The Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway (CL&N) was a railroad that connected Cincinnati to Dayton, Ohio. While most of the alignment is abandoned, portions of the route operate as a tourist operation.


Cincinnati, Lebanon & Xenia Railroad

Lebanon was an isolated village in southwestern Ohio, with a destroyed canal and dirt roads connecting it to other nearby cities. 2a The Little Miami Railroad (LM) bypassed the town to the southeast via the Little Miami River in 1846. To the west, the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad (CH&D) was constructed along the Great Miami River to Dayton in 1851.

In March 1850, Lebanon obtained a legislative charter to form the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Xenia Railroad (CL&X). 2a The organizers of the CL&X realized that they were inexperienced in matters dealing with the railroad, so they began negotiations with other railroad companies in an effort to form an association. Their most likely choice was the New York & Erie Railroad, which had been operating through New York as far west as Orlean, but was planning to extend into Ohio. 2a If the New York & Erie were to build through Columbus to Xenia, the CL&X believed that it could offer the shortest route from Xenia to Cincinnati and bypass the LM.

The New York & Erie partnership didn’t materialize, so the CL&X partnered instead with the Dayton & Cincinnati Railroad (D&C). The D&C was in the process of surveying a line from Cincinnati to Dayton that would be shorter than the CH&D by 7½ miles. 2a The CL&X would interchange with the D&C at Sharon. Two proposals were floated: 13

  • The D&C would connect to Morrow on the Little Miami and follow the railroad to Deerfield (Middletown Junction) and ascend a branch of Turtle Creek to Palmyra, eight miles south of Lebanon.
  • The D&C would connect to the present track at Waynesville, commencing at Palmyra and running a distance of 18 miles.

In Cincinnati, the D&C planned a $700,000, 10,011-foot long double-tracked and dual-gauged Deer Creek Tunnel in the vicinity of Bloody Run. 2a 13 15 To defray the costs of construction of the tunnel, the D&C had planned to lease track rights to several railroads, such as the CL&X. 2a Construction of the tunnel began in late 1852. With the start of significant work on the D&C, the CL&X organised.

A construction contract for the remainder railroad was let on January 28, 1853, with a completion date target of October 1, 1854. 2a Within two months, right-of-way was secured from Sharon north to Waynesville and surveys were underway on the line to Xenia. The entire route from Cincinnati to Xenia, including the 12-mile D&C lease, totaled 52.2 miles, and was shorter by 12 miles than the LM. 2a

Actual work on the D&C began on April 4, 1853 at Turtle Creek just south of Lebanon, although limited funding meant that only grading and masonry work was finished. This was followed up with work on a segment from Sharon to Mason. 2a

All work on the line was suspended in November 1855 due to a lack of funds. 2a Likewise, construction on the Deer Creek Tunnel by the D&C had ceased, with only five short, unconnected segments completed. 3 In July 1861, the courts appointed a receiver for the CL&X and the railroad was sold to 40 area residents for $4,000 in March 1869. 2

Dayton & South Eastern Railroad

Lebanon was still reported as a stagnant village in 1870, 2b but on October 7, 1874, the Dayton & South Eastern Railroad (D&SE) expressed interest in building a railroad from Xenia to Cincinnati via Lebanon. The D&SE had been organized to transport coal from Jackson County mines to Dayton via Xenia on a narrow-gauge rail line. Instead, the town of Lebanon and some surrounding communities organized the Miami Valley Narrow Gauge Railway (MV) on November 7, 1874 (later shortened to the Miami Valley Railway in October 1876). It was thought that with the railroad connecting to Xenia, it would offer a shorter route for the large quantities of coal expected from Jackson County. The narrow gauge would also compete with the more expensive standard-gauge LM between Xenia and Cincinnati.

By June 1875, surveying work had been completed between Xenia and the Marietta & Cincinnati (M&C) west of Norwood. 2b Property owners in Norwood, who wished to develop as a suburb of Cincinnati, requested to relocate the proposed railroad east through their land in exchange for free land between Norwood and the horse car lines in Walnut Hills. The MV preferred a more direct route from Norwood to central Cincinnati via the incomplete Deer Creek Tunnel.

