A Railroad History: The Birth and Growth of the Nashville Road
The Birth and Growth of the Nashville Road
By Dave Husman and Andy Keeney
NOTE: The creation of a history for your railroad lends credibility to what you are trying to achieve. I also found it very enjoyable creating this history with Dave Husman.
At the turn of the century, railroads were a booming business. In 1886 the Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville and Southern Railway (CIN&S) popularly known as the Nashville Road, was formed when the Chicago, Indianapolis and Southern (CI&S) and Nashville and Alabama (N&A) Railroads were merged. This merger formed a direct north-south route from Chicago to Birmingham.
The Nashville & Alabama Railroad had been cash strapped when it was built and had established a joint freight terminal in Nashville with the Nashville, Memphis and Pacific Railroad (NM&P), which operated from Nashville to Memphis. In 1881 the two railroads formed the Nashville Terminal Railroad (NTR) to operate the jointly owned South Yard in south Nashville and the Nashville Union Passenger Terminal (NUPT).
In the Panic of 1893, the NM&P had a heavy debt load and was slipping into bankruptcy. The Nashville Road acquired controlling interest in the NM&P to gain direct access to Memphis, reduced its debt and saved it from bankruptcy.
During WW1, under USRA leadership the Nashville Road’s Mechanical Dept was under the supervision of Thomas Rendle, who was previously the Superintendent of Norfolk & Western’s Mechanical Dept. While his tenure only lasted into the 1920's, his N&W influence could be seen in the Nashville Road’s large freight engines and remained very apparent for years to come.
The Nashville Road was a wealthy road after WW1 and a huge improvement project was started in mid 1920s which included CTC which was installed on much of the major routes and numerous bridges were upgraded.
For many years, the Nashville Road had wanted access to the Gulf and began a serious effort to acquire control of the Birmingham, Montgomery & Gulf Railroad (BM&G). Work proceeded until 1929 when the Nashville Road became financially stretched to the limit by the commitment to an ambitious improvement plan and embroiled in an expensive takeover attempt. When the stock market crashed, the takeover bid for the BM&G failed. By 1931 the Nashville Road itself was close to bankruptcy.
For many years, both the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMStP&P), better known as The Milwaukee Road were both looking for profitable expansions and specifically a direct route into the deep south. The B&O had also been looking for partners to form a faster route between the east and west coast bypassing the major traffic hubs of Chicago and St Louis. The Milwaukee Road with a secondary line that ran south to Terre Haute, IN and then east to Seymour, IN was very anxious to increase its traffic to the south.
Discussions leading to a possible agreement between the Baltimore & Ohio, Rock Island (CRI&P) and Southern Pacific (SP) were contingent upon the CRI&P and B&O gaining access to a mutually acceptable location for interchange to complete the direct route which would bypass the heavy traffic hubs of St Louis and Chicago.
Two options were possible for this agreement, either acquire trackage rights on the Nashville Road from Louisville to Nashville (B&O) and Memphis to Nashville (CRI&P), or both acquire partial ownership of the Nashville Road, the latter being the preferred option.
By 1932, the Nashville Road’s financial situation made it ripe for takeover. The B&O and Milwaukee Road acquired partial ownership and controlling interest in the Nashville Road. They became the largest stockholders but both having less than 50 percent shares. With the support of the B&O, a portion of the old MN&P Division (Memphis to Columbia, TN) of the Nashville Road was sold to the Rock Island. With the addition of trackage rights on the Nashville Road from Columbia to Nashville, the Rock Island now had direct access to Nashville.
With the financial backing of the new owner railroads, the Nashville Road was able to complete the takeover of the B&MR, which then gave the Nashville Road direct access to New Orleans and more importantly, the Gulf.
As the country slowly came out of the Great Depression, a decision was made to build a new freight yard for the Nashville Road at Gresham on the northern outskirts of Nashville. It would be named Gresham Yard.
Once Gresham Yard was open for business, all Nashville Road operations at South Yard ceased and the yard was sold to the B&O and Rock Island and renamed Ribo Yard. It would be as a shared yard and used for interchange between the two railroads. All customers and switching south of downtown Nashville would also be serviced by those two railroad through Ribo Yard.
An agreement was struck between the owning railroads which allowed the Nashville Terminal Railroad’s operation to be reduced to the management of the Nashville Union Passenger Terminal which still remains in effect.
The Milwaukee Road’s influence on the Nashville Road can be seen in the logo and paint scheme for the new diesel locomotives that were slowly being delivered to the railroad. The schemes were almost identical except for yellow replacing orange on the Nashville Road units.
The Nashville Road System
Today, the Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville & Southern Railway connects the Great Lakes to the Gulf. It has mainlines from both Chicago and Detroit to Indianapolis and then south to the Gulf via Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, Montgomery and New Orleans.
The largest freight facility on the railroad is located at Indianapolis. Other major yards are located at Chicago, Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham and New Orleans. North Yard in Louisville is shared with the B&O. The B&O uses Nashville Road track north to Indianapolis and south to Nashville.
Not surprisingly, the Milwaukee Road is a major connection in Chicago with a heavy interchanges of traffic going to and from the Northwest. The Milwaukee Road and Nashville Road are two of the earliest railroads to have run-through service and units from both roads may be seen anywhere on each other’s system.
A work agreement between the railroads and labor unions does not allow crews from the B&O or the Nashville Road to operate each others trains between Louisville and Nashville. B&O trains to and from Louisville must depart from or terminate at Ribo Yard. Nashville Road trains to and from Louisville must depart from or terminate at Gresham Yard. This restriction does not stop the railroads from interchanging power when needed. At times B&O power may be seen on Nashville Road trains and Nashville Road power on B&O trains anywhere between Indianapolis and Nashville. But unlike the Milwaukee Road / Nashville Road power agreement, this is the exception rather than the rule.
The Rock Island has trackage rights on the Nashville Road from Ribo Yard south to Columbia, TN where it reaches its own mainline to Memphis.
The Nashville Union Passenger Terminal (NUPT) services passenger trains of the Nashville Road, B&O and Rock Island. The Terminal is managed by the Nashville Terminal Railroad and all operating crews are from the three user railroads.
As of this time, January, 1956, the Nashville Road remains a financially strong and independent railroad with a vibrant future.
UPDATE: March 22, 1956
The Louisville & Nashville Railroad has just made a deal with the B&O and has purchased its shares of the Nashville Road. Now, the Milwaukee Railroad will share ownership of the Nashville Road with the L&N. This has given the L&N a direct route into Chicago and the Great Lakes and gives both the Nashville Road and Milwaukee Road stronger connections throughout the South.
The B&O will continue to have all trackage rights that it had previous to selling its shares of the railroad. L&N and CIN&S will be pooling their power throughout the system, however, the 2 railroad's operations will remain independent, at least for the time being.
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