CINCY! A visit by Brad Wing
I recently had a meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. For those of you outside the US, this is a city on the Ohio river. It is in the state of Ohio, but is in the southwest corner of that state, right across the river from Kentucky and just a few miles from the Indiana border. In fact, the airport is in Kentucky. It is the hometown of several major corporations, including Macy’s (a major US department store), Proctor and Gamble, and Kroger (a major US food store chain).
I stayed at a hotel downtown, right across from the Convention Center. Here is a view of the downtown area that I took from in front of the train station.
A View of downtown CIncinnati (Photo B. Wing)
The train station itself was dedicated in 1931. It is an art deco masterpiece. There is only one train a day in each direction through the station now. For a few decades, there was no passenger train traffic at all through the city and the building was used for several purposes, including attempts to make it into a shopping center. They all failed. The building is not in downtown, and is across a major interstate from the center of the city. The Cincinnati is now attempting to turn it into a regional museum center. Renovation has begun, as you can see from some of the following pictures. Unfortunately, the renovation work will block off the paintings in the lobby for quite a long time.
Amtrak’s “Cardinal” is the train serving Cincinnati. It arrives from New York City, via Washington DC and Charleston, West Virginia at 1:31 in the morning, three days a week, on it’s way to Chicago. The arrival in the other direction (from Chicago via Indianapolis) is at 3:27 in the morning. Not very convenient!
Cincinnati Amtrak station showing renovation beginning (Photo B. Wing) Detail of the front of the station showing ‘1931’ (Photo by B. Wing) Lobby of the station with original murals. Note that they are building a new wall to cut off the old lobby during the renovation project. (Photo by B. Wing) Looking through the scaffolding for a better view of the art deco lobby. (Photo by B. Wing)
Cincinnati does, however have some interesting developments relating to train transportation. They are getting ready to open a new streetcar system. While I was there, test runs were being done on the system. The stops are built and the signs in place.
The route is basically a slightly twisted figure 8. The southern half is in downtown, going past Fountain Square and the northern part going just past Findley Market.
Image from the website http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/streetcar/ One of the streetcar stops. Note the clean and functional design. (Photo by B. WIng)
The first two scenes of the video above were taken at Findley Market. It has been in operation since the 1850s, but the current building is from the early 1900s. The area is being redeveloped, with the buildings adjacent to the market being very attractive.
Findley Market is on the right. Lots of interesting stores here. (Photo by B. Wing) Inside Findley Market (Photo by B. Wing)
While one of the streetcars was stopped in front of Findley Market, I took a few pictures of it. I couldn’t get inside, of course, so the inside shots were taken through windows.
A driving cab on a Cincinnati street car unit. (Photo by B. Wing) On the streetcar door (Photo by B. Wing) Seating (Photo by B. Wing) Streetcar logo (Photo by B. Wing)
Just south of Findley Market is an interesting area called ‘Over the Rhine (OTR). As the name indicates, it was originally heavily populated by Germans – with a lot of the development being in the 1850s. The churches almost all have inscriptions in German on them, as do some of the other buildings. It was a very densely populated area, and definitely not wealthy. Over the years, it became populated with Irish immigrants, then in the 1940s with poor white folk emigrating from the mountainous areas of Kentucky and West Virginia. The next group of people settling in this particular area were African Americans. By the 1980s, several of the buildings were vacant (some still are). But this area had great potential for redevelopment – as is now happening. It is the largest area of intact Italianate buildings in the US. Washington Park is on the edge of the area, and is a great oasis in the city.
One of the many maps throughout the area. Washington Park is on the left. (Photo by B. Wing) In a storefront window. (Photo by B. Wing) One of the many buildings with a mural on it’s side. (Photo by B. Wing) In Washington Park. (Photo by B. Wing) A building with the inscription “Deutsche Gegenseitige Versicherungs Gesellschaft von Cincinnati” meaning “German Re-Insurance Company of Cincinnati” (Photo by B. Wing) The Anchor Restaurant in OTR with great clam chowder and oysters. (B. Wing) The Music Hall, which faces Washington Park. Under renovation and will reopen in 2017. (Photo by B. Wing)
But for readers of this blog, one of the more interesting things about Cincinnati is EnterTRAINment Junction in the northern suburbs. This website states: ” You can see our world’s largest indoor train display with an area of over half a football field and includes over 2 miles of track, 90 G-scale locomotives and 1000 cars.”
Having been to Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany, I find this claim a bit hard to swallow. Miniatur Wunderland has 20,000 meters of track(about 13 miles), with 1,300 trains and 980 locomotives.
I have also been to Northlandz (a model railroad attraction in New Jersey), which also claims to be the world’s largest (with 8 miles of track).
It seems that I have found a lot of claimants to the title of “world’s largest train layout”!
Some statistics that they claim. (Photo by B. Wing)
Nonetheless, I did enjoy my time at EnterTRAINment Junction. Right outside the building is a ride-on train. When I was leaving, there were a couple of children on it.
The entrance hall has a restaurant that is built to look like small-town stores, and (of course) a souvenir store. The ticket area is built to look like a small-town US passenger railroad station. Inside, there were different sections for various period in US railroad history.
The buildings in the modern area section are a bit fanciful. (Photo by B. Wing)
Now for a few more scenes from the city. They don’t have anything to do with trains, but they will give you a better feel for the area.
From Eden Park, close to downtown. (Photo by B. Wing) In Eden Park. (Photo by B. Wing) Cincinnati Museum of Art, next to Eden Park. (Photo by B. Wing) Inside the Netherland Hilton Hotel. An art-deco masterpiece. (Photo by B. Wing)
So, although Cincinnati is not a major destination for railroading enthusiasts, there is plenty to see and do there for a few days. From my limited time there, I think that it would be a pleasant place to live.
Here is a very short video of streetcar testing taken with my iPhone:
Just as I was about to publish this blog entry comes some news from Cincinnati. It appears that the City of Cincinnati has sold the naming rights to their brand spanking new streetcar system. From now on it is going to be called “The Cincinnati Bell Connector”. Of course “Bell” being the regional telephone company around Cincinnati.
A bit of technical information:
The streetcar units used in Cincinnati are part of the CAF Urbos modular light rail units. The Urbos 3 is the latest iteration of their streetcar offerings. About 22 rail systems use some sort of variant of the Urbos, among them Houston, Texas.
A Houston light rail CAF unit. (Photo by Tim Adams)
Interestingly the worlds longest tram vehicle is a CAF Urbos 3 variant running on the Budapest system.
Almost all Urbos are low floor. CAF builds them to 1000 mm and to 1435 mm (standard) gauge. Overhead catenary voltage is at 750 volts. CAF offers an option to have “super capacitors” built into the unit for it to run without overhead wire for some distance.
A CAF “Supercapacitor” tram in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (Photo by CAF)
The interiors can be built to just about any operator’s specification. All include real time fleet management systems, passenger information systems and event recorders, as well as air conditioning. Video surveillance systems and passenger counting systems can also be added. Length can be from about 60 feet to 184 feet. Vossloh Kiepe often provides the electrical control systems. The trucks (bogies) are also a fairly new development, due to the fact that the Urbos 3 design is all low floor.
Interior of a Budapest CAF unit. (Photo from http://www.alfahir.hu)