C&EI's Georgian/Hummingbird arrives Chicago, February 1968. Photo by Larry Sallee. Used by permission. Click to enlage.

(LSallee, https://www.flickr.com/photos/lsallee/15789910562/in/photolist-q4iqih, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)


Humming Bird Drumhead.


The Humming Bird was a named train of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N). The train, inaugurated in 1946, originally ran from Cincinnati, Ohio, to New Orleans, Louisiana, via Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile and later via a connection at Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee. A connection to Chicago was provided by the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad.

The Humming Bird had separate sections in the north and the south. The main northern part originated in Cincinnati; other sections (of the L&N's Georgian) originated in St. Louis and from Chicago. These sections linked with the main part of the train in Nashville. At Bowling Green, Kentucky, a southwest-bound section broke off, bound for Memphis; whereas the main southern route continued south to Nashville and New Orleans. Also, en route to New Orleans, a connecting bus option in Flomaton, Alabama assisted with travel to Pensacola, Florida, while trains were used for the northbound trip.

In the mid-1950s, Train 5 departed Louisville at 10:05 pm for New Orleans. Train 6 was the northbound number.

The original equipment was part of a 28-car order of four train sets of lightweight stainless steel cars built in 1946 by ACF. Fourteen cars were assigned to the Humming Bird and fourteen to the Georgian. Many of those cars were removed from service in the late 1960s due to severe corrosion problems.

The L&N Railroad served the old Union Station in Memphis, until its closure on April 1, 1964. The railroad then used Central Station. Both L&N and Southern Railway were forced to reopen part of Union Station on December 1, 1966, and use it until March 30, 1968.

The Humming Bird was canceled on January 9, 1969. At that time, the L&N Railroad earned some unwanted publicity when it terminated the final run of the train en route southbound at Birmingham when a federal judge lifted the order keeping the train running after the Interstate Commerce Commission approved its permanent discontinuance. The passengers were then bused to their destinations.


"The Humming Bird" train No. 5, southbound, at depot in Birmingham, Alabama, enroute from Cincinnati to New Orleans, July 1954. Nashville-Montgomery mainline (Birmingham Division) trackage is in the foreground. Diesel locomotive No. 793 and second unit are E-7 type 2000 Horsepower EMD passenger locomotives purchased by Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1946. (["The Humming Bird"]photographJuly 1954; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28698/m1/1/accessed August 7, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.)



Three Versions of the Louisville & Nashville "Humming Bird" crossing Biloxi Bay postcard.

Click to enlarge.

(Curt Teich, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


(Curt Teich, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)

(Curt Teich, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)

Important stations on the Humming Bird route

Cincinnati, Ohio: Cincinnati Union Terminal
Louisville, Kentucky: Union Station
Bowling Green, Kentucky: L&N Station
Nashville, Tennessee: Union Station
Decatur, Alabama: Southern Depot
Birmingham, Alabama: L&N Station (from 1960)
Montgomery, Alabama: Union Station
Mobile, Alabama: L&N station
New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal

Throughout its run, the Humming Bird had an additional northern-originating section running from Chicago' Dearborn Station, to Terre Haute, to Evansville, then meeting up with the main New Orleans bound train at Nashville. The C&EI ended the Chicago - Nashville branch of the train by February 1968.

The main Cincinnati originating section had a branch that broke off at Bowling Green and headed southwest to Memphis, Tennessee's Union Station.


Timetable and consists: L&N trains 'Humming Bird' and 'Pan-American,' 1956.

Click to enlarge. (POOLE BROS. INC., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Humming Bird Route Map. Click to enlarge.

Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0)

In Popular Culture

The train inspired the song "Hummingbird" by country artist Ricky Skaggs and was mentioned in the song "Southern Rains" by country artist Mel Tillis.


L&N Humming Bird in Louisville, 1956.

The L&N's Humming Bird seen here while stopped at Louisville Union Station in 1956. Photo courtesy Harold L. Robins.

(© Maryjane's Railroad Specialties, Inc., Fair Use 17 U.S. Code § 107, W. Lenheim Collection)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Midwestern United States, Southeastern United States
First service: November 17, 1946
Last service: January 9, 1969
Former operator: Louisville & Nashville
Route Termini: Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri / New Orleans, Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee
Distance traveled: 927 miles (1,492 km)
Average journey time: Original schedule, 19 hours in each direction
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: Southbound: 5; Northbound: 6
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reclining seat coaches
Sleeping arrangements: Open sections, roomettes, double bedrooms
Catering facilities: Dining cars, tavern-lounge car