The Louisville & Nashville was a never a system that delved
heavily into the passenger market especially during the streamliner era
(the company did not unveil such a train until after World War II).
However, the L&N is nevertheless remembered for several notable consists such as the Pan American, Humming Bird, Gulf Wind, and a multitude of through trains owned by other railroads. While the Flamingo
was never one of the L&N's top runs during the streamliner era its
history predates those trains by more than 20 years, inaugurated during
the mid-1920s. The train was operated in conjunction with two other
lines running between Cincinnati and Jacksonville,
Florida and maintained its popularity for many years.
As patronage rapidly declined after World War II the L&N became
increasingly disinterested in operating passenger trains, the Flamingo was discontinued before 1970.
The history of the Flamingo dates back to its inauguration on
September 27, 1925 as an all-heavyweight consist that was originally powered by the railroad's Class K 4-6-2 Pacifics. Listed as trains #17 (southbound) and #18 (northbound) on the
railroad's official timetable the train, along with its counterpart the Southland,
was one of the company's premier early trains serving the southern
region especially before it began to streamline its fleet and add
additional runs like the Georgian and Gulf Wind. For the train to reach Jacksonville
required the help of two other railroads; the Central of Georgia
Railway, which forwarded the train between Atlanta and Albany, and the
Atlantic Coast Line the rest of the way.
It should also be noted that the Flamingo also offered passengers
additional connections to Chicago via the Pennsylvania Railroad,
Louisville via the L&N, Miami via the Florida East Coast, and
Savannah via the Central of Georgia. Additionally, from its earliest
years of operation the train provided through sleeper service
to Florida from Midwest cities such as Cleveland, Indianapolis and
Detroit (similar to the Southern Railway's Royal Palm that also
served Florida and worked in conjunction with the New York Central in
this capacity). By the late steam era during the latter half of the
1930s the train replaced the original 4-6-2s with much larger
power including Class L-1 4-8-2 Mountains and Class M-1 2-8-4
Berkshires, the largest the L&N ever owned.
This time period also saw the Flamingo upgraded to full
air-conditioning (despite the fact that it still featured heavyweight
equipment) with a typical consist featuring DeLuxe coaches, a diner
that offered incredible Southern home-cooked meals (food aboard nearly
any of L&N's trains is still fondly remembered today), three
sleepers (two 12-sections/1 drawing room and a 10-section/2 drawing
room), and a 10-section observation-sleeper. In 1947 the Louisville
& Nashville finally inaugurated its first two streamlined trains the
Humming Bird and Georgian. Unfortunately, the train never received such status although it did operate a streamlined sleeper between Atlanta and Cincinnati in the 1950s.
As the railroad increased the routes of these trains it wanted to update more of its fleet with new, streamlined cars. However, it was unable to do so because of the
backlog of orders already in place at the time. To circumvent this issue the railroad rebuilt some older heavyweight cars
with semi-streamlining and purchased other, second-hand lightweight
equipment in 1951. Between 1953 and 1955 the Louisville & Nashville finally received its order
of new cars which included sleepers, lounges, diners, reclining seat coaches, and a few observations. For power the Flamingo was normally equipped with either E7s, E8s, or occasionally FP7s.
The scheduling of the train was typically about 23 1/2 hours, just
under one full day. Once it departed Cincinnati
Union Terminal at 9 P.M. it reached Atlanta by around 9 A.M. the
following morning for a connection with the Central of Georgia. Over
the Central the
train traveled for about 5 1/2 hours before being handed off to the ACL
at Albany at around 2:30 P.M. From the point the Coast Line continued
southward after about an hour's layover in Albany, reaching Jacksonville
by about 8:30 P.M. the following day. After December, 1962 the train
lost its connection to Florida and was truncated at Atlanta. As
patronage quickly declined throughout that decade the train's services
likewise suffered to the point that the Louisville & Nashville
finally discontinued it on March 7, 1968.
(Thanks to Bill Haithcoat for help regarding the history and operation of the train.)