The Old Reliable


Louisvillians depended on The Old Reliable -- the Louisville & Nashville Railroad -- for more than a century. The railroad provided thousands of jobs to generations of men, along with a means of transportation that for many Louisvillians was their only way to travel out of town.

During the 1937 Flood, Louisville depended further on the L&N. The railroad's passenger trains and boxcars transported refugees to higher ground in the East End and South End, with the trains often pushing through three-and-a-half feet of water. Steam locomotives operated on floodwater pumped directly into the boilers and, on one occasion, 149 people crowded into a single caboose.

The L&N shipped all freight intended for the Red Cross free of charge. The railroad also donated to the city's flood relief from its own stores -- caboose stoves, caboose lamps, candles, drinking water kegs, kerosene, and miles of copper wire.

After the lights went out across the city on Sunday, January 24th, the L&N helped transport a 45-ton transformer from Lexington to Lyndon, restoring electricity to the East End within four days, a benefit to both individuals and businesses.

The worst of the city's flooding occurred on Broadway, where Union Station and L&N headquarters sat side-by-side. Six young women in the telephone and telegraph departments remained on duty on the 12th floor of the office building and, thanks to equipment powered by batteries, kept communication open with the railroad's far-flung terminals, stations, and yards. Temporary headquarters were set up in South Louisville, in a train consisting of business cars and Pullmans, diner cars, and a mail car.

Like everyone else, the L&N faced a massive amount of cleanup and repair after the flood. Despite two weeks of lost profit in their passenger and freight business, the railroad took on the challenge with a sturdy faith in the future.


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