The Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway (CL&N) was a railroad in southwest Ohio, connecting Cincinnati to Dayton via Lebanon.

Cincinnati, Lebanon and Xenia Railroad

Lebanon, located on the highland between Dayton and Cincinnati, was relatively isolated in the 1800s. Connected only by dirt roads that were all but impassable during periods of rain or inclement weather, the city was all but in an island amongst itself. A few of the private turnpikes had been paved with macadam, and the Warren County Canal had been constructed from Middletown to Lebanon to link it to the Miami and Erie Canal, but the town’s economy was lackluster.2a A flood destroyed much of the canal in 1848, adding further worry. A 1849 comment in the Cincinnati Gazette stated that the town of Lebanon had “slept on their reserved rights” while their neighbors had been “wide awake.”

The Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad bypassed the town to the southeast via the Little Miami River in 1846.2a Only five years later, to the west, the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was constructed along the Great Miami River to Dayton.

In March 1850, the town of Lebanon obtained a legislative charter to form the Cincinnati, Lebanon and 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 and Erie Railroad, which had been operating through New York as far as Orlean, but was planning to extend westward into Ohio.2a If the New York and Erie were to build through Columbus to Xenia, the CL&X believed that it could offer the shortest route from Xenia to Cincinnati, bypassing the Little Miami Railroad.

Dayton and Cincinnati

South of Lebanon, the CL&X desired to partner with the Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company (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 7.5 miles.2a The CL&X would interchange with the D&C at Sharon. Two proposals were floated:13

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

The Hillsborough and Belpre railroad could obtain an easy and cheap connection by ascending Sycamore creek from its present termination at Loveland.13 It would be 13 miles from the northern Deer Creek portal from Loveland.

South of Sharon, the D&C planned a $700,000, 10,011-foot-long double-tracked Deer Creek Tunnel.2a 13 15 It would be designed for both gauges. The southern terminus would be at the head of the Deer Creek valley and terminate in a ravine above known as Bloody Run.13 It would connect to the land immediately north of the tunnel, now known as Norwood, that contained 5,000 acres, and where none would have to walk further than 3/4 of a mile to their residence, and where each house would sit on 1/8 of an acre. The planned city could hold 40,000 families within 15 minutes of Cincinnati.

The rationale behind the tunnel was that the CL&N line was too steep, and that the Little Miami featured too many cross streets and roads.13

To help defray the costs of construction, the D&C had planned to lease trackage rights to seven or eight railroad companies, such as the CL&X.2a Construction of the tunnel began in late 1852, and with the start of major work on the D&C line, the CL&X was organized and its charter, which had laid dormant for more than a year, was finalized.

A construction contract for the 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 through Mason and Lebanon to Waynesville. Surveys were underway on the line to Xenia. The entire route from Cincinnati to Xenia, including the 12-mile D&C lease, would total 52.2 miles. It was shorter by 12 miles than the Little Miami River.2a

Construction began on April 4, 1853 at Turtle Creek south of Lebanon, although limited funding meant that only grading and masonry work was completed. This was followed up with the segment from Sharon to Mason.2a By November 1855, all work on the line was suspended.

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. The railroad was sold to 40 area residents for $4,000 in March 1869.2

Dayton and South Eastern Railroad

By 1870, The Western Star reported that no industry had located in Lebanon in over thirty years, and that property values were declining or stagnant.2b The newspaper continued to press for a railroad to connect the community to Dayton and Cincinnati. The Dayton and South Eastern Railroad (D&SE) answered the pleas on October 7, 1874.2b The D&SE had been organized to transport coal from the Jackson County coal mines to Dayton via Xenia on a narrow-gauge rail line, with a branch to Cincinnati via Lebanon and Waynesville.

In response, The Western Star threw its support for the D&SE but had reservations. Although they were greatly encouraged by the proposed rail line, they were aware of the numerous disappointments of the past.2b Moreover, the primary interests of the company was to transport coal to Dayton from the eastern coal fields, and a branch to Cincinnati may not even be necessary. The newspaper raised the concern that it was possibly supporting a railroad that would not venture to Lebanon.

The newspaper suggested that Lebanon organize its own railroad in response.2b The idea gained considerable support. The old CL&X right-of-way was owned by several citizens of Lebanon and could be reused for a narrow-gauge railroad from Lebanon to Sharon, where it it would connect with the Dayton Short Line into downtown Cincinnati until an extension south via new trackage could be built.

On November 7, 1874, the town of Lebanon and its surrounding communities organized the Miami Valley Narrow Gauge Railway, later shortened to the Miami Valley Railway in October 1876.2b It was thought that with the railroad connecting to Xenia and not Dayton, 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 Little Miami Railroad between Xenia and Cincinnati. Subscriptions to the company stock were slow, however.