Residents of Walnut Hills, a burgeoning neighborhood in Cincinnati, were concerned about Eden Park, which the railroad would traverse through. 2b Although Gilbert Avenue had been constructed through the park in 1874, and that the railroad would pass below Gilbert Avenue, residents petitioned the city to change the railroad’s route. On March 8, 1876, Benjamin Eggleston presented a counter-petition to the Walnut Hills residents, stating that the MV had sufficient reason to have right-of-way via Deer Creek, contending that the railroad would enhance rapid transit and foster economic development. The city passed an ordinance with an unanimous vote and the mayor signed the bill into law on March 25.

The city imposed restrictions on the Deer Creek alignment: 2b

  • From Court and Broadway, the Miami Valley’s southern terminus, the route could consist a double-track line across to the eastern side of the Deer Creek ravine via a trestle.
  • It could ascend the valley by passing over the Effluent Pipe Street and the Eden Park entrance at-grade.
  • Bridges could be erected over Montgomery Road, Lafayette Street, and Marion Street,  and a tunnel could extend from near McMillian Street to north of June Street.
  • The line could come no closer to Gilbert Avenue than by 100 feet.

The first major acquisition by the MV was the old CL&X right-of-way from Sharon to Lebanon. 2b On April 15, 1876, the trustees conveyed the half-completed road-bed to the MV. Further north, property owners between Cincinnati and Mason held out for higher prices.

Unfortunately, the company collected little cash during 1876. 2b It became evident to the company that the right-of-way in the Deer Creek valley had become increasingly valuable, as railroads running into central Cincinnati from the north and east had to use slightly circuitous routes into the city due to steep terrain. While the original intent was to serve Lebanon’s interests, the MV could serve as a grand trunk line for other narrow gauge railroads into the city.

Two narrow gauge lines were projected to connect to the Miami Valley. The Waynesville, Port William & Jeffersonville Railroad (WPW&J), and the Jeffersonville, Mt. Sterling & Columbus Railroad (JMS&C) were incorporated after MV and were initially independent, but in May 1876, the MV passed a resolution favouring the WPW&J as their connection to the north. 2b In 1877, the two railroads opted to merge into the MV to form a through route from Cincinnati to Columbus.


On July 22, 1876, the MV received two bids for construction of the line into Cincinnati. One bid was from Messrs, Phelps, King & Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, while the other was by John B. Benedict of Cincinnati. 2c On July 27, the directors awarded the contract to Benedict, which was endorsed by the office of Sage and Hinkle in Cincinnati on August 5, and the contract was signed on August 15. The contract was divided into four divisions:

  • The first division for 5.06 miles of double track from Effluent Pipe Street to the intersection of the Marietta & Cincinnati in Norwood.
  • The second division for 16.30 miles from the M&C to Mason.
  • The third division for 8.52 miles from Mason to Lebanon.
  • The fourth division for 11.35 miles from Lebanon to Waynesville.

The ground was broken for the railroad in Eden Park on September 1, 1876, with construction to be completed by June 1, 1877. 2c The total contract price for the 41.23-mile line was $500,000, of which $300,000 of the final price devoted to the first division alone. It consisted of $100,000 in cash, $150,000 in bonds, and $50,000 in stock. The other divisions were far cheaper.

The rationale behind the cost disproportions, was that the first division required extensive earthwork, several trestles, and completion of the Deer Creek Tunnel. Additionally, grading was mostly complete north of Norwood. The third division was advanced to the point that it was nearly ready for rail. Engineers, however, believed that the first division could cost $100,000. 2c

The MV exhausted its funds in 1878, went into receivership in January 1880, and was foreclosed upon in March. 2c It was revealed that the company had defaulted on some of the bonds as early as May 1, 1877, only six months after they were first issued. 2c

The northern link in the three-partner deal to connect Cincinnati and Columbus, the Jeffersonville, Mt. Sterling & Columbus Railroad (JMS&C), only managed to complete 16½ miles of line before going into receivership. 2c The middle link, the Waynesville, Port William & Jeffersonville Railroad, managed to complete 23.33 miles of narrow gauge from Claysville Junction north of Waynesville, to Allentown at a junction with the Dayton & Southeastern Railroad (D&SE). It was not profitable and the line was dismantled in 1887.

The Toledo, Delphos & Burlington Railroad (TD&B) purchased the unfinished MV at foreclosure on March 20, 1880, and incorporated the Cincinnati Northern Railway (CN) as its successor on June 8. 2d The TD&B desired a connection from Cincinnati to Dodds, where a connecting line would extend from Dodds to TD&B’s Southeastern Division at Lebanon Junction near Dayton.

