The Great Depression took a heavy toll on the NC&StL, as equipment
and right-of-way suffered from lack of maintenance and neglect.
the decade of the Thirties came to a close, the depressed U.S.
economy began to sputter back to life.
With keen foresight, the NC&StL initiated a stepped five-year
plan in 1940 to restore "The Dixie Line" to prominence
as the premier "bridge" carrier between the midwest and
the southeast. The plan included such measures as track replacement
and strengthening, double tracking, curve reduction, bridge replacement,
and the complete installation of CTC (Centralized Traffic Control)
along all mainline trackage from Atlanta to Memphis.
Then came the demands of World War II, overnight, the likes of
which the NC&StL had never seen before. By late 1943 and into
1944, it became clear that the United States and our overwhelming
capability to produce combined with the sheer strength of the unified
Allies would achieve the ultimate victory. Like all other carriers,
the NC&StL emerged from the depression of the Thirties to run
virtually non-stop during the war.
President W. S. Hackworth of the NC&StL managed to complete
right-of-way modernization and structure revitalization well ahead
of schedule during the war, and wondered what would entice the postwar
passenger? On the Nashville and Paducah & Memphis divisions,
"The Volunteer" had soldiered the load as the marquee
passenger service between Memphis and Nashville since the 1920's.
By 1945, the old heavyweights were showing their age.
In light of the anticipated post-war demands on car manufacturers
such as Pullman and Budd, President Hackworth authorized the construction
of a new replacement for "The Volunteer." (See Eva page
Shops Goes To Work
The West Nashville Shops, under the keen direction of C. M. Darden,
NC&StL's Supt. of Machinery, would build the new train from
older existing equipment. (Mr. Darden was also, incidentally, the
creative genius behind the NC&StL's famous J3 4-8-4 "Yellow
Jackets" and "Stripes.")
Six Pullman heavyweight cars were stripped to the frame and then
completely rebuilt with modern 6-wheel, roller-bearing trucks, air
conditioning, and modern "Art Deco" interior styling.
The result was the streamliner "City of Memphis", powered
by the fast old 1913 Baldwin 4-6-2 #535 with it's 72" drivers,
modernized and re-built with new cast frame and cylinders, large
capacity 6-wheel truck tender, and streamlined shroud. This was
the first streamliner built in a southern railroad's own shops,
and the job was completed at a fraction of the cost compared with
the traditional outshop sources.
For the next ten years or so, beginning May 17, 1947, the "City
of Memphis" in its various versions made the 5 hour and 5 minute
run from Memphis to Nashville, a 55 minute turnaround in Nashville,
then back to Memphis in 5 hours and 35 minutes.
By the mid 1950's, the streamlined 4-6-2 was long gone, replaced
first by J3 4-8-4's and finally by a GP-7 diesel, and all cars with
the exception of the Railway Post Office and one coach were gone
as well (even the "City of Memphis" name was gone), but
the daylight service between Memphis and Nashville continued into
the years following the NC&StL's takeover by L&N in 1957.
An interesting side note to the "City of Memphis" story:
of the six original cars, all but one survive to this day.