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




City of Memphis

The Great Depression took a heavy toll on the NC&StL, as equipment and right-of-way suffered from lack of maintenance and neglect. As 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 for picture.) 

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.

Current day City of Memphis cars

For further information, please see the Article from Trains Magazine,
and check out Tom Knowles' modeling efforts.


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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