By June 1875, surveying work had been completed between Xenia and the Marietta and Cincinnati (M&C) west of Norwood.2b Property owners in Norwood, who wished to develop their land as suburbs of Cincinnati, requested to relocate the proposed railroad east through their land in exchange for free right-of-way and a steam line between Norwood and the horse car lines in Walnut Hills, which would connect to downtown Cincinnati.

However, the CL&X preferred a more direct route from Norwood to downtown via the Deer Creek Valley. Long neglected as a dump with steep, treeless hillsides with frequent landslides, the valley was nestled between the densely populated regions of Mount Adams and Mount Auburn.2b The proponents of the route down Deer Creek valley realized that it was an uphill battle: it would greatly increase the cost of construction, and the city council might be hesitant to grant right-of-way through the city.

Residents of Walnut Hills were concerned about Eden Park, which the railroad would traverse through on the eastern front of Deer Creek.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 through the valley.

In the same year, the Little Miami Railroad constructed a spur track to Court, Eggleston and Cleveland streets to service a major slaughterhouse.2b At the time, Deer Creek north of Court Street was where most of the slaughterhouses in the city were located at. The valley was substantially raised; in 1852, the city council passed an ordinance allowing the valley to be filled as much as 72-feet above the existing grade. Parts of Deer Creek had become the city dump.

On March 8, 1876, Benjamin Eggleston presented a counter-petition to the Walnut Hills residents, stating that the Miami Valley had sufficient reason to have right-of-way through the valley.2b The petition stated that the lien would enhance rapid transit, foster economic development, and allow wealth to spread along the line. The city passed an ordinance with an unanimous 34-0 vote, advocating for the line’s construction. The mayor signed the bill into law on March 25.2b

The city, however, imposed restrictions on the Deer Creek alignment. From Court and Broadway, the CL&X’s southern terminus, the route could consist a double-track railroad 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. Brides would be constructed over Montgomery Road, Lafayette and Marion streets. A tunnel could extend from near McMillian Street to just north of June Street.2b The line could also come no closer to Gilbert Avenue than by 100 feet.

The first major acquisition by the Miami Valley 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 railroad. Further north, property owners between Cincinnati and Mason were holding out for excessively high prices.

Unfortunately, the company collected little cash during 1876.2b It became evident to the company, however, that the right-of-way in the Deer Creek valley had become increasingly valuable. Railroads running into downtown Cincinnati from the north and east had to use rather circuitous routes into the city due to the terrain. It became evident that the Miami Valley would serve as a grand trunk line for other narrow gauge railroads into the city.2b While the original intent was to serve Lebanon, the company realized that its hold on Deer Creek could provide other possibilities.

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 Miami Valley and were initially independent, but in May 1876, the Miami Valley passed a resolution favoring the WPW&J as their connection to the north.2b In 1877, the three companies decided to merge into one, after each of their respective lines were constructed. It would form a through route from Cincinnati to Columbus.

Near Avondale, two narrow gauge lines were projected connect. The first was the Cincinnati & Eastern Railway (C&E), which was incorporated on January 11, 1876 to connect Cincinnati to Portsmouth.2b It was projected to connect to the Jackson County coal fields. In May 1876, the C&E began construction and by the following year, the company had 50 miles of track on-line. The western terminus was at Batavia Junction on the Little Miami Railroad, although it later constructed a 5.5-mile western extension to the Miami Valley at Avondale.

The other narrow gauge railroad was the Cincinnati, Avondale, Glendale and Hamilton Railway. Incorporated on November 10, 1876, the company was organized by a group of residents from Hamilton, Sharon and Reading to service their respective communities. The company never began construction of the route to Hamilton.2b

The Secret Contract

On July 22, 1876, directors for the Miami Valley received two bids for construction of the rail line. 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. The contract was signed ten days later.

The contract was divided into four divisions.2c

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

Ground was broken for the railroad in Eden Park on September 1, 1876, with construction to be completed by June 1, 1877.2c

Unfortunately, the President of the Miami Valley Railroad had arranged a secret deal with Benedict to assure the award of the contract to him.2c When later discovered, the secret contract undermined confidence in the railroad company.

The total contract price for the 41.23-mile line was $500,000, of which $300,000 of the final price was devoted to the first division alone.2c 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 the Deer Creek Valley tunnel. In addition, grading was mostly complete north of Norwood in part to the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Xenia. 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, $200,000 less than what Benedict would have been paid.2c Part of the explanation was that the price was inflated so that other companies, such as the M&C, would be required to pay an inflated price to utilize the Deer Creek alignment.

