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Louisville & Nashville Railroads South Louisville Shops

An historical overview

Celebrating ties to the L&N picks up steam at U of L


by Lee Gordon

Reprinted from the Louisville and Nashville Historical Newsletter

courtsey Charles B Castner

The "Downs" of the Depression Years The Stock Market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed af- fected the L&N much like every other business in America during that period. Traffic fell dramatically; by 1932 gross earnings had dropped more than 50% from those of three years earlier. In 1932-33, for the first time in over 30 years no dividends were paid to the stock- holders. Employees who received wage reductions were lucky compared to thou- sands in the work force, who lost their jobs or were laid off. As if the problems of the depression were not enough, the L&N also faced other revenue losses, especially from competition, in the form of automobiles, trucks, buses, and planes. In 1905, when South Louisville opened, there were ap- proximately 1,400 trucks registered in the United States. By the end of the depres- sion era-when the L&N hoped to again earn good profits~there were almost four million trucks to compete with. To make it tougher, taxes that the L&N paid were being used to build the highways that the competition used! As a result of the "downs" of the early 1930's, the L&N needed no new equipment, and less of what had been re paired. South Louisville's work force dropped dramatically. What was bad for South Louisville was even worse for most of the other major backshops on the L&N.; The shops at Etowah and Paris, Tennes- see, and New Decatur, Alabama, were closed permanently, and all of the struc- tures demolished. The company's major backshops had been reduced to two- South Louisville and Corbin. In 1934, South Louisville received an additional "down" when a destructive fire damaged runch of the complex. Even that dark cloud had a silver lining, as the re- building process forced some needed im- provements. Much of the original shop equipment had become virtually obsolete by the 1930's, and the fire necessitated some immediate upgrading. On top of that, another half million dollars was spent in 1936 for continued moderniza- tion of other facilities there. All was not bad in the '30's, as after 1934, the L&N's passenger patrons re- ceived a popular new innovation, air-con- ditioning. A modernization program on the passenger car fleet was accomplished at South Louisville between May 1934 and July 1937, in which air conditioning was added to equipment used on nearly all of the main line trains, including coaches, dining and lounge cars. Innovations in Steam The L&N's mechanical department staff responsible for the steam locomotive fleet in the early 20th century had to be able to adapt to constant changes in tech- nology to stay competitive. While L&N; management tended to stay on the conser- vative side, it was also receptive to adopt tried and proven innovations. Just a few short years after new lo- comotive construction had begun at South Louisville, the advantages of piston valve cylinders and the Walschaert valve gear came to light: The first locomotives equipped with such features were the H-25 2-8-0's purchased from Rogers in 1907. These locomotives performed so well that all locomotives purchased new or constructed at the shops from then on were equipped with piston valves and Walschaert valve gear (except for six Brooks built C-2 class 0-8-0's, #2118- 2123 which were delivered with Baker valve gear in 1919). The shops also upgraded many exist- ing locomotives previously equipped with D-slide valves and Stephenson valve gear. Several H-23 class engines were modified with Walsehaert valve gear only and des- ignated as H-23A. One H-23 (#1136) was equipped with piston valves and Walschaert valve gear and reclassed as an H-25A. Two other H-23's (#1124 and #1156) were given larger cylinders with piston valves, Walsehaert valve gear, and superheaters and designated as H-2 SB's. South Louisville even modified one G-13 class 4-6-0 (#318) with piston valves and Walschaert valve gear. That G-13A per- formed quite well as a result of the re- building, but the expense of converting sister engines could not be justified for such light power. However, most of the larger K-i 4-6-2's were modified with the larger cylinders, piston valves, Walsehaert valve gear and superheaters, to be desig- nated as class K-2A's. Another extensive modification pro- gram involved the J-1 class 2-8-2's, These were the largest locomotives by far when introduced to the L&N in 1914. Because of being large in every respect (including their appetite for coal), they were modi- fled with mechanical stokers and reclassed as J-1 A. One J-1A (#1461) was also equipped with a Bethlehem auxiliary or booster engine that was built into the rear tender truck. That feature was not repeated, and the 1461 and its booster- equipped tender served as the DeCoursey hump engine for many years. The above programs still went only so far. While the South Louisville-built locomotives were great machines, and certain modifications had enhanced their performance even more, they were still being outdistanced by new technology. During World War I, the L&N's motive power fleet was augmented by 50 