Originated in 1872 in Delphos, Ohio, the TD&B did not begin construction of its line until 1877. 2d Through construction and acquisition of several narrow gauge lines, the company expanded to own 112 miles. The company went into receivership in 1879, although it overcame the crisis after several investors propped up the railroad. In early 1880, the TD&B merged with the Dayton, Covington & Toledo Railroad, which gave a connection from Delphos to Dayton. In February 1881, the TD&B purchased the Dayton & Southeastern Railroad (D&SE), which gave the line access to the Jackson County coalfields. 2d The branch to Jackson County became known as the Southeastern Division.


In Cincinnati, the CN still needed to purchase additional right-of-way as the MV had only secured a small segment in the Deer Creek valley. 2d Construction of the CN began in the fall of 1880 beginning with the section from Effluent Pipe Street in the Deer Creek valley to the M&C crossing in Norwood, scheduled for completion by March 1, 1881. Delays caused the contractors to expedite construction, especially in regards to a tunnel under Oak Street; safety was of little concern. Frequent blasting launched projectiles throughout Walnut Hills, killing several workers and passerby. 2d In mid-June, two workers were killed when debris from a blast scattered at a distance of 200 yards followed by a 25 pound boulder that crashed through a McMillian Street residence and a death in July. That prompted the neighborhood to launch a lawsuit against the CN.

The suit claimed that the projectiles had caused a “reign of terror from fright.” The court ordered the CN to stop all blasting unless it constructed a platform or screen to prevent debris from escaping the work area. 2d Nevertheless, another serious accident was reported in August.

In early 1882, the roofing and tunnelling operations of the Oak Street Tunnel were complete, which extended 1,050-feet from Crown to Oak street. 2d Approximately 400-feet of the tunnel was arched with wood, with the remainder arched with brick. The interior width was 26 feet, wide enough for a double track narrow gauge railroad.

On January 12, 1882, the CN opened the new alignment from the Oak Street station south to the Eden Park entrance just shy of Court Street. 2d Within several weeks, two trestles between the Eden Park entrance and Court Street, the southern terminus of the railroad, were finished. It included a 350-foot temporary trestle from Effluent Pipe Street to the Eden Park entrance, and a 1,140-foot long, double-tracked, “s-curved” trestle from the Effluent Pipe Street fill to Court Street over Deer Creek. A temporary station at Court Street opened on February 13.

An extension from Court Street to Fountain Square was attempted throughout the years as the CN was planning to construct an elevated line through downtown, but the Cincinnati Board of Public Works continuously denied the railroad access across Court Street over the fear that an air brake on a train could fail and cause catastrophic damage. 2e The grandstanding continued until a runaway train crashed into an empty coach at the station which was careened across Court Street. As a result, the CN constructed a temporary track across Court Street to retrieve its wrecked equipment. The CN then attempted to convert the track into a permanent crossing, but it was soon removed.

In the early morning hours of October 21, the CN hastily constructed two narrow gauge tracks across Court Street. The company had kept watch over the police officers, and noted their shifts so that construction could be done in stealth. With a large task force at hand, the crossing was constructed in only 20 minutes, but just as construction was wrapping up, a police officer came and arrested the track foreman, a gang boss, and eight laborers. The officers threatened to remove the tracks but backed off when railroad officials stated that 200 men were ready to resist the effort unless it was done under a court order. 2e The Committee on Steam Railroads soon made the decision to remove the street crossing, although the CN filed an injunction via the courts. The CN received a temporary restraining order which prevented the city from removing the Court Street crossing.

A legal tit-for-tat ensued for several months, before a judge ruled that the tracks could not be removed as they did not interfere with traffic. 2e

Norwood to Lebanon

North of Norwood and the M&C to Lebanon, work proceeded much faster. As the right-of-way remained intact from the MV, the CN began laying track in October 1880. 2d The first 2- miles of line were completed by January 17, 1881, and a train approached Lebanon on February 17. The 24.2-mile line was opened from Norwood to Lebanon on May 30.