The arbitrary inflation of the price, in addition to the company insisting that Benedict complete the second, third and fourth divisions before beginning on the first division, led to the railroad running out of money by 1878.2c The second, third, and fourth divisions were not as profitable as the first, due to the potential line leasing contracts with other railroad companies.

As a result, the Miami Valley went into receivership in January and foreclosure in March 1880. 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 last division, from Lebanon to Waynesville, was reconsidered for usage by the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway. An engineer stated that it would cost $20,000 to $30,000 to recondition the grade and lay rail, although CL&N officials never believed it was necessary to connect to the town.2c As a result, the last division to Waynesville was abandoned.

The northern link in the three-partner deal to connect Cincinnati With Columbus, the Jeffersonville, Mt. Sterling and Columbus Railroad (JMS&C), only managed to complete 16.5 miles of line before going into receivership.2c The middle link, the Waynesville, Port William and 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 and Southeastern Railroad (D&SE). It was, however, not profitable and the line was dismantled in 1887.

Toledo, Delphos and Burlington Railroad

On March 20, 1880, the The Toledo, Delphos and Burlington Railroad (TD&B), a narrow gauge railroad company, purchased the unfinished Miami Railroad grade at a foreclosure sale and incorporated the Cincinnati Northern Railway as its successor on June 8.2d

At the time of the purchase, the TD&B owned 112 miles of narrow gauge railroad. Originated in 1872 in Delphos, Ohio, the TD&B did not begin construction until 1877.2d Through construction and acquisition of several narrow gauge lines, the company expanded, albeit far too quickly. The company went into receivership in 1879, although it overcame the crisis after several prominent investors propped up the railroad.

In early 1880, the TD&B merged with the Dayton, Covington and Toledo Railroad, which gave a connection from Delphos to Dayton. In the following February, the company purchased the Dayton and Sotheastern Railroad (D&SE), which gave the line access to the Jackson County coalfields and became heavily traveled.2d The branch to Jackson County became known as the Southeastern Division.

The TD&B desired a connection to Cincinnati, and combined with local investors from Cincinnati to complete construction of the Miami Valley’s right-of-way in 1880.2d The plan was for a new company to complete construction of the Miami Valley right-of-way from Dodds to Cincinnati. The TD&B would then construct a connecting line from Dodds to TD&B’s Southeastern Division near Dayton at Lebanon Junction.

Cincinnati Northern

On June 8, 1880, the group of investors tasked with constructing a rail line on the Miami Valley right-of-way from Cincinnati to Dodds incorporated the Cincinnati Northern Railway Company.2d It was soon decided that while the proposed route of the Cincinnati Northern would be much unchanged, the section through Waynesville and Xenia to the TD&B would be abandoned. Instead, the Cincinnati Northern would construct a line north to Dodds, where the TD&B would complete construction northward to Lebanon Junction and the TD&B mainline.

Deer Creek valley

In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Northern still needed to purchase additional right-of-way as the Miami Valley had only secured a small segment in the Deer Creek valley.2d Construction of the Cincinnati Northern began in the fall of 1880, beginning with the section from Effluent Pipe Street in the Deer Creek valley to the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad (M&C) crossing in Norwood. It was scheduled for completion by March 1, 1881. Delays due to labor shortages and the difficulty in excavating through Walnut Hills pushed the projected completion date to June 1.

But more delays caused the contractors to expedite construction, especially in regards to the Deer Creek tunnel. Safety was of little concern. Frequent blasting launched projectiles throughout the Walnut Hills neighborhood, 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. A twenty-five pound boulder crashed through a McMillian Street residence. In July, a young male was killed when a boulder struck him, which prompted the neighborhood to launch a lawsuit against the Cincinnati Northern.

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

In early 1882, the roofing and tunneling operations of the Deer Creek tunnel were complete.2d The new tunnel extended from Crown to Oak street for 1,050 feet. Approximately 400 feet of the tunnel was arched with wood, with the remainder arched with brick. By 1866, all of the wood arching was replaced with brick. The stone walls of the tunnel were 24 to 32 inches thick, and the interior width of 26 feet was sufficient for a double track narrow gauge railroad.

On January 12, 1882, Cincinnati Northern 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, was completed. 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 1,500-feet north of Court Street. The latter trestle crossed the Deer Creek valley, and ranged 40-feet to 53-feet high. A temporary station at Court Street opened on February 13.

Extension from Court Street to Fountain Square were attempted throughout the years proceeding the completion of the line to Court Street.2e The railroad was planning to construct an elevated line through downtown for that purpose. The Cincinnati Board of Public Works continuously denied Cincinnati Northern access across Court Street for the fear that an air brake on a train could fail and cause catastrophic damage.

