Covington's Railroad Arch Bridge: A Reminder of Transportation History
By Judy Deeter
COVINGTON - This post card image shows the Panhandle Station and railroad arch bridge in Covington. Though the station building is gone, the arch bridge remains part of the town’s landscape. It is located on State Route 48 (High Street), just north of where the highway intersects with U.S. Route 36. Both the Panhandle Station and the arch bridge are part of Miami County’s transportation history.
This post card was published by the H.G. Zimmerman & Co. of Chicago, Illinois. Though it does not have a postmark or date of publication on it, there are some clues about the time period of the card’s picture.
From historical records, we know that Covington’s railroad tracks were originally at ground level. A map in the book ELECTRIC TRACTION ALONG THE STILLWATER – THE DAYTON, COVINGTON & PIQUA TRACTION COMPANY by local railroad historian Scott Trostel shows the location of the ground level tracks in Covington in 1902. The tracks were moved north and elevated between 1906 and 1907. They were placed over what was U.S. Route 36 and the highway was moved south to where the train tracks had been. Because the railroad tracks in this image are elevated, we believe the post card was created in 1907 or later.
We should note that some Covington streets that run north/south parallel to State Route 48 (High Street) also have elevated railroad bridges, which cars pass under.
The post card image is a view from south of the bridge looking north. We can tell this by the shape of the wall around the bridge. On the east side of the road (right side in the picture), there are walls on either side of the bridge that are along the roadway. There are no such walls on the west side of the bridge. Instead, on the west side of the bridge the wall faces south toward Covington and there was a stairway along that wall.
Vegetation now covers much of the wall on the west side of the road and the stairs are gone. There are, however, holes in the rock wall near where stairs once ran. These holes may have been where the stairs were attached to the wall.
If you look closely at State Route 48 in the photo, you will see street vehicle tracks made from wheels. This means that the road was a dirt road when the picture was taken. It does look like the road may have been paved near the entrance to the bridge. A square box on the ground across from the Panhandle Station may have been a watering hole for horses, indicating this was in the age of the horse and buggy, or the early years of the automobile.
Railroad history in Covington is believed to have started on March 25, 1859, when the Columbus, Piqua and Indiana Railroad (which started in Columbus, Ohio) extended its tracks west to Union City, Indiana. The railroad company was established in 1849. In the years after its founding, it built and opened tracks in increments, moving westward between towns. In 1863, it was sold at a foreclosure sale and reorganized as the Columbus and Indiana Railroad.
An article titled “A Railroad History of Bradford, Ohio” by Bill Haines (posted on the Bradford Railroad Museum’s website www.bradfordrrmuseum.org) describes the railroad company’s mergers, name changes and how in 1869 the train line in Covington became a Pennsylvania Railroad line named the Panhandle line. The name “Panhandle” referred to a train line that passed through the Panhandle area of West Virginia. In his article, Mr. Haines says that the name Panhandle is still used in discussions about former Pennsylvania Railroad lines that start west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and run through Columbus, Ohio.
Two good sources to learn about Miami Valley railroad history are books written by Miami County railroad historian Scott Trostel (found in many local libraries) and at the Bradford Ohio Railroad Museum, 200 North Miami Avenue, Bradford, Ohio 45308. The Museum is open Saturdays 10:00am to 4:00pm from April through October. Call (937) 552-2196 for information or an appointment to visit the museum.
(Left) - they don't build them like this anymore. (Right) Holes in the bridge foundation that used to support a stairway.