One of the Baltimore & Ohio’s most exotic passenger trains (but perhaps one that is often forgotten) was the Cincinnatian. This train, while being shrouded in marvelous streamlining with a matching 4-6-2 for power originally served a unsustainable market between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio.
It is rather interesting B&O officials chose this initial routing; while it was situated along the railroad's important St. Louis main line there simply was not enough business to sustain the streamliner.
The largest markets between the nation's capital and Queen City included Cumberland (38,000), Grafton (7,300), Clarksburg (31,000), Parkersburg (30,000), and Athens (10,000).The railroad spent a great deal of money and effort publicizing the new train.
Unfortunately, this effort proved unsuccessful. As a result the train's routing was soon changed to serve the region north of Cincinnati, terminating at Detroit. The Cincinnatian, while never terribly profitable, remained on the B&O's timetable for nearly 25 years and survived until Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail operations in 1971.
The Baltimore & Ohio, commonly known as the B&O, holds the distinction of being this country’s very first common-carrier railroad (meaning a railroad chartered specifically for public use) being officially incorporated and organized on April 24th, 1827.
As the country’s first common carrier it was instrumental in helping to build and grow not only our economy but also the country itself when the "west" meant the Ohio River. Despite its marginal financial situation the B&O holds many "firsts"; it was quick to adopt the more efficient mode of diesel power in 1930s and was the first to offer air-conditioning on its trains.
Other accomplishments include being one of the first railroads to operate electric locomotives (through its Howard Street tunnel in Baltimore), streamlining its passenger trains to make them more visually appealing, and equipping dome cars (in the east).
The route the train was selected to cover already featured one premier B&O passenger train, the National Limited operating between New York (terminating at the Jersey Central's, Jersey City Terminal) and St. Louis. In a sense, the Cincy was a truncated version of the National serving the cities of Baltimore and Cincinnati (hence the train’s name).
However, like the problem faced by the National Limited the Cincinnatian served a region that was lightly populated, not allowing for much online revenue.
The cities along the Cincy’s route included relatively small communities like Martinsburg, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg, West Virginia while in Ohio (east of Cincinnati) this included Athens and Chillicothe. Aside from Cumberland, Maryland the largest of these cities was Parkersburg with a population under 50,000 residents.
The train debuted on January 19, 1947 but due to its sparse market the B&O quickly switched its routing to the Detroit/Cincinnati market after only a few years during June of 1950. Despite this setback, wherever the train went it sure got your attention.
The Cincy was built entirely from heavyweight equipment but one would never have known this as the B&O’s Mount Clare shop forces turned the old cars into something quite beautiful. The cars were built completely from the ground up and arguably as finely crafted as anything constructed by Budd, Pullman-Standard, or American Car & Foundry.
The train itself was clad in a two-tone version of the B&O’s regal dark blue with silver trim. The livery was a version of the railroad's standard passenger livery and the streamlining was provided by the company's own Olive Dennis, a female engineer.
Even the Cincy’s lead locomotives were bedecked in a matching scheme with proper streamlining; they certainly could not be missed out on the main line (it definitely would catch your eye!). The steamers were part of the B&O's handsome Class P-7d's and four, in all, #5301-5304 received the streamlined equipment.
To complete the train's look it was given silver pinstriping with "The Cincinnatian" flanking the rear observation car. On the Cincinnati – Detroit corridor the train was renumbered by the B&O listed as #53 southbound and #54 northbound.
Right up until the end the train continued to provide beverage and food service between Cincinnati and Lima, Ohio along with reclining-seat coach service (by this point the train had mostly lost its streamlined status, using solid blue EMD E series diesels for power).
While the Cincy, along with most other B&O passenger trains have been discontinued under Amtrak one is still in operation today, the Capitol Limited, the railroad's one-time flagship. Amtrak had initially canceled all of the former B&O trains, including the Capitol Limited.
However, ten years after making its final run under its original creator, the national carrier brought back the Cap in 1981, operating the train between Washington, D.C. and Chicago along its original route where it remains today.