The grandstanding continued until a runaway train crashed into an empty coach at the station, which was careened across Court Street.2e As a result, the railroad constructed a temporary track across Court Street to retrieve its wrecked equipment. It was reported that the Cincinnati Northern attempted to convert the track into a permanent crossing, but the track was soon removed.

In an another attempt, in the early morning hours of October 21, the Cincinnati Northern 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 twenty minutes. But just as construction was wrapping up, a police officer came and arrested the track foreman, a gang boss, and eight laborers. They were charged but soon released on bond.

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 Soon after, the Committee on Steam Railroads made the decision to remove the street crossing, although the railroad went to the courts to have an injunction filed. The Cincinnati Northern received a temporary restraining order, which prevented the city from removing the tracks.

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

Walnut Hills to Lebanon

North of the M&C at Norwood to Lebanon, work proceeded much faster. As the right-of-way remained intact from the Miami Valley, the Cincinnati Northern began laying track in October 1880.2d The first twenty miles of line were completed by January 17, 1881, and a train approached Lebanon on February 17. The 24.2-mile single-track line was officially opened from Norwood to Lebanon on May 30.

By June, track was being laid south of Norwood, and the trains between Oak Street in Walnut Hills and Lebanon began operations on September 5, 1881.2d Oak Street featured connections with Eden Park streetcars.

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 Cincinnati Northern.2d One route diverged from the Southeastern Division at Shakertown south through Hempstead, Centerville and Lytle to Dodds. The other route was through Springboro. Although this was ten miles shorter than the other alignment, it involved many more fills and trestles that exaggerated the cost greatly. The first alignment was chosen through Centerville.

In December 1881, TD&B’s 16.96-mile branch from Lebanon Junction to Dodds was completed, albeit very cheaply 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 more maintenance than fill. On the 17-mile section, there were 23 trestles; 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 thus, drainage was quite poor. Lastly, half of the amount of required ballast was applied to the track; some segments had no ballast at all.

With the completion of the segment north of Dodds, a 52.64-mile railroad from Cincinnati to Dayton via Lebanon was finally complete. It was shorter than the CH&D, but longer than the Dayton Short Line.


Two branches were constructed along the Cincinnati Northern. The Montgomery branch was put into service on November 14, 1881 to provide enhanced commuter service.2d The other was the Avondale branch, although it was formally organized as the Spring Grove, Avondale and 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, then named Carthage Pike. The SGA&C obtained a double-track right-of-way though Avondale in July 1881, although no right-of-way was acquired through Clifton into the Mill Creek valley.

On July 1, 1882, the a 1.25-mile line was put into service from Avondale Junction to the Zoological Garden.2d An additional .75-mile segment from the Zoological Garden north was graded but never utilized.


In June 1878, the Cincinnati & Eastern Railway (C&E) constructed a 5.5-mile line from Batavia Junction on the Little Miami Railroad to a proposed junction at Idlewild.2d When the Miami Valley had failed to complete its line into Cincinnati, the C&E found that its connection to Idlewild was completely useless for at least four years. As a result, the C&E went into receivership in January 1879.

In October 1881, the Cincinnati Northern relocated its depot across Court Street to the southeast corner of the Broadway Street intersection.2d Prior to the Court Street crossing incident, the company had begun to remodel the building for use as a passenger depot. The railroad constructed a platform, moved the general offices and telegraph office to the second floor, and installed a lunch counter.2e

In February 1882, the C&E signed a contract with the Cincinnati Northern to utilize its 3.81 miles of track from Idlewild to Court Street via the Deer Creek valley.2d On April 4, 1882, 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.

Toledo, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad

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

On April 1, 1882, the TC&StL had completed its link into St. Louis. By mid-1883, the TC&StL operated 781.96 miles of narrow gauge track between Ironton, Ohio, Cincinnati, Toledo and St. Louis.2d But because of poor management, a lack of maintenance along the lines, and poor physical facilities, the TC&StL entered into receivership in August. On May 5, 1883, the TC&StL stockholders voted to consolidate with the Cincinnati Northern, which included the Spring Grove, Avondale and Cincinnati Railway.2e

The stockholders had hoped that the consolidation would breathe new life into the ailing narrow gauge line. While the Cincinnati Northern was generating a profit and its rails were in excellent condition, the TC&StL could not provide adequate service or revenue. Much of the 700-plus miles of line were bad condition, and only 224 miles of track were ballasted.2e

Fifth Street depot

In mid-1883, the Cincinnati Northern resumed an earlier campaign to construct a more central depot on Fifth Street east of Broadway via an elevated line.2e The location that the railroad was seeking was the Wesley Chapel, which was located on the north side of Fifth Street between Sycamore and Main streets. The church would require few alterations if it was converted into a depot, however, the church trustees requested far too much money that made the deal particularly unattractive. The Cincinnati Northern continued to seek other sites, before settling on a location further east on Fifth Street.