U. S. Railroad Administration (USRA) de- signed locomotives of various wheel ar- rangements. Again, these tried and proven designs appealed to the L&N's nature, and these locomotives were later pur- chased from the USRA. To keep pace with the prosperous '20's, the Old Reli- able turned to the established outside lo- comotive builders and bought new USRA-influenced power in large numbers throughout the decade. While the South Louisville mechani- cal engineers were deprived of being able to design their own "home-designed" lo- comotives, they continued modernization of what they already had as well as what the road was purchasing new from the outside locomotive builders. Over the years, innovations such as piston valves, improved valve gears, superheaters, trail- ing truck boosters, feed water heaters, roller bearings, large capacity and auxil- iary tenders were added to L&N locomo tives to increase their performance and reliability. It should be noted that L&N; mechancial engineers did drift from the norm during 1924-5, when two experi- mental 3-cylinder locomotives were or- dered. The first was a Class J-5 Mikado freight locomotive, #1999, and the second a Class K-7 Pacifle passenger locomotive, #295. While each engine basically followed lowed USRA designs, each also boasted a third cylinder. Had he still been alive, Milton H. Smith might well have warned against such a frivolous exploit and would have been right in doing so, as the two locomotives never lived up to expecta- tions. In fact, during the depression 1930's, the two almost new locomotives went quickly into storage. Still, the L&N; never wasted anything, and when times got better, the J-5 Mike was revived and served another ten years or so as the hump engine at DeCoursey Yard. Happily, more glorious deeds lay ahead for #295. One of South Louisville's unique steam programs involved the modification of three heavy 4-6-2 Pacifics for service on two new Chicago-Florida streamliners placed into service in December 1940. The L&N cooperated with several other railroads then to place into service the Dixie Flagler and South Wind, which were the first streamlined trains to oper- ate on the L&N~ In the fall of '40, two locomotives were initially chosen for the new ser- vice-the #277, a USRA K-S built by Brooks in 1924, and the 3-cylindered #295, which had been languishing in the weeds at South Louisville since the early days of the depression. Both locomotives were overhauled at South Louisville, the #295's restoration being much more ex tensive. All three original cylinders were removed and replaced with two pre-cast conventional style 25" x 28" cylinders. The #295 also received the only feedwater heater ever used on a regular L&N pas- senger locomotive as well as an additional cross-compound air pump which was in- stalled on the front pilot deck next to the relocated original one~ A new tender mounted on six-wheel trucks had a capac- ity of 20,000 gallons of water and 27 1/2 tons of coal enabling the #295 (which was assigned to the South Wind), the ability to run non-stop between Louisville-Nash- ville and Nashville-Birmingham. The Nashville-to-Birmingham stretch gave the L&N the distinction of operating the long- est non-stop, coal-powered run in the U.S. at that time. To finish it all off, South Louisville gave these two locomotives streamlined jackets designed by Roy F. Anderson, then chief draftsman-locomotives. These engines left the South Louisville paint shop in most attractive schemes. Each engine was still predominately black but had a wide silver stripe which ran across the front of the pilot, then down the sides along the running boards, and back along the side of the cab and tender The #295, which was assigned to the South Wind, was trimmed in red, while the #277, which was assigned to the Dixie Flagler, was trimmed in yellow. Both had red en- gine numbers on the tender. In spring 1941, a third engine, the #275, was also streamlined and painted like the #295. Designated as the "back up" engine for the two trains, the #275 immediately got to serve in that capacity after the #295 experienced problems with engine truck bearings. The #275 even in- herited the #295's tender while pinch-hit- ting. Meantime #295 returned to South Louisville where both its engine and trail- ing trucks were converted to roller bear- ings~ Later, it returned as the South Wind's official engine, with its large capacity ten- der back in place. South Louisville re- painted the #295 after World War II, this time in tuscan red with yellow stripes, to match the Pennsy equipment assigned to the "Wind." Car Shop Comeback From the time South Louisville opened in 1905 until the 1930-depression years, the car shop produced tens of thou- sands of new freight cars of all descrip- tions. But, with the early 1930's, new car construction came to a complete stop. Then, the plant served as a repair facility throughout the rest of the decade~ How- ever by the late 1930"s, the economy began to improve and the L & N found itself with an aged fleet of freight equip- ment that numbered some 10,000 cars less than the decade before. In the early 1940's, L&N turned to some of the outside manufacturers to bring the freight car fleet back up to the pre-depression levels. This was badly needed, what with additional World War II tonnage being carried by