Pan-American (passenger Train)
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Pan-American Passenger Train
The Pan American Louisville and Nashville.JPG
Postcard photo of the heavyweight train.
LocaleMidwestern United States/Southeastern United States
First serviceDecember 5, 1921
Last serviceApril 30, 1971
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
StartCincinnati, Ohio
EndNew Orleans, Louisiana
Distance travelled922 miles (1,484 km)
Average journey timeSouthbound: 23 hrs 10 min; northbound: 23 hrs 15 min
Service frequencyDaily
Southbound: 99, northbound: 98
On-board services
Seating arrangementsReclining seat coaches
Sleeping arrangementsRoomettes, double bedrooms
Catering facilitiesDining car; lounge car

The Pan-American was a passenger train operated by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) between Cincinnati, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana. It operated from 1921 until 1971. From 1921 to 1965 a section served Memphis, Tennessee via Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Pan-American was the L&N's flagship train until the introduction of the Humming Bird in 1946. Its name honored the substantial traffic the L&N carried to and from the seaports on the Gulf of Mexico. The Pan-American was one of many trains discontinued when Amtrak began operations in 1971.


The L&N introduced the Pan-American on December 5, 1921.[1]:283 A section of the train diverged at Bowling Green, Kentucky to serve Memphis, Tennessee.[2]:10 At the outset the train carried both sleepers and coaches, and was noteworthy for its all-steel construction in an era when wood heavyweight coaches were still common. The name honored the substantial traffic the L&N carried to and from the seaports on the Gulf of Mexico.[3]:108 It covered the 921 miles (1,482 km) from Cincinnati to New Orleans in 26 hours, soon shortened to exactly 24 hours.[4]:426[5]:129

The train proved popular with the traveling public, and in 1925 was re-equipped as an "All-Pullman" (no coaches) train.[6]:147 Its popularity contributed to businesses named after it; the Pan-American Lunch Room operated in Nashville, Tennessee in the 1920s.[7] The economic pressures of the Great Depression forced the Pan-American to start carrying coaches again in 1933.

Like many L&N trains, the Pan-American experienced a surge in ridership during World War II, carrying four times its normal traffic.[2]:24 The Pan-American lost its title as the L&N's flagship train in 1946 with the introduction of faster Humming Bird over the same route.[5]:137 Although never fully streamlined, the Pan-American began receiving streamlined equipment in 1949. The southbound Pan-American carried through sleepers for Nashville, Tennessee, Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis from New York City conveyed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in Cincinnati.[8] Further south in Montgomery, Alabama it received New York-New Orleans and Washington-New Orleans sleepers from the Southern Railway's Piedmont Limited.[9]:538

In 1953 the Pan-American was one of several L&N trains to receive new lightweight "Pine"-series sleeping cars from Pullman-Standard.[10] Throughout the 1960s, the decline of passenger railroading in the United States took its toll on ridership and amenities. A counter-lounge replaced the diner-lounge in 1965.[5]:139 The Pan-American began handling some of the South Wind's through traffic in 1970 after the Penn Central withdrew from joint operation.[5]:140 By 1970 the train's consist had shrunk dramatically: between Cincinnati and Louisville it might carry only a baggage car, coach, and dining car, with a sleeper for New Orleans added in Louisville. Amtrak did not retain service over the L&N route, and the Pan-American ended on April 30, 1971.[3]:111

Cultural influence

Postcard of the Pan-American as it passed the WSM transmitter in Nashville.

In the words of Kincaid Herr, official historian of the L&N, the Pan-American "came to be the symbol of the L&N's passenger service."[11]:235 The train was made famous by WSM Radio's nightly broadcast of the passing train's whistle. Some Pan-American passengers were lucky enough to sit in comfortable lounge chairs and hear the sound of their own train's whistle from a wood-cabinet table radio tuned to WSM in the observation car. The broadcasts began on August 15, 1933.[2]:26[11]:259

The Pan-American inspired several songs:

"Pan-American Blues" was one of two railroad songs recorded by DeFord Bailey (the other being "Dixie Flyer Blues", so named for another L&N train. Bailey saw the Pan-American frequently at Nashville's Union Station in the 1920s, but the inspiration for name came from one of his foster sisters, who noted that "it was the fastest around." Bailey, with his harmonica, imitated the sound of the Pan-American's whistle and it quickly became one of his most-requested performances at the Grand Ole Opry and elsewhere.[13]:78-80


  1. ^ EuDaly, Kevin; et al. (2009). The Complete Book of North American Railroading. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-2848-4. OCLC 209631579. Cite uses deprecated parameter |displayauthors= (help)
  2. ^ a b c Comer, Kevin (2012). Louisville & Nashville Railroad in South Central Kentucky. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738592145. OCLC 759916711.
  3. ^ a b Schafer, Mike (1996). Classic American Railroads. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 978-0-7603-0239-2. OCLC 768619768. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  4. ^ Klein, Maury (2003) [1972]. History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813122635. OCLC 248817483.
  5. ^ a b c d Cox, Jim (2011). Rails Across Dixie: A History of Passenger Trains in the American South. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 9780786445288. OCLC 609716000. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  6. ^ Prince, Richard E. (2000) [1968]. Louisville & Nashville Steam Locomotives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 025333764X. OCLC 46648011.
  7. ^ [ Pan-American Lunch Room, 2620 Jefferson, Nashville, TN City Directory, 1929
  8. ^ a b "The L&N's Pan American". Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ Official Guide of the Railways. New York: National Railway Publication Co. March 1950. OCLC 6340864. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthor= (help)
  10. ^ "THE TOWERING PINE SLEEPER CAR". The Historic Railpark and Train Museum. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  11. ^ a b Herr, Kincaid A. (2000) [1964]. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 1850-1963. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813121841. OCLC 44128340. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  12. ^ Yenne, Bill (2005). Atlas of North American railroads. Minneapolis: MBI. ISBN 0760322996. OCLC 475547092.
  13. ^ Morton, David C.; Charles K. Wolfe (1991). DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0870496980. OCLC 22710812.

External links

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