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History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad

History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 600
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  • Book Info
    History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad
    Book Description:

    " After the Civil War, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad took the lead among southern railroads in developing rail systems and organizing transcontinental travel. Through two world wars, federal government control, internal crises, external dissension, the Depression, and the great Ohio River flood of 1937, the L&N Railroad remained one of the country's most efficient lines. It is a southern institution and a railroad buff's dream. When eminent railroad historian Maury Klein's definitive History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad was first published in 1972, it quickly became one of the most sought after books on railroad history. This new edition both restores a hard-to-find classic to print and provides a new introduction by Klein detailing the L&N's history in the thirty years since the book was first published.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4675-1
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction to the New Edition
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Maury Klein

    The original edition of this book appeared exactly thirty years ago. In that year of 1972, Richard M. Nixon was president and made a historic visit to China. That same year he gained reelection by a landslide and five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate complex. George M. Wallace of Alabama seemed a serious threat for the Democratic nomination until he was shot by a would-be assassin and suffered partial paralysis. Two separate teams of astronauts spent record periods of time on the moon. A stone-age tribe, the Tasadays, was discovered living in...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Maury Klein

    It is always tempting to cast the history of a company into the form of a biography. Indeed the resort to anthropomorphic metaphor is irresistible, especially for the early stages of corporate development in the nineteenth century. The newborn firm appears to pass through periods that might be called infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Its original functions seem relatively simple and clearly defined at first, only to become more complex as it grows older. Gradually the company assumes an unmistakable character, even a personality, usually derived from the style and purpose of the men who dominate it. In some cases, particularly...

  5. 1 A Town Grows Legs: The Birth of the L & N
    (pp. 1-26)

    From its beginning Louisville was a city destined to prosper or perish on its commerce. Founded in 1779, the town scarcely exceeded a settlement for several decades; in 1800 it counted only 359 inhabitants. Even so, Congress recognized its potential enough to designate it a port of entry in 1799, the only such port not located on the Atlantic seaboard. The title meant very little at the time, for Louisville lacked that most necessary requisite for commerce: transportation facilities. Two possible arteries reached southward into the interior: the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland river systems, and the crude overland trails...

  6. 2 The State Between the War: The L & N in Wartime, 1861-65
    (pp. 27-44)

    Of all the railroads involved in the vast logistic problems of the Civil War, the L & N occupied a unique situation. Except for the unfinished Mobile & Ohio Railroad, no other major line in the country traversed both a Union state and a Confederate state. Not only the L & N main stem but the Memphis branch as well embraced both Kentucky and Tennessee. As a result the company inhabited a physical and emotional no-man’s land. It had to participate in the War Between the States but it also had to exist in some state between the war. Like the Union itself,...

  7. 3 The Sinews of Transportation, Part I
    (pp. 45-58)

    The metamorphosis of the struggling antebellum L & N into the South’s most powerful transportation system owed much to both its favorable competitive situation after 1865 and the ability of its aggressive management to wring every advantage from that situation. But neither factor could have prevailed for long had the company not endeavored to keep a step ahead of its rivals in performance as well. In this area much depended upon the sinews of transportation: roadway and track, motive power, rolling stock, operational supplies, and physical facilities. During most of the late nineteenth century the L & N, despite its increasing emphasis...

  8. 4 The Contours of Postwar Strategy
    (pp. 59-78)

    The defeat of the Confederacy thrust a host of decisions upon the shoulders of southern railroad managers. Wartime demands had so twisted the business and functioning of every line as to destroy any workable definition of normal peacetime operations. Part of the distortion involved simply the abnormal press of military traffic which would gradually disappear as regular trade relations resumed. Another part involved a more permanent alteration in the economic environment itself and would require major policy adjustments by every company. Indeed the South’s economic environment in 1865 scarcely resembled that of 1860, though many of its characteristics were but...

  9. 5 Combinations and Complications, 1865-73
    (pp. 79-101)

    The dialogue over postwar policy began in earnest at the annual stockholders meeting in October, 1866. In theAnnual Reportfor that year Fink advanced his first detailed plea for a new policy based upon expansion and an increased emphasis upon through business. His report led to a lengthy debate in which expansion policy won a partial and temporary victory. Nevertheless, the opposing camps on the matter formed early and endured for years, injecting an element of discord into the L & N’s management. A contemporary observer characterized the split in these quaint terms:

    … the parties viewed this question from...

  10. 6 Northern Invaders and Southern Invasions, 1870-73
    (pp. 102-122)

    In the decade following the election of 1871 the dynamics of territorial strategy reached their logical culmination. The superiority of the L & N in the quest for southern markets had always depended in part upon its virtual monopoly over north-south transportation. But the company’s stranglehold over that one vital gateway was in jeopardy. The change of gauge on the Short Line convinced many Cincinnatians that a southern connection through Louisville would never suit their commercial needs. Unwilling to abandon their vision of capturing the southern market, they fell back upon a long dormant alternative: construction of their own road through...

