—photos by Nelson Spencer Jr. and CBRT

October 17, 2016

By Heather Ervin

Operating about a mile upriver from downtown Cincinnati, is a comprehensive intermodal facility known as Cincinnati Barge & Rail Terminal LLC (CBRT). The terminal, and the land, has a history deeply rooted in the city’s industrial, trade and economic successes. 

The area known as Fulton was a small town that housed four shipyards, four sawmills and two lumber yards from 1820 until it merged with Cincinnati in 1855. During the early 1800s, the steamboat boom had begun and Fulton’s shipyards played a key role by building more than 900 steamboats. Famous steamboats built at the site include the Sultana, Island Queen and the Natchez, which took part in The Great Race of 1870 as chronicled by Mark Twain.

By the 1890s, the high-water port terminal mostly served the rail and barge industries for shipping metal, lumber, appliances and automobiles. The terminal continues to ship some of the same cargoes more than a century later, although the landscape has changed a bit. In 1931, Cincinnati Sheet Metal & Roofing Company installed the 30-ton electric crane still operating at the site today.  This is quite possibly the oldest shore-mounted crane operating on the inland rivers, according to CBRT.

Into The 21st Century

In the late 1970s, local entrepreneur George Stewart set his sights on the former Cincinnati Sheet Metal Terminal at Mile 468.5, which is halfway between Cairo, Ill., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Seeing an opportunity to redevelop the area, he embarked on an ambitious plan to revitalize the eastern waterfront. Stewart took into account the fact that the site is above the 500-year flood plain along the Ohio River, which would draw business when other local ports had to close due to high water. 

A company owned by George Steinbrenner, former owner of the New York Yankees, had previously owned the terminal before Sawyer Place Company (SPC) acquired it in 1980. SPC established the subsidiary CBRT in 2008 to utilize the intermodal port after the long-term terminal operator tenant departed.  

Despite the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, George Stewart, his son Jeffrey Stewart, and Tim Roddy (see WJ page XX for a profile of Roddy), officially opened CBRT for business.  As Stewart’s vision took shape, the terminal continued to offer river, rail and road services to shippers and receivers.

Grant Spurs Growth

In 2012, the 30-acre terminal was awarded a $1.3 million grant by the OKI Regional Council of Governments and the Ohio Department of Transportation. CBRT now offers 185,000 square feet of warehouse and a shore-mounted, 30-ton McMyler Whirley 360-degree crane that handles general cargo, palletized and “super-sack” mineral cargoes. Additionally, a bulk conveyor unloading system was added to the west end of the terminal to facilite the handling of pig iron.

With 3,000 feet of river frontage, the terminal can handle up to six barges at a time, with space for additional barges as needed. CBRT can handle oversized and containerized cargo; it has heavy-lift capabilities as well. According to Jeffrey Stewart, the company also installed a 10,000-foot storage shed and increased its laydown area.

The terminal is served by Fulton Railway Company, a mile-long Class 3 railroad owned by SPC that is registered with the Surface Transportation Board. Service is provided by the Indiana and Ohio Railroad, a short line railroad that has reciprocal agreements with Class 1 rail lines. These rail lines include CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National. More than 2 million railcars are moved per year on 175 miles of mainline track that serves the Fulton Railroad and CBRT.

Jeffrey Stewart assumed the presidency of the family business in 2010.   His 40 years of experience includes leasing, selling and exporting shipping containers, as well as commercial property management and recycling. Tim Roddy, general manager of CBRT, leads the day-to-day terminal operations, with 45 years of river industry experience. 

CBRT is celebrating 2016 as the bicentennial year of continuous industrial operations on the site.   They intend to take advantage of the  improved access to Asia and South America due to the recent Panama Canal expansion. “We plan to continue to provide safe, efficient and affordable transloading services for water, rail and truck shippers and receivers through its port,” said Stewart. “CBRT will continue to diversify its products and services as we head into the future.”