Afternoons at MD Cabin
by J. E. Landrum
Perhaps one of the most unusual interlocking towers in Cincinnati and along the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, was MD Cabin. Located roughly mid-point on the Ohio River Bridge and its approaches, the operator at this cabin controlled the junction between the main and the "Ditch Track", the lines to Cincinnati Union Terminal and 4th Street Station, and the main to Liberty Street Yard. What really made MD Cabin unusual was its location on the bridge itself. Located atop a concrete base that placed the tower at track level on the bridge, it was the tallest free standing interlocking tower in Cincinnati. A small platform provided a walkway between the tower and bridge.
MD Cabin opened in 1929 and handled the first train (eastbound passenger train #2, the "George Washington") when the new bridge opened to traffic on April 3rd of that year. The tower was operated by a subsidiary of the C&O, the Covington & Cincinnati Elevated Railroad & Transfer & Bridge Company, which consisted of the trackage between KC Junction in Covington, Liberty Street Yard and Cincinnati Union Terminal. The railroad consolidations of the 1970's and 80's eventually brought the bridge and tower under ownership of CSX Transportation. MD closed in 1991 when the ditch track was abandoned and dispatching functions were transferred to CSX's facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
I first visited MD in 1988 and got to know several of the operators in the towers last three years of operation. It became a favorite Saturday afternoon hangout for me thanks to its unique location, heavy traffic, and friendly employees. Below is a selection of photos I took while visiting MD.
R516 passes the tower as it heads for Queensgate Yard.
The 1929 vintage interlocking machine.
Operator John Borders sits at the desk with an amused look on his face. Why would anyone want pictures of this old place?
R313 passes the tower with two new GE C40-8's for power.
R220 passes the tower on its way to Ashland, Kentucky. This train still hauls steel slabs between Ashland and Middletown as K586 and K587.
R511 with a trio of U30C's passes MD.
U404 heads down the "Ditch Track" at sunset.
For more information:
C&CT&T&B Co. Timetable
Railway Signaling Article on the C&CT&T&B Co. from April, 1930
May, 1929 article from the C&O Employee Magazine about the new Ohio River Bridge
C&O Historical Society (outside link, will open on a new browser window)
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