  11. 7 The Furies Uncaged: Depression and Expansion, 1872-79
    (pp. 123-149)

    The penetration of northern Alabama, though it by no means stilled the critics of company policy, propelled the L & N down the road of territorial expansion. Success depended largely upon the management’s ability to pursue its extension course while continuing to appease disquieted stockholders with regular dividends. But the Alabama commitment consumed capital voraciously, both for development purposes and for rehabilitating the two shoddily built roads. Like most pioneering projects, expenses multiplied quickly and returns trickled in slowly. In the best of times the situation would have created a serious financial crisis for the L & N.

    Unfortunately it proved to...

  12. 8 “Newcomb’s Octopus”: The Zenith of Territorial Expansion, 1879-81
    (pp. 150-170)

    Of all the variables that bedeviled the quest for rational policies, none proved more frustrating or unpredictable than the wrath of nature. The procession of floods, storms, droughts, and epidemics that periodically ravished the South drove railroad men to the brink of despair. In a lean year such a disruption often meant the difference between profit and loss. In an era of expansion, when financial resources were already stretched thin, a serious interruption of business could even lead to bankruptcy. While the L & N never veered close to insolvency, it suffered heavy losses from such unforeseen disasters. No event better...

  13. 9 The Financiers Take Charge: Interterritorial Expansion, 1880-83
    (pp. 171-194)

    The abrupt withdrawal of Victor Newcomb from the presidency portended an era of still greater change for the L & N. Even more, it unmasked a significant shift in the ownership and control of the company. During the 1870s the L & N remained firmly in the hands of essentially Louisville interests intent upon pursuing a territorial-developmental policy. The growth of the road into a sprawling system, however, profoundly altered this design. As the system’s influence extended ever deeper into the South, the number of interests identified with its activities multiplied rapidly. At the same time, the sheer size and weight of...

  14. 10 Scandal and Reorganization, 1884
    (pp. 195-222)

    In 1884 the conflicts within the L & N burst into the open. Rumors about the strife among the directors had been circulating for some time, but as long as the road remained prosperous Baldwin could ignore their effect. By 1883, however, even that prosperity was being questioned. Outside observers complained that a cloak of secrecy had been dropped over the company’s financial affairs. It was known that Baldwin, like Newcomb before him, had incurred heavy new obligations, but the nature and extent of those obligations were not divulged. The flow of information and data from the L & N offices slowed...

  15. 11 A Curmudgeon for All Seasons: Milton H. Smith and His Administration
    (pp. 223-243)

    The accession of Milton Smith to the presidency in 1884 ushered in an administration that was to run the L & N until 1921. During that long reign Smith influenced the course of the system’s destiny more than any other man in its history except Albert Fink. In dedication, single-mindedness of purpose, and sheer tenacity he was unrivaled. No other railroad executive in the nation succeeded in achieving so indelible a personal identification with his company, and few equalled his energy and devotion to detail. The effect of his 37-year presidency was to create the legend that Milton H. Smith ran...

  16. 12 In Pursuit of Profits: Financial Policy, 1885-1902
    (pp. 244-262)

    Inevitably the financial policy of the new administration dated from the 1884 issue of 10–40 adjustment bonds on sacrificial terms. Although the sale of these bonds and an equal amount of treasury stock brought probably the worst prices in the company’s history, it enabled the L & N to weather the crisis and restore its credit to good standing. The new board learned its lesson well and resolved to pursue a conservative course. For four years the board paid no dividends and applied all earnings to construction, maintenance, sinking fund payments, and other financial obligations. When some foreign stockholders clamored...

  17. 13 Tracks to the Door: Developmental Extension, 1885-1902
    (pp. 263-287)

    While the bankers pondered and fretted, Smith worked busily at implementing his own version of developmental extension. His view of the overall strategic situation was as simple as it was comprehensive. He assumed that the future success of the system depended first and foremost upon the development of local resources in the primary territory traversed by its lines. In this task the L & N should help locate valuable resources, assist new enterprises even to the point of direct investment, provide access to markets through a liberal branch extension policy and cheap rates, and supply any other services needed. If this...

  18. 14 Childhood’s End: Interterritorial Expansion, 1885-1902
    (pp. 288-313)

    The rationalization of the L & N’s growing interterritorial system reached an unforeseen climax in 1902 when the company passed abruptly into the hands of the Atlantic Coast Line. This loss of independence signalled an end to what might be called the L & N’s adolescent period. To be sure, further growth lay ahead and numerous problems remained unsolved, but the era of interterritorial expansion reached its logical conclusion and confirmed the emergence of a changed economic environment. The old competitive struggle between systems slowly gave way to rational policies of cooperation and mutual assistance. The energy and resources once expended upon...