On July 17, 1883, a plan was submitted to the Board of Public Works, to extend the railroad west from Court Street to Fifth Street.2e The new depot would be located on the north side of Fifth Street east of Broadway, and opposite of McAlister Street.

Unfortunately, most of the property owners along Fifth Street were vigorously opposed to the elevated railroad design. As a result, in August, the Board of Public Works rejected the elevated railroad plan.2e

The railroad company had all but given up the fight for the depot about four weeks prior to the formal rejection, however, as a temporary receiver had been appointed to the TC&StL.2e

The Court Street depot remained in use until late 1885, when the Cincinnati Northern was reorganized.2e At that time, the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway constructed a new depot on the north side of Court Street.


On August 1, 1883, the Toledo Blade reported news that the TC&StL would be forced into receivership due to earnings coming below operating expenses.2f The company was not able to meet interest payments on debt, and had not paid employees since July. This, in comparison to the financially-well off Cincinnati Northern, led to a strike by TC&StL employees in Dayton; none in Cincinnati went on strike. On October 20, William J. Craig of Toledo was appointed receiver for the TC&StL.

Unfortunately, Craig also retained jurisdiction over the Cincinnati Northern. Passenger service dropped in frequency, and the track conditions gradually deteriorated as earnings from the cash-rich Cincinnati Northern went to other divisions of the TC&StL.2f As a result, the crews and employees of the Cincinnati Northern went on strike on April 8, 1884. This was followed up by those in Dayton the next day, and in other divisions by the 10th.

With Cincinnati Northern’s money being funneled into other divisions, the Ohio Railroad Commission noted that by mid 1884, several bridges south of Lebanon were in poor condition.2f Various lines were also becoming out of alignment. As a result, derailments greatly increased during the period of receivership.

Flood of 1884

Despite the general turmoil and the deteriorating conditions with the Cincinnati Northern, the company received much praise during the Ohio River flood of 1884. For at least six days during the flood, waters prevented every railroad sans the Cincinnati Northern from operating in the region as a result of the Cincinnati Northern’s alignment at higher elevations.2f During the flood waters, four standard gauge railroads operated over the line due to both narrow and standard gauge track that existed on the Cincinnati Northern. It received the nickname “Highland Route” subsequently.

Splitting up

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;
  • and the Cincinnati Northern.

Receiver Craig 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 Miami Valley alignment from Dodds to Waynesville be revived. The right-of-way had abandoned for six years.2f The proposal was short-lived, however, the Ohio Southern Railroad had actually started lying track from Jeffersonville toward Waynesville, before going into receivership after completing 33 miles.2j

On June 27, 1885, the Cincinnati Northern division of the TC&StL was sold to its bondholders and incorporated as the Cincinnati, Lebanon and 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.

Interestingly enough, the sale of the Cincinnati Northern did not include the Spring Grove, Avondale and Cincinnati Railway; it was sold in the following January to its bondholders.2f

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

Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway

After languishing through receivership, the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railway (CL&N) began reinvesting monies into their physical stock.2g The CL&N operated a main line from Court Street in Cincinnati to Lebanon Junction southeast of Dayton, and leased the track from Dodds to Lebanon Junction from the Cincinnati Division, who operated the line post TC&StL. From Lebanon Junction to Dayton, the CL&N used trackage rights from the Dayton and Ironton Railroad, formerly the D&SE.

On December 7, 1885, the CL&N opened new passenger and freight depots on the north side of Court Street. The company began expending money for construction and improvements over the line in the first three years post-independence, and constructed eight additional stations along the route, giving a total of nineteen stations along the CL&N.

All of the original wooden bridges were replaced with iron spans in 1888, the last of which was 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, single track trestle to replace the long, s-curve trestle south of Effluent Pipe Street i.2g Completed by January 1889, the new trestle was a straight line sans a slight curve on its northern end, and was 1,408-feet-long and 50-feet-high. The other wooden trestle north of Effluent Pipe Street was also replaced during this time.

In addition, the wood arching in the Walnut Hill tunnels were replaced with stone and brick.2g

In January 1889, the city of Cincinnati filed suit against the CL&N for 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 was 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 thirty-year lease which was obtained by the Miami Valley in 1876. A condition of the contract stated that the right-of-way must be filled within five years after the grant, however, the Miami Valley and CL&N failed to do so. The CL&N filled the trestle and a strip of land 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 and Baltimore (B&O) Railroad via a spur track laid alongside the standard gauge track. Freight would be transferred over in a hurry.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 Cincinnati City Council to connect its line from the Court Street depot to the Little Miami Railroad (Pennsylvania) at the northern end of Eggleston Avenue after the tracks had been laid in the mid 1870s.2g The request was denied, although later overturned by the courts.

