The Main-Lahn railway (German: Main-Lahn-Bahn), also called the Limburg railway (Limburger Bahn), is a double-track, electrified main railway line in Germany. The 66.5-kilometer (41.3 mi) long line extends from Frankfurt Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Eschhofen, a borough of Limburg an der Lahn.
From Frankfurt to Niedernhausen, it operates as Rhine-Main S-Bahn S-2 and carries Deutsche Bahn route number 645.2. From Frankfurt Central Station to Frankfurt-Höchst, it also carries S-Bahn S-1 (which then follows the Taunus railway to Wiesbaden). From Niedernhausen to Eschhofen, it takes over Route number 627 from the Ländches Railway (Ländchesbahn). From Eschhofen, the line leads into the Lahn Valley Railway (Lahntalbahn).
A middle route through the Taunus between the Main and Lahn River valleys had been considered since 1850. However, construction was only begun under Prussian rule on 25 March 1872. The concession was awarded to the Hessian Ludwig Railway (Hessische Ludwigsbahn, or HLB). The construction began from Eschhofen and each finished section initially served mainly to transport material to the construction further forward.
The first section between Eschhofen and Niederselters was opened to traffic on February 1, 1875. The entire track was completed on 15 October 1877. The line from Niedernhausen to Wiesbaden Central Station, called the Ländchesbahn Railway, was launched on 1 July 1879.
Between 1911 and 1913, the single-track line was converted to double track. In 1971, the track was electrified between Frankfurt-Höchst and Niedernhausen, and in 1986 between Niedernhausen and Limburg.
Starting in 2009 the tunnel in Eppstein was replaeced with a new tunnel because the old tunnel needs to be restored urgently and doing this with full operation of services would lead to years of disruption of rail services. In addition, a new tunnel would be cheaper in the long run, as a new concrete lining inside the tunnel would reduce the cross-section to the extent that it could no longer be operated as two tracks, and therefore a new tunnel would have to be built for traffic in the opposite direction anyway. Easter 2013 the track was rerouted through the new one and the old tunnel will be filled.
In this context, Eppstein station is being rebuilt. The old station, which is a heritage-listed building, is no longer used by the railway. It was refurbished in 2007 and is now used as a government shopfront and a restaurant. The freight hall, which was also a heritage-listed building has been demolished.
The operation of steam locomotives ended in 1972. In 1978, S-Bahn line S 2 opened between Frankfurt Hbf and Niedernhausen. The S-Bahn line is operated with class 423 electric multiple units. Regionalbahn and Regional-Express services have been operated with class 143 locomotives since early 2006 and modern double-deck carriages since 2008. In addition services on the section from Limburg to Niedernhausen are operated with LINT by vectus Verkehrsgesellschaft, which usually continue over the Ländches Railway to Wiesbaden.
- Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, ed. (2005). Eisenbahn in Hessen. Kulturdenkmäler in Hessen. Denkmaltopographie Bundesrepublik Deutschland (in German). 2.1. Stuttgart: Theiss Verlag. pp. 501ff (line 032). ISBN 3-8062-1917-6.
- Heinz Hirt (2002). 1877–2002 – 125 Jahre Main-Lahn-Bahn Höchst-Limburg (in German). Eppstein (Taunus). ISBN 3-00-010714-2.
- Heinz Hirt, ed. (2007). 130 Jahre Bahnhof Eppstein. Vom provisorischen Stationsgebäude 1877 zum modernen Stadtbahnhof 2007 (in German). Eppstein. ISBN 978-3-00-022577-2.
- Dieter Frey (2008). Von der Dampflok zum ICE-Zeitalter. Über 130 Jahre Eisenbahn im Idsteiner Land (in German).
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