Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Forgotten Rail Station at Torrence Rd.

The sun was slowly setting on a summer evening as we drove the #1 Corolla Rager eastbound on Riverside Dr. Jeffrey and I already had a close encounter with a snake earlier that day whilst exploring in Lockland and we weren't having much luck finding anything else that evening. As I drove my Toyota affectionately named after a song by cKy, we noticed an old road that seemingly lead up into a dark jungle of brush. "Shit, let's check it out." We pulled over, turned around and parked on what was once Torrence Rd. The decaying asphalt path with exposed historic cobblestones seemed to lead nowhere...only one way to find out.

Turns out, the now unused Torrence Rd. used to connect Riverside Dr. up to Columbia Parkway, or to some other road leading up to the parkway, I wasn't able to find a specific history on the road itself. What I did find though, thanks to my buddy Seicer at Abandoned, was that there used to be a passenger rail station here, a stop on the Little Miami Railroad (LMRR). The LMRR was mostly owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad company who constructed a station at Torrence Rd. in 1907.

- The Pennsylvania Station at Torrence Rd. in the East End of Cincinnati circa 1907. St. Rose, the church in the first photograph, can just barely be see on the right of this picture.

Little remained of the uniquely constructed hillside station which closed in 1933. Overgrown by brush and patched up by bricks, the stone station bordered Torrence Rd. as Jeffrey and I made our way up.

Torrence Rd. lead to a barricade and a small path further into the woods which was graced by someone's discarded love seat and other forgotten trash. Instead of following this path, we climbed up the hill next to the station, wary of snakes. The earlier encounter with the serpent in Lockland had us feeling very uneasy about climbing into dense brush.

- Jeffrey leads the way.

Atop the hill was a clearing with two parallel railroad tracks. One track was rusted, but clear of obstructions, the other was overgrown and had clearly not seen service for some time.

Bordering the tracks was a large concrete wall that had once been the other side of the Torrence Rd. station. Embedded in the wall was some sort of engraving or sculpture.

A closer look at the ruin revealed the word "Cincinnati" etched into it's base.

While the rest of the sculpture had deteriorated too badly to see what it had once been.

Thinking maybe we had been the first to discover the old artwork, Jeffrey and I got pretty excited. A later return to the internet though, would find we weren't the first to come here. Dan over at Queen City Survey had been here back in February and had some great historical information on his site, which is where I found the historical photos like this one:

- The aforementioned sculpture can be seen partially illuminated by the sun just under the walkway in the above photography.

Continuing our look around the area, we stumbled upon a manhole and realized the grass we were standing on had actually grown up through the asphalt beneath it.

As we kept climbing the hill, more remnants of the forgotten road by the forgotten rail station could be found amongst a dense jungle of overgrowth wedged between two busy thoroughfares, Columbia Parkway and Riverside Dr.

A random branch sticking wildly up out of the ground served as a warning to any passersby that they ought to be careful of where they walk or they just might have fallen into another manhole, this one with no cover.

The forgotten remnants of Torrence Rd. eventually lead to a barricade alongside the busy Columbia Parkway where Jeffrey and I stood waving at motorists busy with their evening commute who looked confused at the two guys with cameras standing alongside the road.

Today, one of the two parallel tracks that had served the Little Miami Railroad is in light use via the Cincinnati Dinner Train. With the announcement that the Cincinnati stop of Amtrak's 3C Corridor connecting Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland will be at Lunken Airport, there is talk that maybe commuter trains will be run on this line to connect downtown to the new train station. While the Torrence Rd. station is long gone, could it's rails see regular passengers once again in the near future via an Eastern Corridor rail plan?

Make sure to also check out Queen City Survey's blog post on the abandoned rail station.

Update | Oct. 7, 2017:
  • According to an anonymous commenter below, the sculpture was: "created by Karl Bitter for the 1890 Broad Street Railroad Station in Philadelphia. When that station was destroyed by fire in the 1920's, the panel was removed and brought here for inclusion in the Torrence Station by the Pennsylvania Railroad, owners of the Broad Street Station and the railway that ran on the Oasis line. The panel depicts two early settlers to this region. The sculptor, Karl Bitter, was a prolific New York-based architectural sculptor whose major commissions include the Metropolitan Museum of art in NYc and Biltmore, the Vanderbilt mansion in Asheville, NC."


  1. looks like a good place to hunt Lazarus Lizards.

  2. The Oasis line (the one pictured) is still in active operation, although it is for special events only (e.g. Circus train). There was once two mainlines and room for a siding, but as you noticed, only one track is active.

  3. The sculpture panel is a terra cotta bas-relief created by Karl Bitter for the 1890 Broad Street Railroad Station in Philadelphia. When that station was destroyed by fire in the 1920's, the panel was removed and brought here for inclusion in the Torrence Station by the Pennsylvania Railroad, owners of the Broad Street Station and the railway that ran on the Oasis line. The panel depicts two early settlers to this region. The sculptor, Karl Bitter, was a prolific New York-based architectural sculptor whose major commissions include the Metropolitan Museum of art in NYc and Biltmore, the Vanderbilt mansion in Asheville, NC.

