The Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was incorporated in Ohio on March 2, 1846. It was originally chartered to build from Cincinnati to Hamilton, Ohio, and then to Dayton, a distance of 59 miles; further construction and acquisition extended the railroad, and by 1902 it owned or controlled 640 miles of railroad. Its stock and bond value plunged in late 1905 after "financial mismanagement of the properties" was revealed.
The original CH&D was founded by John Alexander Collins, who was born on June 8, 1815 in Staffordshire, England. He came to the US as a child in 1825, and worked as a locomotive engineer until moving to Ohio in 1851 to open the CH&D. Collins remained with the line until 1872, six years before his death in Covington, Kentucky. Collins is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, where his tombstone details his life and its work.
On May 1, 1863, the CH&D leased the Dayton and Michigan Railroad in perpetuity. In 1891, it acquired the Cincinnati, Dayton and Chicago Railroad, while in March of that year it added the Cincinnati, Dayton and Ironton Railroad.
In 1886 the CH&D was among the railroads controlled by the financial speculator Henry S. Ives before his spectacular collapse the following year.
The line was eventually acquired by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in December of 1917.