The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, The Dixie Line

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.  

Louisville & Nashville U30C #1479 leads an empty string of coal hoppers through Ravenna, Kentucky on May 23, 1981.

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.  

Louisville & Nashville's Passenger Trains And Through Services

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.

Flamingo: (Cincinnati - Jacksonville)

Georgian: (Chicago - Atlanta)

Gulf Wind: (New Orleans - Jacksonville)

Hummingbird: (Cincinnati - New Orleans)

Pan American: (Cincinnati - New Orleans)

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.

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.

Other Fabled Southern Lines

Seaboard Air Line, "Through The Heart Of The South"

Seaboard Coast Line, "We're Pulling For You"

A Brief History Of The Family Lines System 

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, "The Dixie Line"

Clinchfield Railroad, The Southern Coal Hauler

Central of Georgia, Serving The Deep South

Florida East Coast, "Speedway To Sunshine"

The Original Norfolk Southern, Before Today's NS

Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac: Staying True To Its Slogan, "Linking North & South" 

Durham & Southern, "Service With Courtesy"

East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, "The Tweetsie" 

Norfolk & Western, From Tipple To Tidewater

Southern Railway, "Look Ahead - Look South"

By the time this photo was taken the L&N was growing increasingly disinterested in passenger services; seen here is E7A #799 having arrived at Dearborn Station in Chicago with its train on December 26, 1969.

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.  For more information about the classic L&N system please click here to visit the Louisville & Nashville Historical Society's website.  For further reading about the L&N please click here.

L&N FA-2 #360 is adorned in the road's earlier black livery with gold lettering as it leads a freight extra, probably somewhere in Kentucky (the author did not know the exact location), during July of 1964.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
S116-19, 24-29, 34-681941-195045
RS3100-179, 214-2551951-1956122
FB-2200-211, 330-3311952-195614
FA-2300-321, 350-369, 383-3841952-195644
FPA-2350-352, 383-38419525
S22200-2201, 2220-22241943-19497
S42225-2232, 2350-23691951-195328

The Baldwin Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity

The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
GP7400-440, 500-514, 550-5521951-195359
GP9437, 441-459, 515-522, 553-5541954-195830
E6A450A-457A, 450B-457B194216
E7A458A-461A, 458B-461B, 790-7931945-194912
FP7600-634, 663-6721951-195245
F7B703-716, 900-9021950-195117
F7A800-858, 900-9031950-195163
F9A811, 919-9261956-19589
SD40-21259-1278, 3554-3613, 8000-8033, 8067-8086, 8095-8126, 8133-81621974-1981195
GP38-24050-4144, 6011-60441972-1979129

L&N GP7 #399 sits at the yard in Dolton, Illinois with a Missouri Pacific Geep on April 2, 1971.

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
U30C1470-1499, 1534-15821969-197279
U23B2708-2772, 2800-28241973-197590
C30-77000-7015, 7032-7051, 7062-70691979-198044

Steam Locomotive Roster

For more information about the L&N's steam locomotive fleet please click here.

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
B-0 Through B-12Switcher0-6-0
C-1, C-2Switcher0-8-0
D-0 Through D-21American4-4-0
F-0 Through F-8Mogul2-6-0
G-0 Through G-18Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
H-0 Through H-29AConsolidation2-8-0
J-1 Through J-5Mikado2-8-2
K-1 Through K-7Pacific4-6-2

Two L&N C420s, #1358 wearing the Family Lines livery and #1320 the standard grey and yellow, roll through the yard at Corbin, Kentucky on May 24, 1981. The railroad was quite fond of Alco's diesel designs, owning 16 of this model and more than 200 altogether.

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.

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