The CL&N cut service back to Dodds in April 1887. Trustees who held title to this stretch of narrow gauge had never organized a new company, and did not invest in the line after acquiring it at a foreclosure sale in 1884.2g It was instead leased to the CL&N. Between Lebanon Junction and Dayton, the CL&N operated over six miles of the Dayton and Ironton Railroad, which was part of the old Southeastern Division of the TC&StL. 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.

The Avondale branch was shuttered 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 line 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, which was completed in September 1887, and the Walnut Hills Cable Road, which was completed two years prior in July, 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, however, as the outlaying suburbs were experiencing a rapid boom and were largely unserved by other forms of mass transit. That changed in 1903, when the Interurban Railway and Terminal Company constructed an electric streetcar line to Lebanon.2h The CL&N was hit very hard by this, and passenger counts dropped to an all-time low.

Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati Railroad

On December 17, 1888, Henry Lewis, local businessman, purchased a limestone quarry at Centerville and the abandoned 16.96-mile rail line from Dodds to Lebanon Junction.(2i) It was originally constructed by the Toledo, Delphos and Burlington Railroad in 1882, however, the after the narrow-gauge system collapsed, the bond holders made no effort to reorganize the line.

In January, the Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati Railroad (DL&C) was organized, with Lewis and six investors from two cities incorporating the line.(2i) Extensions north to downtown Dayton’s Union Depot and south to a standard-gauge connection were planned.

The Dodds to Lebanon Junction line was rebuilt to standard-gauge by January 1891, and it was leased to the Dayton, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, successor to the D&SE.2g(2i) In 1890, the the businessman purchased land in Dayton for the proposed northern terminal, and two years later, he gained control of additional quarries in Centerville which gave the rail line much needed traffic. The DL&C purchased the line from the businessman in March 1892, and in June, it acquired the lease on the CL&N’s 5.5-mile line from Dodds to Lebanon Junction.

Operations into Lebanon began in December. An extension south was pushed soon after, with the proposed right-of-way running parallel to the CL&N. The extension was granted to the DL&C on January 3, 1893,(2i) although the company never constructed the extension south, presumably because of the death of Henry Lewis on February 12.

The DL&C was also unable to acquire trackage rights with the Cincinnati, Dayton and Ironton Railroad, formerly part of the D&SE, into Dayton proper and only operated north to Lebanon Junction.(2i) It would not be until 1912 that a line was actually completed.

Despite the connections to Lebanon and Lebanon Junction, the line carried little traffic.(2i) Very little passenger traffic was generated, as the line passed through only several communities that contained several hundred people, and freight composed almost entirely of stone from the quarries. As a result, the DL&C generated no positive revenue. Much of the remaining funds in the 1890s 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 CL&N and completed a line from the railroad’s northern terminus at Lebanon Junction into downtown Dayton by 1902.2m 4 It featured a branch at Hempstead proceeding northwest to Lambeth, location of the Dayton State Hospital. It was unable to generate a profit, and the DL&C entered into receivership in January 1905 and was sold at foreclosure in April 1907. It was reorganized as the Dayton, Lebanon and Cincinnati Railroad and Terminal Company (DL&C) in May.2m 4

Construction began in April and by November, the branch reached Brown and Caldwell streets, near the National Cash Register factory.2m The line was completed in 1912, when the remainder of the line was constructed along the east bank of the Great Miami River to a passenger depot on the north side of Washington Street. A freight depot was located just to the north at Eaker Street, and above that was a connection to the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway (CH&D).

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

Middletown and Cincinnati Railway

Paul Sorg, owner of a tobacco processing plant east of Middletown, founded the Middletown and Cincinnati Railway (M&C) out of frustration with the service provided by the CH&D and the Cincinnati and Springfield Railway (CCC&StL). The new railway was incorporated on February 28, 1890, and 14.2 miles was constructed in 1891 from Middletown southeast to just west of Middletown Junction along the Little Miami Railroad along the Little Miami River.(2i) It crossed the CL&N at Hageman, and featured a 365-foot truss bridge over the Little Miami River that opened in early 1892, completing the rail line.

At the western end, the M&C faced some opposition. Neither the CH&D or the CCC&StL wanted the M&C to cross its tracks, although the M&C eventually reached an agreement with the latter company. It was not until after several court hearings that the CH&D reluctantly agreed.(2i)

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 and Cincinnati Railroad in December,(2i) and began generating stronger profits. The M&C was purchased by the CL&N on June 3, 1902 and was operated as the Middletown Branch of the CL&N.(2i)2k

The high route

As the CL&N and DL&C followed the ridge tops from Cincinnati to Dayton, the railroads were not affected by the occasional floods along the Little Miami River, including the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.2 The Pennsylvania realized that the DL&C, in conjunction with the CL&N, would make for an excellent north-south route between Cincinnati and Dayton. The DL&C was purchased by the CL&N in December 1914.

