The 336-mile Cincinnati Southern was unusual in that it was not built as a private enterprise by railroad entrepreneurs and investors, as was normally the case, but by Cincinnati's municipal government.
Concerned about competition from Louisville in developing a post-Civil War Southern trade, as well as freight rate and transfer discrimination by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Cincinnati sought its own direct line to the South. Initially planning to partner with private capitalists in constructing such a railroad, the City was soon stymied by Ohio's Constitutional prohibition of municipal aid to private enterprises. A closer analysis of the law, however, indicated that there was no legal impediment to the City's building its own railroad.
Completed in late 1879, the Cincinnati Southern crossed Kentucky and Tennessee, ending in Chattanooga where it made connections with some of the South's leading railroads including the Western & Atlantic, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, the Memphis & Charleston, and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia.
On October 12, 1881, the City leased its railroad to a new company, the Cincinnati, New Orleans, & Texas Pacific Railway. It soon joined with the Alabama Great Southern Railroad to form most of the Queen & Crescent Route, named for Cincinnati, the Queen City of the West, and New Orleans, the Crescent City.