Saturday, July 3, 2010

All Aboard!!

Those were the two of the most exciting words I heard as a child.  It was a BIG deal to take day trips with my mother to New Orleans, on the L & N Railroad's (Louisville & Nashville) train, the Humming Bird. 
The Humming Bird began running in 1946 when L & N started an all-coach streamlined operation between New Orleans and Cincinnati.  It was definitely a no-frills train, with only coach cars, lounges, and dining cars. The lack of the more expensive amenities was made up for in lower fares, which the public embraced.

The Humming Bird was named after a 'name the train' contest was held. Out of 292,200 entries, 671 were for the Humming Bird. Runner-ups were "Magnolian" and "Thoroughbred."

When my mother and I would take day trips to New Orleans, we would dress up. No one ever traveled anywhere without having hat and gloves.  It just wasn't done. 

The old train depot that I remember from those days was a basically a large waiting room, with exits to the tracks. The porters were all in uniform and the excitement was almost palpable as I waited to hear the train whistle as it approached the terminal.

Once we were on board, it was exhilerating to feel the rumble of the giant train wheels begin to move, with a lurch and jerk.  Until maximum speed, the ride was anything but smooth. Even then, it was not a relaxing ride. But I didn't care, because I was on the train!

What lay ahead was the scariest part of the trip, though. And that was crossing Lake Pontchartrain on the old wooden trestle. Once the train made it to the trestle, we were almost to New Orleans!

As you can see there are no protective supports to prevent the train from going into the water in the event of an accident. I don't know which was scarier: going across the trestle in the day time or at night. Either way, the train slowed to what seemed like a crawl and and lumbered across the trestle as though it had feet instead of wheels and was feeling its way blindfolded.  It was very thrilling!

My favorite thing to do on the trip to New Orleans was visit the dining car. I couldn't imagine anything more exciting than to eat a hamburger, drink a coke, and look out the window of the train as the countryside became one big blur.

Approximation of typical L & N dining car.

All good things must come to end, though. The Humming Bird's run ceased abruptly in 1969, due to lack of profits and excessive expenses, leaving many passengers stranded! Those days of train travel were very special and I'll always remember the excitment I felt as the conductor cried "All aboard!"


  1. i wish things were like they used to be.....

  2. I'm so glad I have these great memories. Times have definitely changed.

  3. I have never been on a train. Those are special memories. Don't guess my family ever left Saraland.

  4. Oh, some of my best childhood memories are from riding trains. I had extended family in Greenville, Alabama, too. Sometimes we'd take the train there for family reunions.