The DL&C constructed a short connection from Lebanon Junction to Clement in early 1915, which became property of the CL&N only months later.2

Mergers, downsizing

Over time, numerous railroad companies expressed interest in controlling the CL&N. The Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad (CJ&M) was one of the more notable examples. The CJ&M had constructed a line from line from Michigan to Carlisle, Ohio in 1887, and had initially acquired trackage 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 trackage rights over the CL&N into Court Street on January 27, 1896 via an extension of the line from Carlisle to Franklin, and by using the the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (CCC&StL) line to Middletown. The CJ&M then used the Middletown and Cincinnati Railroad to the CL&N at Hageman, southwest of Lebanon. The CJ&M attempted to construct a tunnel extending under Walnut Hills to the Deer Creek valley, to circumvent the CL&N.(2i) The proposed tunnel would be over 7,000-feet-long, and cost $2 million.

The CJ&M formed an independent company to build the new tunnel. The Dayton and Cincinnati Terminal Railroad Company (D&C) was incorporated on May 30, 1894, and had planned to build a railroad from Court Street in Cincinnati to Union Depot in Dayton.2j The D&C began acquiring properties at Court Street beginning in mid 1894.

In September 1894, the D&C petitioned to the Cincinnati Board of Public Affairs for a right-of-way into the city, but the CL&N protested, claiming that a tunnel underneath the existing trestles would destabilize them.2j The Board of Public Affairs, however, noted that the Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company had begun an earlier 10,011-foot-long tunnel project in the 1850s before exhausting its resources. It also reminded the CJ&M that the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company, formed in 1872, attempted to complete the tunnel project, but quit just two years later.

By the time the CJ&M had proposed their tunnel, the uncompleted tunnel segment had caved in under Oak Street, and would need major rehabilitation.2j

In 1897, the CJ&M was purchased at a foreclosure sale and was reorganized as the Cincinnati Northern Railroad.2j It obtained ownership of the unfinished Deer Creek tunnel project, however, no work was started. In 1901, the CCC&StL acquired the Cincinnati Northern, and on the following year, the railroad sold the unfinished tunnel to the CL&N. By 1902, the Pennsylvania Railroad had the Deer Creek tunnel in its own control.

Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Railroad, owner of the Little Miami Railroad that had been constructed in the Little Miami River valley east of Lebanon, 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 Cincinnati Northern.

The CL&N was operated independent of the Pennsylvania Railroad until January 1, 1921, when the line was leased to the Pennsylvania.2k Prior to that, the CL&N continued to maintain its offices in the Court Street Depot in Cincinnati.

Almost immediately after the acquisition, the Pennsylvania Railroad 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 each of the Deer Creek tunnels – the McMillian Street and the Oak Street tunnel. 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. The 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 tracked was merged into a gantlet track.2k

In the mid 1920s, the yard at Court Street gradually increased in size. Prior to that, the CL&N had purchased ten acres of land and the tunnel franchises owned by the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company in 1902.2k As time progressed after that, the Deer Creek valley had all but been vacated and filled in. The downtown terminal area was doubled in size in 1925, and a bright freight house near the corner of Court Street and Gilbert Avenue was constructed.

Two years later, the Pennsylvania constructed a large yard at McCullough Station. It was to serve the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants in Norwood, along with the “million-dollar” industrial line that existed from Cincinnati to East Norwood.2n In a 5 mile stretch of line were spur tracks that served 52 industrial operations. In 1930, a new freight house was constructed in Dayton.

Although the line was profitable 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 and 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 which was merged with the New York Central in 1968 that later became Penn Central.

Because of the steep ascent from downtown Cincinnati to Walnut Hills, the CL&N was not a major player in the railroading market. Competition from the Cincinnati-Lebanon Interurban Railway and Terminal Company took passengers away from the CL&N when it opened in 1903, followed by motor vehicles after the interurban ceased in 1922.2k

Passenger service ceased along the Middletown Branch in 1917, followed by the Montgomery branch in 1926; the Montgomery Branch was abandoned six years later.2k 2o The line north of Lebanon to Lebanon Junction ceased in 1928, and by 1931, only one mixed daily train was in operation between downtown Cincinnati and Lebanon. Two years later, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal replaced Court Street for all passenger departures, and CL&N trains reached the new station via trackage rights on the Baltimore and Ohio (former M&C) south of East Norwood. In 1934, all passenger service on the CL&N line was eliminated.2k 6

In a twist of events, freight traffic increased dramatically along the CL&N due to direct connection from Cincinnati to Middletown and Dayton.2k

In 1930, the Pennsylvania Railroad discontinued the railroad between Blue Ash and Mason, and between Lebanon and Lytle.1 2o Lebanon was accessible via the Little Miami Railroad and the Middletown Branch, with one daily freight train running out of Undercliff Yard. The disused lines were used for storage of empty freight cards.

