The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad (LM&M Railroad) operating from Historic Downtown Lebanon offers scenic train rides through Southwestern Ohio in Warren County. These nostalgic train rides present passengers with the opportunity to learn about local history and railroad operations while creating everlasting memories with family and friends. The unique location of the Historic Downtown Lebanon grants visitors the ability to experience the local splendor through shopping and dining in the charming tourist town.
The train operates on approximately 16 miles of track between Lebanon, Mason and Monroe. For most trips the LM&M runs 4.4 miles south from Lebanon Station in downtown Lebanon to historic Hageman Junction. The train runs over the famous right-of-way of the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern (CL&N) Railroad, a passenger and freight line that began operation in 1881.Built mainly as a commuter route, three trains every morning would head south from Lebanon to arrive at the CL&N’s Court Street Depot (today’s Horseshoe Cincinnati Casino).
Initially constructed with narrow gauge rail spacing (thirty-six inches between the rails). Thirtreen years later it was rebuilt to standard gauge (56 ½ inches between the rails).The CL&N was later acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) that operated both freight and passenger trains over the line between Dayton and Cincinnati. Many segments of the line were abandoned over the years, but portions of the original CL&N/PRR trackage are still in operation today. The LM&M’s track from Lebanon to Hageman Junction is currently owned by the city of Lebanon. While the Indiana & Ohio continues to operate freight over the entire line, the LM&M retains trackage rights to operate passenger trains.
- 1795 – First European settler in the land that would become Warren County. William Beetle constructed a bunkhouse five miles west of Lebanon.
- 1802 – The town of Lebanon was laid out between two forks of the Turtle Creek. They named the settlement Lebanon because the many juniper trees recalled the biblical cedars of Lebanon.
- 1803 – Revolutionary War veteran William Mason founds the village of Palmira. After he died in 1832, the citizens vote to rename the settlement Mason.
- 1818 – Monroe is founded and named after then-president James Monroe
- 1840 – Warren County canal opens. The railroad would eventually parallel much of the canal’s route between Lebanon and Muddy Creek. The canal then turned northwest. Today, portions of it can be viewed south of Monroe.
- 1845 – The Little Miami Railroad is completed from Cincinnati to Xenia. While the route originally includes Lebanon, it is bypassed due to the 0.63% grade being too steep for the locomotives of the time.
- 1850 – The Cincinnati Lebanon and Xenia Railroad is incorporated. It completes grading work between Lebanon and Mason but goes bankrupt soon after.
- 1875 – The Miami Valley Railway is organized to build a narrow gauge line from Xenia through Lebanon to Cincinnati. Much of the funding came from the citizens of Lebanon themselves.
- 1880 – The bankrupt Miami Valley Railway is acquired by the Toledo Delphos & Burlington Railroad. They build a connection between Dayton and Lebanon, then finish the route to Cincinnati as rename it the Cincinnati Northern.
- 1881 – First passenger train arrives in Lebanon
- 1884 – As the only railroad built outside the river valleys, the Cincinnati Northern is the only railroad immune to the Ohio River flood of 1884. It soon acquires the nickname “The Highland Route.”
- 1885 – The TD&B fails. The Cincinnati-Lebanon portion of the line is reorganized as the independent Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern.
- 1889 – The ex-TD&B line between Lebanon and Dayton is reorganized as the Dayton, Lebanon & Cincinnati Railroad.
- 1894 – The CL&N completes its conversion to standard gauge in one day
- 1896 – The Pennsylvania Railroad acquires a majority interest in the CL&N.
- 1902 – The Pennsylvania acquires the Middletown & Cincinnati, a railroad that cut southeasterly across Warren County. It is shortly merged into the CL&N and today makes up the LM&M’s route to Monroe.
- 1912 – The DL&C completes a new line into downtown Dayton.
- 1913 – The DL&C serves as Dayton’s lifeline during the Great Flood of 1913. Shortly after it is acquired by the Pennsylvania, the last addition to the CL&N system.
- 1917 – The Lebanon Express wrecks after a local circus train leaves the turntable switch thrown. One locomotive and boxcar are destroyed, by no one is killed.
- 1926 – the CL&N is fully merged into the Pennsylvania System.
- 1934 – All railroad in Cincinnati agree to begin using then new Union Terminal. Passenger service to Lebanon ends shortly thereafter.
- 1952 – Through Cincinnati-Cincinnati freight service ends. The line north of Lebanon towards Lytle and Dayton is abandoned.
- 1968 – The Pennsylvania merges with its main rival, the New York Central, to form the Penn Central. 3 miles of track south of Mason is abandoned, severing the Mason-Lebanon segment from today’s Blue Ash line.
- 1970 – The Penn Central files for Chapter 11 protection in what was then the largest bankruptcy in American History.
