Nelson, Marion, Boyle, Lincoln, Rockcastle Counties
The former Louisville & Nashville RR's "Lebanon Branch" ran from Lebanon Junction in Bullitt County to near Mt. Vernon in Rockcastle County. Construction of the branch began in 1857, reaching Lebanon in that year. The line was extended to Crab Orchard in 1866 and completed in 1868.
Most of the line was abandoned in 1987. The portion from Stanford to Mt. Vernon was abandoned during the 1990s. Most of the line is intact and in fairly clear condition. At the west, it connects with trackage of the Kentucky Railway Museum, headquartered in New Haven. KRM runs excursion trains from New Haven to Boston and owns the tracks to New Hope (a bridge in need of repair prevents using the tracks east of New Haven, though a fundraising campaign is underway to raise the money to repair the bridge -- the tracks are otherwise maintained). The museum owns a large collection of historic passenger and freight cars and locomotives and these are stored along sidings from New Haven to Gethsemane.
Between New Hope and Stanford the line passes through a number of small towns that provide basic services and also a variety of interesting historic sites. These include churches in New Hope and St. Francis, and the Maker's Mark Distillery near Loretto. The largest town in this section is Lebanon, which has a restored downtown area with many historic buildings housing shops and restaurants. The railroad right of way passes one block behind the main street and is intact, being used as a parking area.
Between Lebanon and Stanford the rail line passes through several small towns along the border between the Outer Bluegrass and the Knobs. Just west of Stanford the line passes near the site of historic Fort Logan. Though presently undeveloped, there are plans in the county for developing this as a historic site. In Stanford, they have successfully restored the Louisville & Nashville RR depot as a museum and community center. Also at the depot site are a playground, picnic gazebo, restored caboose and maintenance of way car, and a short walking trail on the right of way. This area would make an excellent trail head -- there is already ample parking and easy access to the services in downtown Stanford.
East of Stanford the line passes through what will become the new lake formed by the impoundment of Cedar Creek. This project was finished in 2002 and will provide boating, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. If a trail were to be developed, it would have to be rerouted from the original right of way, but it could be a vital part of this new recreational and natural area.
Just east of this lake is the historic William Whitley house. It is a state historic site and is open as a museum and park with a playground, picnic shelter, and restrooms. The line is intact and fairly clear as it passes this site.
Between the Whitley house and Mt. Vernon the line passes through a few small communities that offer restaurants, shops, and convenience stores. There are a number of creek crossings that offer lovely views, however the bridges have been removed.