By June, track was being laid south of Norwood, and the trains between the Oak Street station in Walnut Hills and Lebanon began operations on September 5, 1881. 2d

Dodds to Lebanon Junction

On March 4, 1881, the TD&B board of directors reviewed two possible alignments from Shakertown (now Lebanon Junction) to Dodds to connect TD&B’s Southeastern Division with the CN. 2d One route diverged from the Southeastern Division at Shakertown south through Hempstead, Centerville and Lytle to Dodds. The other route was through Springboro, which was was 10 miles shorter but had many more fills and trestles with a high cost. The first proposed alignment was chosen through Centerville.

TD&B’s 16.96-mile branch from Lebanon Junction to Dodds was completed in December, albeit with poor drainage and insufficient ballast. 2d The Ohio Railroad Commission revealed many potential issues on the TD&B segment, including the high number of trestles that required extensive maintenance. There were 23 trestles and all but one were no more than 10 to 25 feet in height. The longest was 800 feet in length. In addition, much of the track was not high above the ground and drainage was quite poor. Lastly, half of the amount of required ballast was applied to the track and some areas had no ballast at all.

With the completion of the segment north of Dodds, the 52.64-mile CN from Cincinnati to Dayton via Lebanon was complete.


Two branches were constructed along the CN. The Montgomery branch opened on November 14, 1881, for commuters to Cincinnati. 2d The other was the Avondale branch, although it organised as the Spring Grove, Avondale & Cincinnati Railway (SGA&C) on January 27, 1881.

The primary task of the SGA&C was to construct a line from Cincinnati through Avondale and St. Bernard to Venice in Butler County. 2d The proposed route, from west to east, passed behind the Avondale Town Hall on Rockdale Avenue, then along the northeast side of the Zoological Garden at Forest Avenue. It proceeded north and crossed Vine Street (Carthage Pike). The SGA&C obtained a double-track right-of-way though Avondale in July 1881, although no right-of-way was ever acquired through Clifton into the Mill Creek valley and points west.

On July 1, 1882, a 1¼-mile line was put into service from Avondale Junction to the Zoological Garden. 2d An additional ¾-mile segment from the Zoological Garden north was graded but never used.


The Cincinnati & Eastern Railway (C&E) opened a 5½-mile line from Batavia Junction on the LM to a proposed junction at Idlewild in June 1878. 2d When the MV had failed to complete its route into Cincinnati, the C&E found that its connection to Idlewild was entirely useless for at least four years. Partly as a result, the C&E went into receivership in January 1879.

In October 1881, the CN relocated its depot across Court Street to the southeast corner of the Broadway Street intersection where the railroad built a platform, outfitted offices and a telegraph office, and installed a lunch counter. 2d 2e

The C&E signed a contract with the CN in February 1882 to utilise its 3.81 miles of track from Idlewild to Court Street via its Deer Creek alignment. 2d On April 4, the C&E began operations from Court Street, with one train running to Irvington, 62.2 miles from Cincinnati, another to Winchester, and two to New Richmond.

In mid-1883, the CN resumed an earlier campaign to construct a more central depot on Fifth Street east of Broadway at Wesley Chapel, connected to Deer Creek via an elevated line in central Cincinnati. 2e The CN would convert the church into a depot; however, the church trustees requested far too much money for the deal to be workable.

On July 17, the CN proposed to extend the railroad west from Court Street to Fifth Street opposite of McAlister Street via an elevated alignment where a new depot would be located on the north side. 2e Most of the property owners along the proposed route were vigorously opposed to the elevated railroad design, and as a result, the city’s Board of Public Works rejected the raised railroad plan in August.

The Court Street depot remained in use until late 1885 when the CN was reorganized.2e

Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad

Looking into expanding into new markets, the TD&B began seeking a route west. The TD&B chartered the Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad in 1881. In March 1882, the TD&B absorbed its subsidiary, the Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad (TC&StL) and took over its name. The CN and the SGA&C merged into the TC&StL in May 1883. 4

On April 1, 1882, the TC&StL had completed its link into St. Louis and by mid-1883, the TC&StL operated 781.96 miles of narrow gauge track between Ironton, Ohio, Cincinnati, Toledo, and St. Louis. 2d 2f Because of poor management, a lack of maintenance along its lines, and poor physical facilities, the TC&StL entered into receivership in August. Only 224 miles of track were ballasted. On May 5, the TC&StL stockholders voted to consolidate with the CN, which was generating a profit and in excellent condition. 2e

In March 1884, the U.S. Circuit Court entered the decrees of sale on five of the TC&StL divisions, with the sale slated for June 28. The sale was postponed until September 15 due to financial irregularities. 2f The TC&StL was divided into five pieces:

  • The Dayton Division, extending for 96 miles from Delphos to Dayton.
  • The Southeastern Division, extending for 180 miles from Dayton to Ironton.
  • The Iron Railway, extending for another 18 miles.
  • The Cincinnati Northern.