  19. 15 The Sinews of Transportation, Part II
    (pp. 314-344)

    During the frenetic expansion of the 1870s and 1880s expenditures upon the sinews of transportation naturally received a low priority. The defensive scramble for position, the race for new markets, and the short-term profit interests of the financiers all tended to neglect upkeep and equipment. In pure strategic terms the point was to possess or acquire a vital route regardless of what kind of facilities it had or what kind of service it provided. Operational problems could always be handled on a makeshift basis or even through sheer improvisation, especially in a monopolized territory. Obviously survival preceded service, and survival...

  20. 16 The Great Freight Rate Debate
    (pp. 345-367)

    Of all the problems associated with the development of American railroads, none has proved more baffling or explosive than the freight rate question. Cloaked in arcane technicalities and mathematical jungles, it contained enough political dynamite to make or break more than one election campaign. Railroad managers, financiers, shippers, merchants, farmers, and politicians alike vented their spleens over the issue, resorting as often to invective as to logic in their quest for a solution. For all their fury, however, the problem remained to most of the contestants a vast unfathomable iceberg. The onset of World War I found the question talked...

  21. 17 Through a Glass Darkly: The L & N in Politics, 1880-1920
    (pp. 368-394)

    The stubborn resistance of the L & N and Milton Smith to regulation or outside interference of any kind inevitably thrust them into the political arena. No other area of company activity evoked such fierce controversy, prolonged resentment, and wholesale confusion among observers of all stripes. The basic issue at stake was the precise extent of the power exercised by the L & N in influencing public policy. This power could be wielded for both positive and negative purposes. The former involved the company’s ability to obtain desired legislation, verdicts, rulings, or less tangible favors from public officials or bodies; the latter...

  22. 18 Götterdämmerung: The Clone of an Era, 1902-21
    (pp. 395-418)

    On February 22, 1921, Milton Smith died at his home in Louisville. He was eighty-five years old, had served as president for about thirty-two years, and had devoted nearly half a century of his life to the L & N. To be sure, the last several years of his reign witnessed the gradual transfer of authority from his hands to younger, ambitious officers. Nevertheless, the old curmudgeon’s death literally ended the most dynamic period of the company’s history. On a broader level his passing symbolized the closing of an era which might be called the golden age of American railroads.


  23. 19 From Riches to Rags: Prosperity and Depression, 1921-40
    (pp. 419-451)

    For most of the decade of the 1920s the illusion prevailed that American railroads had been restored to health by the general prosperity of the era. The rate of return on property for the nation’s railways averaged between 4 and 5 per cent and the average operating ratio dropped to around 75 per cent for the period. But the volume of freight and passenger traffic grew surprisingly slowly, and declines were evident even before the stock market collapsed in 1929. The onset of depression ushered in a decade of lean years for the carriers. Ultimately they, like the economy as...

  24. 20 Resurrection and Redirection: War and Modernization, 1941-59
    (pp. 452-492)

    Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, the L & N shook off the clogs of depression and, under the powerful stimulus of war, achieved performance peaks that would have been considered impossible a few years earlier. Year after year it shattered financial and operational records that had gone unchallenged since the prosperity of the mid-1920s. For a few years at least, World War II solved nearly all the L & N’s major problems. It brought the company more business than could be handled comfortably, drastically reversed the decline in passenger revenues, sharply curtailed the threat posed by the new competitors, and...

  25. Epilogue: Into the Maw of Progress
    (pp. 493-522)

    The history of the L & N since 1959 can only be summarized here. Such recent events fall logically to the charge of that historian who takes up the company’s second century of operations. Recent events lack sufficient perspective to evaluate them clearly, and some of the sources are not yet available for inspection and analysis. Moreover, the pace of change in the modern world is such that any effort, however earnest, to place the past decade in some accurate context is doomed to failure. It is not only the L & N but the railroad industry itself that straddles the threshold...

  26. Postscript
    (pp. 523-524)

    Since the completion of this volume, two momentous events have occurred which appear to signal a new era in the L & N’s history.

    On November 1, 1971, Seaboard Coast Line Industries, Inc., parent company of the Seaboard Coast Line, increased its ownership of L & N stock from 33 to 98 per cent. By this transaction SCL became virtually the exclusive owner of the L & N system. The latter system had completed its own acquisition of the Monon Railroad on July 31. Fulfillment of SCL’s long-expected possession of nearly all the L & N’s stock fired new rumors that the L & N...

  27. Appendices
    (pp. 525-540)
  28. Notes
    (pp. 541-554)
  29. Bibliography
    (pp. 555-558)
  30. Index
    (pp. 559-574)