then. The cars phased out during the depression years were mostly obsolete, due to low tonnage ratings and antiquated designs. However, other cars in the fleet, while showing their age, were likely candidates for upgrading. Since the need for new cars was critical, management decided to initiate a program at South Louisville to rebuild the older freight cars to the standards of the day. The L&N caboose fleet also needed upgrading at that time, and South Louis- ville responded in late 1941 by initiating a program to convert 40' ventilated box- cars into burly 38' wood-sheathed ca- booses. The program was expanded to the Boyles and Radnor Shops after World War II, and some of the over-sized cabs also went into transfer and mine-run ser- vice. The steel caboose entered the picture in 1963 when South Louisville designed and began fabricating new steel bay-win- dow cabooses. This program lasted until the end of 1971, by which time 425 of the steel "cabs" had been produced. These were the last cabs constructed at South Louisville, as future models were pur- chased from outside manufacturers. Pro- totype 1000 appeared in red (in '63), but subsequent cabs in the 1000-, 1100- and 1200-series were painted gray, with red lettering. Later in the decade, however, L&N reverted back to red (with yellow trim and lettering) for its cabooses. Steam Out-Diesel In On September 25, 1939, a new form of motive power arrived at South Louis- ville. This new ALCo HH660 diesel switching locomotive was given a big welcome, including reviews by the press and company officials. South Louisville personnel, accompanied by an ALCo rep- resentative, then gave the novel piece of machinery their own inspection before it was placed into service the next day. More importantly, the new diesel satisfied Louisville city officials who were con- cerned with the smoke problems caused by steam locomotives. What's more, the unit could putt around town for hours performing local switching duties on one tank of fuel. Still, the managers of the L&N were hard to convince and remained die-hard believers in the steam locomo- tive. Two years later, in 1941, L&N's me- chanical department went shopping for new steam locomotives for passenger ser- vice. However, passenger diesels were selected when it was found that 4-8-4 steam locomotives that L&N considered initially would not be able to run across the many "south end" trestles. Sixteen Electro-Motive E6A diesel locomotives arrived in mid-1942, going immediately into service to pull war-swollen Pan- Americans, Azaleans, Flamingos and Dixie Limiteds. However, there was still one more glorious chapter to be written in the L&N; steam saga. Arriving on the heels of the new E6A passenger diesels were fourteen M-1 Class 2-8-4's for freight service on the Cincinnati Division. So successful were these engines, that two more batches were ordered during the 1940's, bringing the total to 42. The M-1's received most of their maintenance and light repairs at DeCoursey, Ravenna, and Corbin. How- ever, when it came to "class" repairs, South Louisville was the only place ca- pable of shopping the brutes. As far as main line freight service was concerned, the L&N stayed "pure steam" for the remainder Qf the decade. However, change was on the way. First, in July 1948, the L&N took delivery of five freight type diesels assigned for pusher service on the EK Division in coal country. However, during a coal strike in 1949, they operated in road freight service throughout the system and proved to man- agement that they could do everything steam could and more. Next, in Decem- ber 1948, the diesel age came to South Louisville, in the form of a new diesel repair shop. Finally, in the closing days of the decade (and 1949) the Board of Di- rectors approved funds for the purchase of 37 new freight diesels. South Louisville's new diesel repair facility opened on December 7, 1948, at the north end of the shop complex. The one-story building measured 104' x 240' and cost $550,000. The facility featured a running repair section, with two 165' tracks where locomotives could be ser- viced from several different levels. The backshop section contained three tracks, one for rebuilding, the second for truck repair, and the last as a wheel track. This area was serviced by an 80-ton drop pit table for truck removal and a 25-ton over- head crane for removing prime movers, generators, etc. The building also housed a storeroom containing all parts necessary for diesel locomotive maintenance and repair. The shop was originally manned by 85 employees working in three shifts. All of the L&N's 28 passenger diesels were maintained at the new shop, which also was equipped with outside service facilities for fuel, water, and sand (inter- estingly enough, the E-6's had been ser- viced out-of-doors, until then!). In L&N's centennial year, 1950, the proverbial floodgates opened in regards to diesel acquisitions. By year's end, almost 100 new diesels had been added to the roster, while the steam locomotive fleet declined by slightly more than that. On November 10, 1952, South Louisville outshopped M-1 #1976, the last steam engine to receive class repairs at the fa- cility. (All remaining repairs were done at Corbin, DeCoursey and Ravenna.) The L&N dropped the fires on its last steam locomotive on January 28, 1957.