The receiver continued to operate the TC&StL main line from Toledo to St. Louis after June 1884, although the line was still not profitable. 2f

At around this time, some residents of Waynesville requested that the old MV alignment from Dodds to Waynesville be revived. The right-of-way had abandoned for six years. 2f The proposal was short-lived after the Ohio Southern Railroad went into receivership after laying 33 miles of track from Jeffersonville toward Waynesville. 2j

On June 27, 1885, the Cincinnati Northern division of the TC&StL was sold to its bondholders and incorporated as the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern Railway (CL&N). 2f But because there was no equipment on any of the lines sans the Cincinnati Northern, the railroads did not operate independently for several years. The sale of the Cincinnati Northern did not include the Spring Grove, Avondale & Cincinnati Railway. It was sold in the following January to its bondholders.

On December 30, 1885, the TC&StL from Toledo to St. Louis was reorganised and was sold to bondholders on December 30. In June 1886, the company was restructured as the Toledo, St. Louis & Kansas City Railroad, which later became known as the Clover Leaf route and then part of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railway. 2f

Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern Railway

After languishing in receivership, the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway (CL&N) began investing into their main line, which stretched from Court Street in Cincinnati to Lebanon Junction near Dayton. 2g From Lebanon Junction to Dayton, the CL&N held track rights from the Dayton & Ironton Railroad (formerly the Dayton & Southeastern).

The CL&N opened new passenger and freight depots on the north side of Court Street on December 7, 1885, followed by eight new stations elsewhere, giving a total of nineteen stations along the CL&N. All of the original wooden bridges were replaced with iron spans in 1888, including the 248-foot McCullough viaduct. It spanned the newly-constructed Cincinnati & Richmond Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Norwood. 2g The CL&N also constructed a new, 1,408-foot, single track trestle to replace the long, s-curve trestle south of Effluent Pipe Street, along with another trestle just north, in January 1889. In addition, the wood arching in the Oak Street tunnel was replaced with stone and brick.

In January 1889, the city of Cincinnati filed suit against the CL&N for its failure to fill in the area between Gilbert Avenue and its trestle work in the vicinity of Eden Park. 2g Previously, the property was part of Eden Park, but had been sold as surplus in 1886 by the Board of Public Works. The CL&N had operated over a right-of-way through city property that had been negotiated under a 30 lease which was obtained by the MV in 1876. A condition of the contract stated that the right-of-way must be filled within five years after the grant. The CL&N filled the trestle several years after the litigation.

Prior to standard-gauge conversion, freight traffic from the CL&N destined for other railroads required transfers. At East Norwood, the CL&N interchanged with the Cincinnati, Washington & Baltimore (B&O) Railroad via a spur track laid alongside the standard gauge track where freight would be transferred. 2g The first standard-gauge rails were laid by August 1889 as part of a dual-gauge setup south of Idlewild, with the project completed on September 16, 1894. 1 2g 2j

The CL&N had applied for permission from the city of Cincinnati to connect its line from the Court Street station to the LM at the northern end of Eggleston Avenue after the tracks had been laid in the mid 1870’s. 2g The request was denied although it was later overturned by the courts.

When the Dayton and Ironton was converted to standard gauge on April 3, 1887, the CL&N decided to discontinue all traffic north of Dodds as there was little traffic along that portion. 2g

The Avondale branch was abandoned in August 1889 because of competition from the Mt. Auburn Cable Railway. 2g 2h Completed in June 1888 as the third and last cable railroad in Cincinnati, the cable railway extended from Fourth and Sycamore to Auburn and Sunders (Dorchester), down Saunders to Highland to Shillito Place and Burnet Avenue, and east on Rockdale Avenue to the Avondale Town Hall on Main Street (Reading Road). The other two cable railroads, the Vine Street Cable Road and the Walnut Hills Cable Road, sapped some passenger business from the CL&N. 2h