    1. I wonder why this was not preserved. I think it should be @ Union Terminal!

  4. Where's all the "transit oriented development" that stations like this are supposed to bring with them?

    St Rose church had already been there for 40 years when this station was built. Surrounding buildings were there longer than that. Hyde Park was just beginning its conversion from farms to residential neighborhood, but that's miles away.

    All the "planners" tell us that this little pocket should have been a bustling center of real estate development, having its very own train station and all. And yet nothing much was ever built beyond what was already there.

    Another nail in the coffin of the TOD myth.

  5. I took a handful of similar photos of Torrence Road down there, as well as farther up the hill to O'Bryonville. The first in the series of pictures is at Very little of the original road remains, being abandoned completely to the south of Columbia Parkway, and mostly replaced by Torrence Parkway to the north. It's a neat bit of old road history.

  6. Get a life COAST. There was so much more development around this area when the station was operating than there is now. Of course there's no transit oriented development there now, because there hasn't been any transit for over half a century!

    A huge amount of the Eastern Avenue/Riverside Drive corridor has been demolished in the past 60+ years. The way it looks now is not the way it used to be. Never mind all the vacant lots on Riverside Drive itself, Columbia Avenue and the streets below it were also lined with houses before it was widened into a parkway in the late 1930s.

    The railroad station was mainly used by people in East Walnut Hills and nearby areas who were returning to Cincinnati from out of town and didn't want to trudge home from the station at Sawyer Point. This wasn't a commuter railroad suburb like Linwood farther east (which was also mutilated by the extension of Columbia Parkway into Fairfax in the early 1960s).

    Much of the development of the East End here (Fulton and Pendleton specifically) was brought on by proximity to the river, the presence of the riverboat manufacturing industry, and early horsecar and streetcar lines. The railroad station was probably a nice thing to have, but not that big a factor. The abandoning of the streetcar lines and the construction of highways like Columbia Parkway (not to mention periodic flooding issues) are why this area is so run down now.

    Learn a little something about Cincinnati history next time.

  7. Hey uh...COAST, Remember that Issue 9 thing you guys lied and lied and lied about? How'd that do? Oh yeah, it fucking bombed on election day.

    Go back to Anderson Township and be sore losers over there, cause here in Cincinnati, you got your ass kicked. See ya.

  8. The CAVE men can't get over looking backwards can they?

  9. Has anyone tried to get into that little hole missing in the brick out front?

  10. Watching this whole Issue 9 thing having been away from Cincy for 12 years now has been interesting. Having lived in a few cities that have recently built light rail and seen the growth around them, I cannot for the life of me understand the Coast view. I would have killed for a way to get to Downtown growing up in Mt. Washington. Good to see my hometown is finally getting its head out of its ass.

  11. my name is shyvonne bradford i lived on eastern ave for 21 years and know where this is as a child we played on the railroad tracks and used to call this location headless as the statue on the wall was missing its head lol!! later as teenagers we used to drink on this hill we'd drive our cars up there and hide from the cops untill they put the gaurd rail up there. further down the tracks are some other old stuctures that i found interesting when i was little and still don't know what they are.

  12. Nice to read more added history from everyone. Would be great to see the old remenats of this and other areas incorporated with new vitiaized use.How cool would it look if light rail station was mixed with this old one.

  13. Beth, I think eventually I need to do a post on this lines potential use for light rail.

  14. Gordon that would be great! Look forward to reading it.

  15. Interested in where "Anonymous" came up with Karl Bitter was the artist on the sculptor piece. Karl Bitter did a piece for the Broad Street RR Station and the station did burn down in 1923... BUT, the piece he did was the "Spirit of Transportation" and the piece at the Torrance Station isn't it. That piece has Cincinnati on it and it would not have been used in Philadelphia.

    1. Karl bitters was commissioned to do 10 terracotta sculptures depicting the 10 lgst cities the Pennsylvania RR served,to be placed @ the Pennsylvania RR Broad St.Station.
      When it was destroyed by fire, they gave each sculpture to the applicable city.

  16. Excellent post. Anonymous, thanks for the info regarding Karl Bitters! I have been wondering for years!

  17. I've been all throughout that area, regarding the woods around the sculpture. Oh and that's not a man hole without its cover. That's a shit house without its house. The brick lined privy, aka the outhouse was used as early as the 1890s, up into the early 20s. I believe everything prior the 90s or TOC was stone lined. Wood lined privys, like wooden barrels were also used.
    These privys are scattered throughout the wooded area in between Eastern Ave and Columbia Parkway. The majority of them closer to the city have been dug within the last two decades or so. They are packed full of hand blown bottles, lanterns, clay pipes, china, stoneware, pottery, etc etc.. People back then had to toss their trash somewhere and the shifter was usually the place. Then they filled their cisterns around the early 1900s up into the 30s.
    But you can still find some untouched ones, just have to know where to look. But unfortunately some guys are to lazy to fill them back in, leaving a deep hole exposed, as seen in pic.

  18. Nope it's a stone lined privy, not a brick. lol