Just a short stroll from South Miami Avenue in the Southwest Ohio town of Cleves is tucked an often overlooked piece of history: the Cincinnati – Whitewater Canal Tunnel.
Now a mere mere hint of what it once was and what it once promised for the region, this silt-filled tunnel had been used by canal boats for just thirteen years. Sold to the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad in 1863, soon locomotives thundered through the often flooded tunnel until being abandoned in the late 1880s.
Built during the years of 1839 – 1843, the Whitewater Canal Tunnel linked Hagerstown and Connersville, Indiana to Harrison, Ohio before entering Lawrenceburg, Indiana, until reaching the mighty Ohio River.
One of twelve canal tunnels in the country at the time, today only four such tunnels remain. This nearly forgotten structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
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Shrill whistles, clattering tracks, rhythmic rolling cars … imagine the train depot as it used to be.
I have wonderful memories of feeling the approaching train before hearing the whistle or seeing the blinding light.
I have seen the mail bag tossed and caught, have seen the stationmaster extend notes to the engineer, watched as a working man’s arm reached from the window, catching the note, but never the hook.
As a child, I tried to push the heavy baggage trolleys on their iron wheels across uneven planks. I’ve ridden in steam trains and diesel trains, looked from the uppermost windows of a caboose, and I have stood probably too near the track as freight trains thundered past, feeling a surge of terror and excitement and longing to travel as fast, as far into the unknown.