In the summer of 1891, an electric streetcar line had been completed into Norwood which competed directly with the CL&N passenger operations. 2h The railroad attempted to fight the streetcar by reducing its monthly ticket rate, however, passenger traffic on the line fell 37% from 1891 to 1892. The railroad’s passenger service was able to maintain its momentum north of Norwood. That changed in 1903, when the Interurban Railway & Terminal Company constructed an electric streetcar line to Lebanon. 2h

Dayton, Lebanon & Cincinnati Railroad

On December 17, 1888, Henry Lewis purchased a limestone quarry at Centerville and the abandoned 16.96-mile rail line from Dodds to Lebanon Junction. 2i In January, the Dayton, Lebanon & Cincinnati Railroad (DL&C) was organized, with Lewis and six investors from two cities incorporating the line. Extensions north to downtown Dayton’s Union Depot and south to a standard-gauge connection were planned.

The DL&C rebuilt the track from Dodds to Lebanon Junction line to standard-gauge by January 1891, which was leased to the Dayton, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway (successor to the D&SE).2g 2i In 1890, Lewis purchased land in Dayton for the proposed northern terminal, and in 1892, gained control of additional quarries in Centerville which gave the DL&C much needed traffic. The railroad purchased the line from Lewis in March 1892, and in June, it acquired the lease on the CL&N’s 5½-mile line from Dodds to Lebanon Junction.

Operations in Lebanon began in December with an extension south soon proposed alongside the CL&N. 2i The expansion was never constructed. The DL&C was also unable to acquire track rights with the Cincinnati, Dayton & Ironton Railroad (formerly part of the D&SE) into Dayton. It would not be until 1912 that a line was finished.

Owing to its rural location, the DL&C had little passenger traffic. 2i Freight consisted mostly of stone from quarries. Much of the remaining funds in the 1890’s were used to fill trestles, raise and level the grade, and replace old iron rail with steel rail.

In 1901, a group of investors purchased the DL&C and completed a line from the railroad’s northern terminus at Lebanon Junction into downtown Dayton in 1902. 2m 4 It featured a branch at Hempstead to the Dayton State Hospital at Lambeth. The railroad was unable to generate a profit, entered into receivership in January 1905, and sold at foreclosure in April 1907. It reorganised as the Dayton, Lebanon & Cincinnati Railroad and Terminal Company (DL&C) in May.

An extension of the DL&C was constructed to the National Cash Register factory at Brown and Caldwell streets in Dayton by November and along the east bank of the Great Miami River to a passenger station on the north side of Washington Street in 1912. 2m A freight depot was built to the north at Eaker Street, along with a connection to the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railway (CH&D).

On July 1, 1915, the DL&C merged into the CL&N. 2k

Middletown & Cincinnati Railway

Paul Sorg, the owner of a tobacco processing plant near Middletown, founded the Middletown & Cincinnati Railway (M&C) on February 28, 1890, out of frustration with the service provided by the CH&D and the Cincinnati & Springfield Railway (CCC&StL). 2i Sorg constructed 14.2 miles of track from Middletown to Middletown Junction along the LM in 1892, which included a 365-foot bridge over the Little Miami River.

While the Middletown and Cincinnati generated a profit, it was not enough to pay off the bonds and the railroad went into receivership in July 1894. It was reincorporated as the Middletown & Cincinnati Railroad in December. 2i The M&C was purchased by the CL&N on June 3, 1902 and was operated its Middletown Branch. 2i 2k


Over time, numerous railroad companies expressed interest in controlling the CL&N, such as the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw Railroad (CJ&M). The CJ&M had constructed a line from line from Michigan to Carlisle, Ohio in 1887, and had initially acquired track rights over the CH&D to Cincinnati. 2j The CH&D attempted to purchase the CJ&M in 1892, but the CL&N requested that the consolidation be stopped on the grounds of anti-competitive practices.

The CJ&M then secured track rights over the CL&N to Court Street in Cincinnati on January 27, 1896, via an extension of its line from Carlisle to Franklin, and by using the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (CCC&StL) line to Middletown. The CJ&M then used the M&C to the CL&N at Hageman.