Celebrating ties to the L&N picks up steam at U of L

  by Staff Writer Bob Hill Courier Journal reprinted courtesy Courier Journal. Thursday October 1, 1998

(Special Plague to honor shop workers at the new stadium)

Here is an idea so good it should be wrapped in a steel and lunch buckets and saluted with a train whistle. Or a big clanging bell.
It Begins with Louisville Native Bob Edward's the voice of National Public Radios " Morning Edition" a man who steadily maintains his ties with the home folks.
Edward's grandfathers, along with  two of his uncles worked in the mighty Louisville and Nashville shops, now the site of the  shiny new Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. The shops which opened in 1905 employed more than  3.000 people. The 34 Building complex stretched from the Eastern Parkway overpass to Highland Park. Thousands of steam engines and tens of thousands of passenger and freight cars were built and repaired there- some in a building 300 yards long.

Hundreds of families moved to Louisville from out in the state to work for the  L&N, settling in Highland Park, Beechmont and South Louisville. Workers walked the tracks to their jobs or rode the  streetcars along  Floyd Street.
the shops were Louisville's biggest employer. At lunch and after work, workers  drank beer and placed bets at Louie's on Floyd Street and  ate chicken at Mable Comptons  restaurant  next door.
" It was a wonderful place to work said Jack Eye, 85 who spent 45 years in the South Louisville shops and adjacent Strawberry Yards, where miles of trains were made up daily.

Floyd Street wasn't paved when i  started" said Eye , who began  in 1936 as a laborer earning 36 cents an hour and retired as a welder in 1977 making $7.36. " It was all dirt and the streetcars ran next to the fence. There would be ten cars waiting for guys to get off work".

Bob Edward's knew about  much of this when he came up with an idea to honor all those L&N employees by having a plaque installed at the stadium, where there is little evidence- save the adjacent rail tracks - of the once massive L&N presence.

U of L 's administration and athletic department welcomed the idea. The plaque will be unveiled Saturday before the  Cardinals play University of Cincinnati; Edwards and many L&N retires will be on hand. The plan is to  place the plaque temporally in the Brown and Williamson Club . Then  when a site is prepared, it will be moved to a place more accessible to all the public where it should be.

But there is more as there should be, as there must be  Tara Singer , assistant vice president of  alumni relations, said  U of L is looking into the possibility of having a string of railroad cars for fans use as a hospitality center near the stadium, like at the University of South Carolina. Others have suggested using rail cars  as local commuter cars to the games, or to travel to away games.

Charlie Castner , president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Historical Society, suggested permentaly placing a rail car or caboose filled with L&N memorabilia and photos at the site. Edwards said he thought perhaps CSX < which  eventually absorbed the L&N  could help place an old steam engine there.

It could be a sort of Lawn sculpture that wouldn't take up more than five yards by  fifteen" Edwards said. " the team could pick up the train theme. Two first downs  in a row and the scoreboard shoes the Hummingbird highballing south while the sound system lets go with a bell and a locomotive whistle....... The classic cheerleader term for the CARDS cheer is yes a locomotive.

There's already a football connection; tough gritty hard nosed railroad work and a tough gritty hard nosed sport. Combine them with a Cardinal Express steam  whistle that blows its whistle after each victory or a Cardinal Caboose where fans can clang a victory bell.
This year of course they are still getting the stadium finished. But the L&N idea can't die; Louisville has little left of its proud railroad history . Many of the people who will help fill Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium this Saturday have relatives-
uncles , fathers and grandfathers -who labored in those yards. What better way to  honor them than to  meld an old tradition with a new one. Clear the tracks  full speed ahead.

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