During this time, the Pennsylvania Railroad began closing many of the smaller stations of the CL&N. After 1934, a few of the stations remained for freight purposes or for storage. The Pennsylvania also demolished the roundhouse, and removed the turntable, coal chute, water tower, crew quarters and most of the yard tracks at the former Court Street terminus.2o

In 1937, the CL&N was the only railroad that could operate during the Ohio River flood, much like the flood of 1884.15 In 1939, a test train staggered across the abandoned track segment from Lebanon to Dayton, which took nearly all day to complete.15

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 former Court Street Depot was demolished in 1952, and was the oldest structure remaining on the CL&N.2o The newer Court Street freight station handled all of the railroad’s freight business after 1933, and the former depot was used for storage of maintenance-of-way equipment.

In 1968, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s merged into Penn Central, and a three-mile section north of Brecon to Mason was abandoned, along with the Middletown Branch east of Hageman. Service to Lebanon continued from the former New York Central at Middletown via the remaining Middletown Branch and CL&N main.2o

The remaining Court Street freight depot was closed in 1969 and town down in 1975, and the remainder of the yard tracks were 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 The closing of the depot coincided with the initial abandonment of the CL&N south of Avondale, and by February 1970, the timetable stated that the steep grade down the hill Avondale was “out of service.”15 This conflicted, however, with new girder bridges that were constructed over Interstate 71 in 1974, and when the industries along the line were frequently using the line for deliveries.

The CL&N from Court Street north to Avondale was abandoned.2

In Dayton, the Washington Street Depot, which had been constructed in 1930, was closed and demolished in 1966.2o

In 1976, Conrail purchased the assets of Pennsylvania Central.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 Pennsylvania Central, 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 of four to five miles due to deteriorating track conditions.2o

Thus, Lebanon, Lytle and Centerville faced the possibility of being without a railroad connection. A federal agency recommended that the lines serving each of the communities be classified as “light density lines.” Under this schema, the railroad would be discontinued unless local shippers agree to subsidize a portion of the annual operating losses. Initially, the losses would be small, with the state and federal government funding the balance of the deficits. The deficit would increase over the period of several years, until the full burden would fall on the local shippers to pay off any deficits of operation.2o

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 Thus, the CL&N was dismantled from Lytle to Centerville in 1979,2o followed later by the segment from Avondale to McCullough and Centerville to Kettering.7

The remaining trackage to the Indiana and Ohio Railway (I&O) in the 1980s, 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 line. The I&O continue to operate freight over both segments.

Lebanon, Mason and 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. It was later renamed to the Turtle Creek and Lebanon Railway 8 11. In 2006,8 12 the line was purchased by five investors and railroad enthusiasts for $300,000 and renamed the operation to the Lebanon, Mason and Monroe Railroad (LM&M).11

The line was operated by the I&O from 1985 to 2005, at which time the LM&M took over all operations of the line.10 The LM&M had access to 14 miles of track and 360 miles of I&O track.11

In May 2006, the business operations for the railroad moved from Blue Ash to Lebanon.11 The LM&M began increasing customer service and marketing efforts to garner more ridership, and began increasing service along the line. The LM&M began offering rides every weekend and some weekdays instead of several times a year. As a result, advance ticket sales doubled for many of the excursions.

By 2007, 50,000 people per year were using the LM&M.10

“When we bought the railroad, it was running just 10 percent of available dates; the rest of the time, the train sat empty.”

-Brian Collins, part of the original investors who purchased the former Lebanon and Turtle Creek Railway 11

In October 2008, railroad inspectors discovered that several bridges along the 14-mile route,12 including the Turtle Creek span, needed to be repaired at a cost of $500,000.10 Trains were ordered to cease using the bridges after January 1.9 As a result, 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 railroad.14 As a result, $150,000 in funding was allocated to the railroad on December 24. $80,000 was discovered by excluding two optional projects that were part of a $2 million plant to complete a downtown streetscape project. Another decision to have city workers, rather than contractors, to paint street lights, saved the city another $100,000. The city also proposed to delay or cancel fleet purchases for 2009, which would save another $107,000.

Clements recommended that the city reserve money in the future for other repairs that may be necessary.14

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Cincinnati to Norwood

Norwood to Interstate 275

Interstate 275 to Lebanon

Lebanon to Dayton

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