The CJ&M then attempted to construct a $2 million, 7,000-foot tunnel extending under Walnut Hills to the Deer Creek valley to circumvent the CL&N. 2i The railroad formed the Dayton & Cincinnati Terminal Railroad on May 30, 1894, to build the new tunnel with the company acquiring properties at Court Street beginning in mid-1894. 2j

In September, the D&C petitioned to the city of Cincinnati for right-of-way, but the CL&N protested, claiming that a tunnel underneath its existing trestles would destabilise them. 2j The city noted that the D&C had begun an earlier 10,011-foot tube in the 1850’s before exhausting its resources and reminded the CJ&M that the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company, formed in 1872, attempted to complete the tunnel project but quit in 1874.

By the time the CJ&M had proposed their tunnel, the uncompleted D&C tunnel had partly caved in under Oak Street. 2j

The CJ&M was purchased at a foreclosure sale in 1897 and reorganised as the Cincinnati Northern Railroad (CN). 2j It obtained ownership of the unfinished Deer Creek tunnel, but no work started. In 1901, the CCC&StL acquired the CN, and in 1902, sold the incomplete tunnel to the CL&N.

Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Railroad, owner of the LM, acquired a majority of CL&N’s stock in March 1896. 2j 2k In 1902, the CL&N acquired the unfinished Deer Creek tunnel and other property from the CN. The CL&N was operated independent of the Pennsylvania Railroad until January 1, 1921, when the line was leased to the Pennsylvania. 2k

Almost immediately after the acquisition, the Pennsylvania began improving the physical facilities of the CL&N. 2k One of the first projects undertaken was the installation of electric signals at the end of the Oak Street tunnel and the McMillian Street underpass. It was undertaken as the tunnels were constructed for two narrow gauge rail lines, not for the standard gauge double track that existed in both. That system worked for twenty years, until 1916, when a northbound CL&N commuter train and a southbound Norfolk and Western (N&W) passenger train entered the Deer Creek tunnels simultaneously. As each respective engineer caught sight of each other, the air brakes were applied. 2k Damage still occurred. Some coach windows were broken, and cabs were crushed on the fireman’s sides. But miraculously, no one was injured, and the trains were allowed to continue to their respective destinations. Not long after the incident, the double track was merged into a gantlet system.

In the mid-1920’s, the railroad yard at Court Street gradually increased in size. 2k The downtown terminal area was doubled in size in 1925, and a new freight house near the corner of Court Street and Gilbert Avenue was built. The Pennsylvania then constructed a large yard at McCullough Station in 1927 that was meant to serve the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants in Norwood, along with the “million-dollar” industrial line between Cincinnati to East Norwood. 2n In a five-mile stretch of line, there were spur tracks to 52 industries. A new freight house was constructed in Dayton in 1930.

Although the CL&N was profitable enough to become a Class I railroad in 1918, revenues were falling and entered into a deficit by 1920. 2k Switching operations on the CL&N were very expensive, and the number of through freight movements had fallen considerably. 2n The Pennsylvania merged the CL&N with four other small railroad companies to create the Pennsylvania, Ohio & Detroit Railroad (PO&D) on June 7, 1924. 2k It was not approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission until December 10, 1925. This was merged into the Connecting Railway in 1956. 5

Because of the steep ascent from downtown Cincinnati to Walnut Hills, the CL&N was not a major player in the local market.

Competition from the Cincinnati-Lebanon Interurban Railway & Terminal Company took passengers away from the CL&N, followed by motor vehicles after the interurban ceased in 1922. 2k Passenger service ceased along the Middletown Branch in 1917 and the Montgomery branch in 1926. The Montgomery Branch was abandoned in 1932. 2k 2o The line north of Lebanon to Lebanon Junction closed in 1928, and by 1931, only one mixed daily train was in operation between central Cincinnati and Lebanon. In 1933, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal replaced Court Street for all passenger operations and CL&N trains reached the new station via track rights on the Baltimore and Ohio (former M&C) from East Norwood. All passenger service on the CL&N line was eliminated in 1934 and the passenger stations were reused for storage or freight operations. 2k 6

In 1930, the Pennsylvania Railroad mothballed the CL&N between Blue Ash and Mason, and between Lebanon and Lytle. 1 2o Lebanon was accessible via the LM and the Middletown Branch, with one daily freight train running out of Undercliff Yard. The disused lines were used for storage of empty freight cars. The railroad also demolished the roundhouse, and removed the turntable, coal chute, water tower, crew quarters and most of the yard tracks at Court Street. 2o

Service resumed on the entire CL&N segment during World War II, including the sections that were dismantled only a decade prior. 2o The revival was only temporary for the most part: the Lebanon to Lytle segment was once dismantled in 1952. 1 2o Opposite of that was an uptick in freight traffic between Norwood to Blue Ash as a result of newer suburban industrial parks. The Court Street station was demolished in 1952 as the newer Court Street freight station handled all of the railroad’s freight business after 1933.

