred E. Fugazzi began negotiating with the company.  An agreement was reached that proposed to remove the downtown tracks along Water Street, in consideration for 1) connecting the Netherland Yard to the Belt Line, by crossing Winchester Road at Delaware Avenue, 2) connecting the Belt Line to the Louisville & Nashville tracks, off Russell Cave Pike (at the rear of the GE plant) and 3) constructing a wye on the Belt Line, north of Seventh Street.  Cost estimates were $5,639,620.  The city received a Federal Urban Renewal Grant for four-fifths of the cost.  These tracks were last used on December 17, 1968 and removed immediately.[iv]  In December 1969, the connections with the Belt Line and the Chesapeake & Ohio were completed.[v]

On April 30, 1971 the last George Washington[1] passenger train left Lexington (from the Delaware Street Depot) eastbound for Washington, DC at 5:30 PM and westbound on May 1, 1971 for Frankfort and Louisville at 8:05 AM.[vi]

The railroad would become part of the Chessie System in 1971 and CSX Transportation in 1986.  In 1985 the track east of Cleveland Road (near Chilesburg) in Fayette County was abandoned.  Later, the company also abandoned the section from New Circle Road (W T Young Storage) to Cleveland Road.  In 2003 the remaining track was assumed by R J Corman, which services several industrial sites in east Lexington.


Stations, Depots and Yards:

Passenger Station – originally built in 1881 with the Kentucky Central Railroad, behind the Phoenix Hotel, on Limestone at Water Street.  In 1882, the depot began jointly serving the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad and Kentucky Central.  In 1892, the Chesapeake & Ohio began using the station and in 1907 passenger traffic was terminated at Union Station.

Roundhouse – built around 1883 by the Newport News & Mississippi Valley (successor to the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad), at the east end of Water and Drake Streets.  The site contained an eleven-stall roundhouse and machine shop.  During 1916, the roundhouse was removed to the Netherland Yard.

Freight Depot before renovations, 1957   <C&OHS>

Freight Depot – built around 1872 as a passenger and freight depot by the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad, on Water Street at Rose.  Between 1894 and 1907, the Lexington & Eastern Railway also used this facility as its passenger terminal.  Passenger traffic was switched in 1907 to the new Union Station.  Later, the building served as a freight depot on the Chesapeake & Ohio mainline.

Renovated Depot, ready for passenger service, 1957   <C&OHS>

After the closing of Union Station on May 10, 1957, the depot was again used as a passenger station, until December 17, 1968.  The depot was demolished at this time.[vii]

Netherland Yard – established around 1893, as the main yard on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, on Winchester Pike (at the city limits).  The city offered the 25-acre site[2] free to the railroad to locate its locomotive serving yard for Kentucky from Ashland to Lexington.[viii]  Named after J. F. Netherland, Secretary of the Chesapeake & Ohio.  In 1916, the engine house, turntable, and coal tower for servicing locomotives were relocated from Drake Street.[ix]

In December 1968, a passenger station was built at 1008 Delaware Avenue and used until the last passenger train on May 1, 1971.[x]   During 1981, the yard was removed and developed into commercial property.[xi]   A single line of the Chesapeake & Ohio remains, from the yard to New Circle Road (W T Young Storage).  In addition, the old coal tower remains.


Cadentown - a siding built in 1898 on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.  Named for Cadentown, a small community located on Todds Road, in eastern Fayette County.  In 1867, Owen Caden purchased land to establish a community to house freed slaves. Prior to 1900, the name was changed to Brighton.

Chilesburg – also known as Athens Station, was a station on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway on Cleveland Road in eastern Fayette County.  The original settlement of Chilesburg grew up around a tavern and stage stop maintained by Richard Chiles (1785-1853).  Athens was located four miles east of the stop.

Sharon Siding - was located on the Chesapeake & Ohio line near Cadentown, on Liberty Road.

Walnut Hill Station - was at the crossing of the Walnut Hill and Chilesburg Roads on the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad, in eastern Fayette County.


Chesapeake & Ohio’s Netherland Yard, circa 1940    <C&OHS>


[1] This route was not included in Amtrak, established on May 1, 1971 by the Federal government to assume the operations of the intercity passenger service.

[2] Originally, the site of Scott's Pond from which the Town Branch originated.


[i] Lexington Herald Leader, February 20, 1966.

[ii] Bogart, Charles H., “C&O Steam at Lexington,” Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, C&O History, December 2003, page 3 - 8.

[iii] Lexington Herald Leader, February 20, 1966.

[iv] Lexington Herald Leader, February 20, 1966.

[v] Lexington Herald, December 4, 1969, page 1, column 4.

[vi] Coleman, page 100.

[vii] Coleman, page 98.

[viii] Lexington Leader, January 4, 1889, page 1, column 3 and May 1, 1889, page 3, column 4 - 5.

[ix] Lexington Herald, June 4, 1916, page 1, column 4.

[x] Coleman, page 98.

[xi] Lexington Herald, May 19, 1981, Section C, page 1, column 4.

William M. Ambrose, Bluegrass Railways, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2009.