there was ever a road which defined the classic local, bucolic
shortline it was certainly the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad. The
history of the F&C can be traced to 1888 when the Kentucky Midland
Railway was chartered by local businessmen to build east from Frankfort. The company reached Georgetown in June, 1889 and
by the following January of 1890 it was opened to Paris giving it a system of 40.8 miles. In 1899 the company was sold in foreclosure and renamed as the
Frankfort and Cincinnati Railway. While the new name did nothing to
help stimulate an extension of the F&C system the railroad is
credited with the growth of the Kentucky's capital city during the late
19th century. Even by this date the shortline was serving three
distilleries (George T. Stagg in Frankfort, Old Grand-Dad in Elsinore, and Buffalo Springs in Stamping Ground) which comprised the bulk of its traffic.
Other online freight included general agriculture, some merchandise, and various other less-than-carload (LCL) shipments. The F&C also had the benefit of major connections with two Class I lines; at Georgetown it crossed over the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway's (an early Southern subsidiary, this location was protected by GT Tower) main line between Chattanooga and Cincinnati and also had interchanges with the Louisville & Nashville at both ends of its system. The road used these interchanges quite effectively, playing each off of the other to obtain the best freight rates. The L&N was also once much more than just an interchange partner as it controlled the F&C until about 1920 when the road regained its independence. In 1927 the property was again sold in foreclosure and this time renamed as the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad.
its very early years before the coming of the automobile passenger
operations on the F&C were typically a rather insignificant
considering the railroad served no major city outside of Frankfort. For
its last two decades or so providing trains for the traveling public the railroad primarily relied on two gas-electric "Doodlebugs" which were dubbed The Cardinal
when in service. On December 31, 1952 the F&C exited the passenger
business altogether although one of its Doodlebugs survived, now
preserved at the Kentucky Railway Museum. What remained was a freight
business that still leaned heavily on Kentucky's renowned Bourbon
Not only did these businesses provide the railroad with carloads of outbound alcohol (which interestingly enough boasted their own Federal guards when set out overnight awaiting pickup by either the CNO&TP/Southern at Georgetown or the L&N at Frankfort/Paris) but also the products necessary to produce the "Bluegrass Firewater." As such the F&C could be seen hauling hoppers of corn mash, boxcars of bottles, loads of packaging goods, and materials to produce barrels. Additionally, the railroad hauled other freight such as aggregates, coal, lumber, agriculture, and even farm equipment on occasion. As the CNO&TP/Southern began running more and more trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC), or piggyback, trains in the 1960s this was also picked up by the F&C and a few of its distilleries in Frankfort believing the service offered some real advantages.
In 1946 the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad ended its remaining steam operations when it purchased a single General Electric 70-ton switcher, #100. Two years later in 1948 it acquired two more, #101-102 and these three units comprised its diesel fleet for the next 15 years. In 1961 the F&C, which had been owned by the Fowler interests of Frankfort for decades, was sold to Samuel Pinsly's family of shortlines. After new ownership the F&C purchased three second-hand Alco S2s (#103-104, #106) and S4 #107 to complement, and eventually replace, its fleet of three 70-tonners. Unfortunately, by this date deferred maintenance, light 70-pound rail, and aging bridges were catching up with the railroad. The year 1968 witnessed its first abandonment as the 16-mile route from Georgetown to Paris was ripped out leaving just 24.8 miles in place.
In reality The Kentucky Midland Route had hoped to
shutdown its remaining operations then but pressure from the
distilleries kept it going. By 1980 with just a few distilleries still
left around Frankfort the F&C was truncated for a second time,
primarily as a switching-only operation about 7 miles outside of
Frankfort. Then in 1985 a damaged trestle due to a derailment forced
the railroad to shutdown entirely when it could not afford to fix the
structure. Two years later in 1987 the last rails were pulled up. The
Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad was a fascinating operation not only
because of its down-home feel but also its laid-back nature, never
seeming to be in a hurry as it meandered its way along the Kentucky
countryside. Today, while nature is reclaiming the right-of-way and
development has destroyed other sections bits and pieces can still be
seen here and there.
(Thanks to Ed Vasser for help with the information on this page.)
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Frankfort & Cincinnati Railroad