In Dayton, the Washington Street Depot, which had been constructed in 1930, was closed and demolished in 1966. 2o

In 1968, the Pennsylvania merged into Penn Central (PC), and a three-mile section north of Brecon to Mason and the Middletown Branch east of Hageman was abandoned. Service to Lebanon continued from the former New York Central (NYC) at Middletown via the remaining Middletown Branch and CL&N mainline. 2o

The Court Street freight depot was closed in 1969 and town down in 1975, and the remainder of the yard tracks removed. The land was later sold to the Greyhound Bus Company, which constructed a new bus terminal on the site of the old freight depot. 2o  By February 1970, the CL&N from Avondale south to Court Street was listed as out of service for through traffic, 15 although new bridges for the CL&N were built over Interstate 71 in 1974.

In 1976, Conrail purchased the assets of PC. 2o In effect, Conrail purchased the Cincinnati to Brecon segment (Blue Ash Secondary Track), the Mason to Hageman segment (Mason Secondary Track), the Hempstead to Pasadena segment (Kettering Running Track), and the Patterson Road to Dayton segment (DP&L Industrial Track). It also purchased the Middletown to Hagement segment (Middletown Secondary) and Hempstead to Clement (Clement Running Track).

Light Density Lines

After the purchase of the PC, Conrail reviewed freight operations along the CL&N. The segments from Hageman and Lebanon, and from Lytle and Hempstead generated a small amount of freight. Trains on both sections were limited to speeds 5 MPH due to deteriorating track conditions. 2o A federal agency recommended that the lines serving each of the communities be classified as “light density lines,” whereas the railroad would be abandoned unless local shippers agree to subsidise a portion of the annual operating losses.

Ultimately, shippers in Lebanon agreed to the light density designation in 1977. The shippers between Centerville and Hempstead entered into a similar agreement, but no agreement was reached between Centerville and Lytle. 2o The CL&N was dismantled from Lytle to Centerville in 1979, 2o followed by the segment from Avondale to McCullough and Centerville to Kettering. 7

The remaining track was sold to the Indiana and Ohio Railway (I&O) in the 1980’s, beginning with the segment from Monroe to Mason and Lebanon in March 1985, and McCullough to Brecon in December 1986. 2 The city of Lebanon purchased the Hagement to Lebanon segment for a tourist train that began operations in 1985, and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority purchased the McCullough and Brecon segment in 1997 as part of a proposed mass-transit route. The I&O continue to operate freight over both segments.

Lebanon, Mason & Monroe Railroad

The former CL&N trackage from Hageman to Lebanon was purchased by the city of Lebanon in 1985, and themed tourist trains began rolling on the then-named Turtle Creek Valley Railway, later named the Turtle Creek & Lebanon Railway. 8 11 The tourist operation was poorly received, and only 10% of the dates offered were operated due to a lack of passengers. 11 In 2006, 8 12 the line was purchased by five investors and railroad enthusiasts for $300,000 and renamed the Lebanon, Mason & Monroe Railroad (LM&M). 11

The track was operated by the I&O from 1985 to 2005, at which time the LM&M took over all operations of the line. 10 By 2007, thanks to repairs to the railroad and ongoing promotional efforts, 50,000 people per year were riding the restored passenger cars on the LM&M. 10

In October 2008, railroad inspectors discovered that several bridges along the 14-mile route, 12 including one over Turtle Creek, needed to be repaired at a cost of $500,000. 10 Trains were ordered to cease using the bridges after January 1. 9 The Cincinnati Railway Company, which operated the LM&M, stated that it would relocate its themed train rides to either Monroe or Mason if the repairs could not be afforded. 10

In December, Lebanon council members directed City Manager Pat Clements to find money in the 2009-2010 budget to help pay for emergency repairs for the bridge; 14 $150,000 was allocated to the railroad on December 24.


Cincinnati to Norwood

Norwood to Interstate 275

Interstate 275 to Lebanon

Lebanon to Dayton