Louisville & Nashville Railroad

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The Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N Railroad, LN) was a Class I railroad that operated freight and passenger services in the southeastern United States from 1850 to 1983. It was a primary passenger and cargo carrier in Birmingham.

The railroad grew from a road with just 285 miles of track between Louisville and Lebanon, Kentucky to a 6,000-mile system serving thirteen states. It survived the depradations of Civil War and the scarcities of the Great Depression, operating both freight and passenger trains in a manner that earned it the nickname, "The Old Reliable."

The Louisville & Nashville Railroad financed the completion of the South & North Alabama Railroad line south to Montgomery in 1872, creating the crossing that established Birmingham as the transportation hub of Alabama's mineral district. The deal gave the L&N the right to operate the line as part of its network.

The company developed the Birmingham Mineral Railroad to serve mining and industrial sites in the Birmingham District beginning in 1884. It also constructed Birmingham's L & N Station on the site of the former Relay House in 1887.


The Louisville & Nashville Railroad was chartered by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1850. In March of that year, the line connecting Louisville to Lebabon, Kentucky was opened. Nine years later, it was extended to Bowling Green and then across the Cumberland River into Nashville by bridge. Another bridge, completed the same year across the Green River at Munfordville was, at the time, the longest iron bridge in the United States.

L&N partnered with the Memphis & Ohio and the Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville Railroads to extend its line to Memphis before the start of the Civil War in April 1861. The war divided Kentucky and Tennessee and made the railroad a target for both sides. As the fighting moved further Southeast, the railroad was able to return to regular operation, prospering through the remainder of the conflict. The end of war brought a rush of competitors from Illinois and Ohio eager to extend their lines into the South, but L&N's existing infrastructure gave it a head start, and its ability to raise capital allowed it to acquire uncompleted lines in the former Confederate states which had been chartered before the war.

Of critical importance, for the railroad as well as for the hoped-for industrial development of central Alabama, was the line between Nashville and Montgomery, from which connections to the ports of Mobile and New Orleans were well underway. A handful of antebellum lines were consolidated in 1866 as the Nashville & Decatur Railroad (N&D). They struck a deal with the L&N to complete their projected lines to the Gulf, which opened in 1870 and through the mineral district to Nashville, which opened in 1872, creating the Louisville & Nashville Railroad's main line.