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Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway
Reporting mark CNTP
Locale Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee
Dates of operation 1881–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge); originally 5 ft  (1,524 mm), converted to standard gauge in 1886
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio

The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP) (reporting mark CNTP) is a railroad that runs from Cincinnati, Ohio, south to Chattanooga, Tennessee, forming part of the Norfolk Southern Railway system. The rail line that it operates, the Cincinnati Southern Railway, is owned by the City of Cincinnati and is leased to the CNO&TP under a long-term agreement. It is the only such long-distance railway owned by a municipality in the United States. The CNO&TP's lease of the Cincinnati Southern Railway is currently set to expire in 2026, with an option for a 25 year renewal.[1] The agreement is governed by the Trustees of the Cincinnati Southern Railway, who are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati.[2][3]

The construction of the railway was spurred by a shift of Ohio River shipping, at the time an important economic engine in Cincinnati, to the nascent railroad industry. Fearful of losing further shipping traffic (and its commensurate employment and tax revenue), the City recognized the need to remain competitive by developing its own railroad infrastructure. Forbidden by the Ohio Constitution from forming a partnership with a stock corporation in such an endeavor, the City took upon itself the building of the railway, and city voters approved $10 million in municipal bonds in 1869 to begin construction.

Originally built to 5 ft  (1,524 mm) broad gauge, the line was converted to standard gauge, 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm), in 13 hours in 1886.

The CNO&TP is separated into three districts. The First District is between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Danville, Kentucky. The Second District runs between Danville and Oakdale, Tennessee, while the Third District is from Oakdale to Chattanooga. The Second District is commonly called the "Rathole" due the steep grades, 27 tunnels, and numerous curves which were once this line's signature. While several projects over the span of 60 years eliminated several problem areas, the Southern Railway's line improvement project between 1961 and 1963 is probably the best known. This project saw numerous cuts and line relocations to bypass tunnels and reduce the steep grades and tight curves. Only Tunnels #22 and #24 at Nemo, Tennessee and Tunnels #25 and #26 at Oakdale remain on the line; all but #25 were built brand-new in the 1960s. The late 1990s saw another improvement with the Norfolk Southern Railway double tracking the segment south of Somerset, Kentucky, between Tateville and KD Tower (near Greenwood, Kentucky).

The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific is a wholly owned subsidiary of Norfolk Southern and is operated by Norfolk Southern as part of the Central Division. Between Cincinnati and Somerset, the line is under control of the North End Dispatcher, Knoxville, Tennessee. Somerset to Hixson, Tennessee, is dispatched by the South End Dispatcher, Knoxville. The CT (Chattanooga Terminal) Dispatcher controls the last few miles as well as a few surrounding lines into Chattanooga.

More than 50 trains a day can be seen on the CNO&TP, with the heaviest concentration between Danville and Harriman, Tennessee. Quite a bit of the traffic is intermodal and automotive. General manifests, local freights, grain, coal, and other bulk commodities make up the rest of the traffic.

See also


  1. ^ Barry M. Horstman (08/14/2009). "Sell or Keep City Railroad?". The Cincinnati Enquirer.  
  2. ^ Cincinnati Municipal Code, §205  
  3. ^ Charles Gilbert Hall (1902). The Cincinnati Southern Railway. Cincinnati: The McDonald Press.  


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