The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, a railroad synonymous with the southern states and southeastern US, served major cities from New Orleans and Memphis to St. Louis, Atlanta, the western panhandle of Florida, and later Chicago. The L&N is also one of the few classic fallen flags to never have had its original chartered name changed at any point throughout its history, serving its home state and the southeast for over 120 years known as simply the Louisville & Nashville. Interestingly, despite its status as a southern road the L&N derived a significant portion of its revenues from the movement of coal as it served numerous mines in the state of Kentucky. While the railroad would become part of the burgeoning CSX system it was a highly respected and well-known transportation company for much of its existence. Today, many of its principal routes remain in use.
The L&N has its beginnings in 1850 when the State of Kentucky granted a charter for the railroad to build between its namesake cities. It took nine years for the railroad to complete its original main line and it opened in 1859 with a connection to Memphis established by 1861. The Civil War all but halted construction on the railroad and because L&N lines ran through both North and South territory the railroad had several miles of track destroyed through the course of the war.
Following the war and throughout the rest of the 19th century the L&N spent most of its energies building new railroad and acquiring others. In 1879 it purchased the Evansville, Henderson & St. Louis which, while it was not completed to St. Louis it had a very good start connecting Evansville, Indiana. The L&N during this time also took over the Montgomery & Mobile and New Orleans, Mobile & Texas giving the railroad access to the Deep South and Texas. It also took control of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis in 1880 giving it access to much of Tennessee and Atlanta.
To the east the Louisville and Nashville gained a connection to Cincinnati via the Cincinnati & Lexington in 1881. By the next decade in the 1890s, the L&N had a vast network in Tennessee and Kentucky giving it access to the rich coalfields of the southern Appalachians and by the turn of the 20th century [in 1905] it had a direct main line to Atlanta, Georgia. Through the early part of the 20th century the railroad would continue to expand in the east, mostly in the additions of branch lines to further serve the coal regions and by the time construction and acquisitions died down during this time the L&N found itself reaching the eastern tips of Virginia.
From this point forward the railroad spent most of its resources and energies upgrading lines and property. Aside from the railroad’s coal regions, which provided it with significant profits, by being “centrally” located in the southern region and serving eastern as well as western markets it also earned a large amount of revenues from handling freight and passenger trains. For instance it worked with railroads such as the ACL, FEC, PRR, B&O, Southern, and other, smaller lines. With this alliance it handled well-known passenger trains such as the Piedmont Limited, Crescent, and South Wind. Of course, the railroad also owned a few notable trains of its own including the Pan American (Cincinnati-New Orleans) and Dixie Flyer (Chicago-St. Louis-Florida).
Interestingly the L&N never reached Chicago until 1969 when the railroad took over the Chicago & Eastern Illinois’ main line and gained a direct connection to the city from Louisville when it took control of the famous, albeit rather small, Monon Railroad in 1971. Both roads were small, regional systems but provided the L&N with new markets that it did not previously reach. The 1970s also signaled the end for the Louisville & Nashville’s independence. It was during this time that it came under the Family Lines System banner along with the Clinchfield, Seaboard Coast Line (a merger between the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line), and a number of other smaller lines.
Azalean: Operated between New York and New Orleans in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Southern Railway, and Atlanta & West Point.
Crescent: Southern Railway's premier passenger train which operated between New York and New Orleans in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Atlanta & West Point, and the L&N (which took it to New Orleans).
Dixie Flagler: Operated between Chicago and Miami in conjunction with the Florida East Coast Railway.
Dixie Flyer: (Chicago - Florida)
Dixieland: Operated between Chicago and Miami in conjunction with the Florida East Coast Railway.
Piedmont Limited: Another of Southern Railway's passenger trains which operated between New York and New Orleans in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Atlanta & West Point, and the L&N (which took it to New Orleans).
Southland: (Detroit - Florida)
South Wind: Operated between Chicago and Miami in conjunction with the Florida East Coast Railway.
With this came a new livery applied to all of the railroads (with sub-lettering stenciled under locomotive cabs identifying company) and gone was the L&N’s famous gray, yellow, and red livery (which, interestingly, the new Family Lines’ livery also used the same colors). As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s the L&N would officially be merged out of existence. When the Family Line System became the Seaboard System Railroad in 1982 under the CSX Transportation banner, along with the Chessie System, there was little need for so many different company names and the L&N along with its other allied roads were merged out of existence that year. While the L&N is no more today the system and railroad it left behind continues to be an important part of CSX’s southern lines.