Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway aka NC&StL, NC&Stl.L, ncstl,  




Nashville, Tennessee's Railroad Heritage

Nashville's heritage as a railroad city began in December 1845 when the Tennessee State Legislature chartered the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad ( N&C ). Completed in 1854, after successfully negotiating both Cumberland and Raccoon Mountains as well as crossing the Tennessee River, the N&C was the forerunner of the NC&StL, which came into corporate being itself in 1873. The N&C survived the Civil War and various economic panics that followed in the preceding years as Tennessee, in general, and Nashville, in particular, rose from the ashes of war to rebuild itself bigger and better than before.

In 1859 the Louisville and Nashville Railroad ( L&N ) was completed between the two cities that formed it's name. These two railroads connected Nashville with the world. Via the N&C and connecting lines, one could travel south to Atlanta or to Savannah and from there to Europe. Via the L&N and other connecting railroads, one could travel north to New York, Philadelphia or even Boston and from there to Europe as well. Additionally there were other smaller railroads formed in the Nashville area before and directly after the War Between the States that turned the city into a true hub of railroad activity. Most of these other smaller lines were eventually absorbed by either the NC&StL or the L&N over the next few decades.

The NC&StL itself was the target of a hostile takeover by the L&N in 1880. The L&N was frightened by the lightning growth directed by the NC&StL's dynamic president, Col. E.W. Cole, and decided to do something about him and the railroad. The L&N was afraid that the NC&StL would enter St. Louis, Missouri with its tracks before the L&N could get there first. To stop it cold, the L&N purchased controlling interest in the NC&StL and would have merged the road completely into the L&N at that time had it not been for the hue and cry that developed in Nashville. The L&N's management was actually scared away from the idea of merging the two roads together because serious threats of destruction of its rolling stock and property in Nashville and other parts of Tennessee by outraged local citizens.

Therefore the NC&StL, though tied to the L&N by virtue of its controlling ownership of NC&StL stock, retained its own corporate identity in Nashville until August 30, 1957 when it was finally merged into the L&N. Throughout its existence, it was Nashville's railroad. The road stretched out from Nashville to the northwest to Hickman and Paducah, Kentucky; to the west to Memphis, Tennessee; and to the south to Chattanooga, Tennessee and on to Atlanta, Georgia over the leased tracks of the state-owned Western & Atlantic Railroad home to the Great Locomotive Chase during the Civil War.

Interestingly enough, the L&N was also the target of a hostile takeover in 1902 when the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad gained control of it with the help of J.P. Morgan and his trusts. Also in 1902, the Tennessee Central Railroad ( TC ) finally entered Nashville as a competitor to the NC&StL/L&N combine, providing the city with an alternative railroad to help keep passenger and freight rates lower. The TC was never quite the competition local city fathers had hoped it would be, but it was tenacious and actually soldiered on as an operating entity until 1968 when it was merged into the L&N as well.

Over the years through Nashville Union Station, opened in 1900, a variety of famous, classy NC&StL passenger trains called upon the city. Running from Chicago and St. Louis on through to Florida were the Dixie Flyer, Dixieland, Dixie Limited, Dixie Flagler, Flamingo, Southland and the Georgian . Between Nashville and Memphis was the NC&StL's City of Memphis and before that the Volunteer . There was also the Lookout between Nashville and Chattanooga.


Reprinted from The Crypt Magazine, Issue 29, 2002,

For further information, contact
Dain Schult, NCPS President,
Tom Knowles, Preservation Officer,


NC&StL Preservation Society, Inc. is in no way affiliated with the NC&StL Railway or any of it's successors.
As a non-profit entity, NCPS presents these pages to the public purely for educational and historic interest.

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