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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Obstacles Faced As Lebanon Tried To Lure A Railroad

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Source:
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 348
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon's bid for a railroad goes back to the early days of the Little Miami Railroad. A direct route over the hills from Kings Mills to Lebanon, Waynesville, Xenia, and on to Springfield would have been 5 miles shorter than the proposed Little Miami River course. This route would put Lebanon directly on the main line. However, the terrain being too hilly for the smaller engines to pull their train disallowed this venture. Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, being the chief engineer, walked the two tentative routes and made his report, the commissioners consequently choosing the river path. The railroad bypassing the City of Cedars at this time was a practical move, not a snub.
In the early 1840's a group of Lebanon citizens confronted the Little Miami administrators to build an extension line to Lebanon from the site of Gainsborough (Kings Mills). The railroad officials set a figure of $40,000 for the presumed extension. An amount of $46,000 was raised, but to no avail, the railroad backing out of its commitment.
A few years later interest was again stirred amongst the Lebanonites concerning a railroad. A line from Deerfield (South Lebanon) on the Little Miami Railroad thru Lebanon and on to Dayton was the next move. A survey was taken and the Little Miami was to help in the process of getting started. Another failure ensued and Lebanon wound up paying for the survey.
Still a third move was underway by 1850 with an anticipated effort again being negotiated by the residents of Lebanon and the Little Miami officials. The line again was to be from Gainsborough to Lebanon with a provision that the Lebanonites would provide the right of way and pay half the cost of construction. A period of dealings for almost a year passed and again the authorities of the Little Miami broke their promise.
The year 1852 was one of jubilation for the Lebanon citizens. Subscriptions were generously made, a right of way was secured, and actual work on a railway to Lebanon had been started. The name of this renewed project was the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Xenia Railroad. The town residents started sprucing up the village for the great event. Many substantial houses were being built which included two elegant mansions.
One hundred acres adjoining the town on the south had been acquired and were to be sold as town lots by A.G. & E.B. Wright, Hurin & Co., along with other personnel. On the east the Rev. Charles Elliot had laid out fifty-seven building lots and nine outlots.
The steam mills of Cowan & Co., and Mr. A.S. Bennett were ripping wood to no end. The greatest obstacle was the want of brick and other materials, the demand being so great. The noise of the hammer, the clicking of the trowel, the constant blazing of the fires in the kiln, and the cry for more materials transformed the community of Lebanon into an industrial entity. Painting, repairing and a general dressing up were in order for the pioneer town. The "order of the day" significantly waged an all out town remodeling.
Enlarging churches, selling property, projecting plans for future improvements encompassed a generalization of the town. Land sales were rising and selling almost at their owners' prices. One such sale was G.W. Stokes selling to Edgar Conkling of Cincinnati; the selling price set at ninety dollars an acre.
Mr. Conkling's projection was to erect, by the aid of a joint stock association, a hotel and cottage houses in which the summer residents were to have complete composure and relaxation. Also, a spacious hotel was to be built to accommodate the elite.
From cellar to attic the town was full of people with the grand expectation of the coming of the railroad. A suggestion was that "we advise all who contemplated moving here this fall [1853], to bring their houses with them."
The city was shocked to find their dreams had again been shattered. Though construction had begun, the contractor went bankrupt and Lebanon was out some $100,000, and still no railroad.
The year 1866 was the year chosen by the Little Miami line to again proceed to Lebanon. A subscription of $60,000 was proposed to the residents of Lebanon, their total donations being $64,000, and again the line backed out with no given explanation. Plans for a new line from Cincinnati to Springfield were in the making. The rail line officials required the residents of Lebanon to come up with $250,000, in which they assembled and raised $265,000. Passed up again, the line ran by the way of Middletown, Franklin and Dayton, the originators claiming that an arrangement was made prior to the organization of the new company.
The Cincinnati Northern Railway Company, in 1879, purchased at judicial sale the uncompleted roadbed and right-of-way of the Miami Valley Narrow Gauge Railroad Company from Cincinnati to Waynesville for $61,000, and constructed the first narrow, or three-foot gauge railroad in Warren County. On May 30, 1881, the road was completed to Lebanon, and on that day the county seat saw its first locomotive. (The road was never completed to Waynesville, although much of the grading and bridgework had been done.) Later the name of this road became the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern, and in 1894 was widened to a standard gauge. About 1897, the road was purchased by the Pennsylvania Company. Passenger service on this line was discontinued the first week of February 1938.


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This page created 23 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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