The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) Lebanon Branch was a rail line that extended for 77 miles from Lebanon Junction, Kentucky to Jellico, Tennessee. The line was completed in 1868 and mostly abandoned by 1987.
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, chartered in 1850, eventually brought a railroad from Louisville, Kentucky southward to Nashville, Tennessee and other points south, west and east. As early as 1851, L&N surveyors were scouting a route through Bullitt County, south of Louisville, for the main line, and construction began on the main line at 9th and Broadway in Louisville on May 2, 1853. By 1854, the L&N reached Bullitt County.1
Approximately 24 miles south of Louisville, the L&N planned for the Lebanon Branch to extend through Lebanon, Mt. Vernon, Corbin, and Jellico, where it would connect with the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. From there, the L&N would obtain a connection to Atlanta, Georgia.
Construction on the Lebanon Branch began in 1854, and the first rail was laid in 1855.1 By 1857, the Lebanon Branch reached Lebanon, with the first train running over the new rails on March 8, 1858. In 1866, the branch was extended to Crab Orchard nine years later before being completed to Mt. Vernon in 1868.
By the time of its completion in 1881, the 77 mile Lebanon Branch contained nine tunnels, eight of which are located between Mount Vernon and East Bernstadt, Kentucky, and a six-mile, 1.35% grade at Bourne. Crooked Hill, as the torturous grade was otherwise known as, contained 37 curves.
The first passenger trip from Louisville south to Knoxville, Tennessee occurred on July 14, 1883.2
The L&N had a roundabout route from the developing southern Kentucky coalfields to Cincinnati via the Lebanon Branch and the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad (LCL). In July 1881, the L&N purchased the LCL, but the total route from Corbin north was 282 miles. The L&N then purchased the Kentucky Central Railroad and reduced the trip by over 100 miles, which allowed the L&N to handle increased amounts of traffic, especially after the Cumberland Valley Branch was constructed into Harlan County. As a side effect, traffic on the Lebanon Branch began a slow decline. Passenger trains ceased runs on the line in 1958, and by the 1970s, freight traffic had slowed. By 1980, the branch was only used to shuttle locomotives from Corbin to the heavy repair facilities in Louisville.
When CSX Transportation purchased the L&N, a new locomotive shop was constructed at Corbin, with the Louisville facilities closed in 1993.
In early 1988, the Lebanon Branch was abandoned from New Hope eastward to Stanford. In May 1989, an agreement was reached to sell 17 miles of the branch, from New Hope to just east of Boston to the Kentucky Railway Museum at a cost of $30,000 per mile.3 With the aid of the Bingham Foundation and a Kentucky economic development grant, the museum was able to raise funding to purchase the rails, and the line for the museum was sold on May 8, 1990.
In 1993, the line from Stanford to Mt. Vernon was removed, leaving only the line from Sinks to Mt. Vernon in operation to serve a factory. The remaining Lebanon Branch contains four tunnels.[/stag_one_half] [stag_one_half_last] [/stag_one_half_last] [/stag_columns]