- 1976 – The US government consolidates Penn Central’s profitable lines in a new corporation called Conrail. Many other lines are given notice of abandonment.The city of Lebanon, together with local rail-served business, lead an effort to save local rail service. Ultimately, the city would purchase six miles of the line.
- 1984 – Indiana & Ohio purchases Monroe-Mason line from Conrail.
- 1988 – Indiana & Ohio begins passenger excursions in Mason and Monroe.
- 1996 – The I&O is sold to Railtex. The passenger operation is spun-off as a separate company.
- 2000 – Lebanon branch temporarily closed for track repair. Passenger operations relocated to Mason and Monroe.
- 2001 – The excursion train is renamed Turtle Creek Valley & Lebanon Railway, in honor of Lebanon’s support for track repairs.The cityand the Railroad celebrate with a special Back-on Track Event.
- 2006 – The TCV&L is acquired by the Cincinnati Railway and renamed it the Lebanon, Mason & Monroe Railroad.
- 2007 – New ticket office opens next to local business Brants Hardware.
- 2008 – First steam locomotive to operate in in Lebanon in over 50 years, when the LM&M Railroad hosts Flagg Coal #75.
- 2009 – The LM&M Railroad temporarily departs from the Brazenhead Irish Pub in Mason while the City of Lebanon completes needed track repairs on the Lebanon line. Once track repairs were completed, the LM&M was able to resume operations in Lebanon.
- 2013 – Excursion trips to Mason resume with LM&M’s “Date Night” event.
- 2014 – The LM&M Railroad and the City of Lebanon reach an operating agreement for continued operations within the City of Lebanon, Ohio for the next 7 years.
- 2015 – The LM&M begins operating as the non-profit Cincinnati Scenic Railway
LEBANON STATION (MILEPOST 2)
The original Lebanon Depot was torn down in 1960. In 1972, the Lebanon Council of Garden Clubs acquired the property from the Penn Central and built the current depot building.
Other station accessories include a crossing tower originally located on Reading Road in Cincinnati.
At one point, Lebanon yard included four tracks and a turntable. Today, two tracks are in service with the third last being used during the filming of Milk Money in 1993.
NORGAL INDUSTRIAL PARK (MILEPOST 3)
Just west of Lebanon the line passes through a small industrial area. In the late 70’s, the City of Lebanon purchased this segment of the railroad to provide service for local industry. There was also a major steel fabricator located just past the current end-of-track.
SUNRISE COOP ELEVATOR SPUR
This spur features a prominent derail near the main track. A derail is designed to protect the mainline from a car accidentally rolling on to the track from an uphill spur. Instead the car would be purposely derailed and rolled to the side of the tracks.
LEBANON SPORTS COMPLEX
Constructed in the late 1990’s, this park is one of the largest youth soccer complexes in the Greater Cincinnati Area.
OLD SCHOOLHOUSE (MILEPOST 4)
Known as the Valley Schoolhouse, this one-room school was built in 1892 and served students across the Turtlecreek Valley. The original brickwork is still visible on the south side. Today it is a private residence.
Turtle Creek is named after Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Indians. Together with Blue Jacket, he lead a confederation of tribes that inflicted the largest defeat the US Army would ever suffer at the hands of Native American forces.
The bridge at this site was built in the early 1900’s to replace a wooden trestle. It features a rare off-set truss style of construction. Slightly north of the current ROW when the creek is low you can see the bases of the old wooden tressle.
US ROUTE 42
In the mid 1800’s a stagecoach line was established between Lebanon and Cincinnati. The trip took eight hours and cost $1.25. The trip included a brief stopover in Sharonville for lunch and a change of horses.
It was common for Eastern travelers to overnight in Lebanon and continue on the stagecoach to Columbus the next day. Many famous figures of the day thus ended up spending the night at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon.
A station originally known as Avoca was located where the tracks cross Route 42. Here, locals could flag the train down for a quick ride into Lebanon or points south.
A small steam-driven pump house was located just south of tracks. Here, water was pumped uphill to a unique two-spout water tank located at Hageman Junction. During the winter pipes would freeze, and a smaller tank was located closer to the creek. Foundations for these structures are still visible.
LM&M JUNCTION (MILEPOST 6)
Located on property behind the Southwest Goft Ranch, here passengers can meet with their favorite characters, enjoy a picnic lunch, or even visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Here, the narrow gauge CL&N crossed the standard gauge Cincinnati and Middletown railroad. In 1902, the M&C was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad and Hageman became an important junction with the CL&N. Today, you can still see the brick smokestack from a cannery that was located in the southern quadrant of the junction.
STOKES (MILEPOST 8)
The are several spurs in this area, including tracks to an Indiana & Ohio built engine house located just south of the tracks.
MASON (MILEPOST 10)
When the railroad was built Mason had a population of less than 1,000. After construction of Interstate 71, strong suburban growth lead to a present population over 30,000.