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History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad

Maury Klein

Publication Year: 2014

" 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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xi

List of Tables

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p. xii-xii

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Introduction to the New Edition

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pp. xiii-xviii

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...

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pp. xix-xxii

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....

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1 A Town Grows Legs: The Birth of the L & N

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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...

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2 The State Between the War: The L & N in Wartime, 1861-65

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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 ...

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3 The Sinews of Transportation, Part I

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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...

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4 The Contours of Postwar Strategy

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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...

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5 Combinations and Complications, 1865-73

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pp. 79-101

The dialogue over postwar policy began in earnest at the annual stockholders meeting in October, 1866. In the Annual Report for 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...

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6 Northern Invaders and Southern Invasions, 1870-73

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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...

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7 The Furies Uncaged: Depression and Expansion, 1872-79

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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...

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8 "Newcomb's Octopus'': The Zenith of Territorial Expansion, 1879-81

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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...

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9 The Financiers Take Charge: Interterritorial Expansion, 1880-83

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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...

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10 Scandal and Reorganization, 1884

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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...

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11 A Curmudgeon for All Seasons: Milton H. Smith and His Administration

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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...

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12 In Pursuit of Profits: Financial Policy, 1885-1902

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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 ...

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13 Tracks to the Door: Developmental Extension, 1885-1902

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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...

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14 Childhood's End: Interterritorial Expansion, 1885-1902

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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 ...

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15 The Sinews of Transportation, Part II

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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...

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16 The Great Freight Rate Debate

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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,...

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17 Through a Glass Darkly: The L & N in Politics, 1880-1920

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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...

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18 Götterdämmerung: The Close of an Era, 1902-21

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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...

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19 From Riches to Rags: Prosperity and Depression, 1921-40

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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...

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20 Resurrection and Redirection: War and Modernization, 1941-59

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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....

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Epilogue: Into the Maw of Progress

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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 ...

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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 i, 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...


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pp. 525-540


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pp. 541-554


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pp. 555-558


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pp. 559-574

E-ISBN-13: 9780813146751
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813122632

Page Count: 600
Publication Year: 2014