The Louisville & Nashville Railroad (hereafter "L & N") was chartered in Kentucky in 1850 and from its Louisville base grew to be a major American railroad by 1900. During the Civil War, it provided a key route for Federal armies advancing into the Confederacy; after the war, it stimulated industrial growth in Alabama, Tennessee and other southern states, and played a vital role in helping develop the Eastern and Western Kentucky coal fields. At full growth (1971), L & N operated 6,500 route miles in thirteen states, with main lines extending from Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis to Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. L & N and three other large railroads - Seaboard, Chesapeake & Ohio and Baltimore & Ohio - merged in 1980 to become CSX Transportation.
For some years before, the L & N public relations department maintained an informal archive to support publications, advertising, special events and other promotional activities. Its collection included: annual reports; indexed employee magazines (which previous public relations staff had edited since 1925); photographs and negatives (color and black and white); timetables, maps, advertising and other promotional materials; a topical reference file and a small library. With L & N's long presence in Louisville (site of corporate headquarters as well as a large locomotive and equipment repair shop), much of the collection pertained to operations in the city and in Kentucky.
In the 1970s, L & N moved toward closer corporate ties with Seaboard and, later, CSX; many staff members from the Louisville general offices and shops transferred to other cities in the merged system. The remaining L & N PR staff, recognizing the historic value of their collection, obtained management's approval to find an appropriate repository. The University of Louisville, with long ties to L & N through its engineering and law schools, was selected, and older, more fragile records were transferred to the University Archives and Records Center (UARC). Microfilming of key corporate documents was also undertaken by UARC staff, and an oral history project produced forty-six interviews with employees and company officers from many diverse departments of the railroad.
Grants from the Louisville-based Bingham Foundation, L & NRR Historical Society and CSX Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, have enabled UARC staff, assisted by a volunteer L & N/CSX public relations officer (now retired), to inventory, organize and rebox much of the collection and prepare an inventory.
In addition to the previously mentioned corporate reports, publications and photographs, the L & N Collection also embraces several other large record subgroups. These are: railroad-related correspondence of A.L.M. Wiggins, Atlantic Coast Line/L & N Chairman (1948-1961); executive department correspondence between previous L & N chairmen, presidents and heads of major departments (from 1901-1961); reports, and related correspondence and some ledgers from the accounting, engineering, legal, mechanical, public relations, and freight and passenger traffic department; charts, drawings, maps and line profiles (from engineering and mechanical departments); press clippings, and movies, slide films, radio discs and other audio-visual productions.
The oldest corporate records - microfilmed minute books and board of directors reports - date from the 1850s and 1860s and reflect L & N's construction and early expansion. Some corporate records of important component or subsidiary railroads subsequently acquired by L & N are also part of the collection. Those lines include the South & North Alabama, Lexington & Ohio, Louisville, Henderson & St. Louis, and many others. Separate record groups for two other important subsidiaries, the Monon and the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, are also present. Some presidential correspondence dates from the era of Milton H. Smith, perhaps L & N's most prominent and colorful leader, who served as president from 1884 to 1886 and from 1893 to 1921.
Except for a few pre-1900 images, most of the photography in the collection was generated after 1930 by company photographers. Motive power, rolling stock and operations, especially during and after World War II, are well covered, but in addition, there is significant documentation of employees on the job as well as of industries served by the railroad. Many early twentieth-century travel vistas of on-line cities and scenic attractions reached by the L & N system were produced to promote its passenger train services.
Most of the collection is open for research; however, access to some records, notably board of directors minutes and correspondence less than 50 years old, is restricted. Use of other materials may be restricted due to fragility. It should be noted there are no employee service records or other related personnel department records in the collection.
However, the L & N Magazine, the railroad's employee publication (1925-1974) did carry some employee news, including promotions, retirements and deaths. In most issues were columns headed "Honor Roll" (for recent retirees) and "In Memoriam" (for recent employee deaths) under which were listed some employee names, their occupation/jobs and location of work.
Some company officers, department heads, line officers and supervisors were also covered in short biographical sketches at the time of (or on the occasion) of their promotions, retirements or deaths. Only those employed after 1925 may be listed. A biographical index is included with the L & N topical index (for major L & N magazine stories) (Box 216), and it may be of help to researchers and inquirers.