All Aboard! Celebrating Archives and Special Collections’ L&N Railroad Collections

On November 6, Archives and Special Collections opens its latest exhibit, “All Aboard!” We are celebrating our L&N Railroad collections — the Photographic Archives collection of L&N photographs (including glass negatives), Rare Books’ early railroad publications, and University Archives’ L&N Railroad Company records. For the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of going through these materials looking for photographs, documents, maps, menus, timetables… all sorts of items that will help tell the story of the L&N.

I was already familiar with the L&N collections, since these records are frequently used by academic historians, community researchers, and train modelers. But preparing this exhibit helped me see it in a whole new way. First, it made me appreciate the tremendous variety and quality of photographs in this collection. As you would expect, there are many pictures of trains – interiors, exteriors, loaded freight cars, locomotives — you name it, and there is a picture of it.

Shop forces with loco 209, ca. 1915

Among my favorites are several shots of workers on and around the locomotives, as in this image of locomotive number 209 in Decatur, Alabama, taken around 1915.





Many of the images were taken for the L&N Magazine.  This one, for example, is from a feature on Mardi Gras that ran in 1948, which included this photograph of a couple dressed as Vikings.Mardi Gras, 1948.









The photographs sometimes include sweet surprises, as with this image of the of Ringling Brother-Barnum and Bailey circus train. If you look closely, you can see elephants reaching their trunks out of the car:

 Barnum & Bailey train, 1969.

Working with the L&N Magazine has also been a special treat. In addition to stories on different cities, it ran features on the different types of freight carried by the railroad: the L&N shipped everything from bananas, peanuts and other types of produce, to coal (lots of coal!), to appliances, to special shipments including “Iron Lungs” and race horses. L&N Magazine, Sept. 1948

The magazine also featured photographs of company sports teams, and shared information about different employees’ hobbies and family events including weddings. It warned workers of possible threats to their safety and their health, including alcoholism and heart attacks. It also profiled employees, departments, and services, helping promote a wider understanding of the tremendous variety of activities going on within this large and multi-faceted organization.

All Aboard! runs through February 7, 2014. Archives and Special Collections is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; we are having a special Sunday showing of the exhibit on Sunday, November 10, from noon to 5:00 p.m.

2 Comments on “All Aboard! Celebrating Archives and Special Collections’ L&N Railroad Collections”

  1. Melissa Barker says:

    Carrie, hello, I am the archivist for Houston County, Tennessee. The L & N Railroad was the railroad that ran through our county from the 1800’s up to about the 1970’s. We have a small manuscript collection in the Houston County Archives. Can you tell me if your collection contains any photos of the L & N Railroad for the cities of Erin, Tennessee Ridge or Stewart in Houston County, Tennessee? Thank you.

    Melissa Barker
    Certified Archives Manager
    Houston County, TN. Archives

  2. Hi I’m an 11th grader at Carnegie Vanguard High School and one of my graduation requirements is to complete a year long project. My project is a program that encourages people to create politically and socially driven artwork, and I’m going to put all of the artwork I find into a book.

    If I cite you guys properly, may I use one of your photos for the cover of one of my sections in the book?

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