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Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad

The Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad (MC&L) was a railway in the southern United States. It was chartered in Tennessee in 1852, and opened in 1859. The MC&L entered receivership after the American Civil War, and financial troubles led to an 11-day strike in 1868 that ended when Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) leased the line. L&N finally purchased the MC&L in 1871 and operated it as its Memphis Branch. L&N was merged into CSX, and CSX sold the former MC&L line to R.J. Corman Railroad Group in 1987, becoming that company's Memphis Line.

Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad
LocaleTennessee and Kentucky, United States
Dates of operation1852 (1852) (chartered)
1859 (1859)–1872 (1872)
SuccessorLouisville and Nashville Railroad (1872);
CSX Transportation;
R.J. Corman Railroad Group (1987)
Track gauge5 ft (1,524 mm)
Length83 mi (134 km)


The company received its original charter on January 28, 1852,[1][2][3][4][5] and amended its charter in 1854 to merge with the Nashville and Memphis Railroad[6][7] and to build a line from Memphis through Clarksville to the state border in the direction of Bowling Green, Kentucky.[8] Construction began in Fall 1854.[1][note 1] In 1855 the charter was amended to allow it to build into Kentucky to a point on the Tennessee River to connect with the Memphis and Ohio Railroad.[7] After construction had begun, William Andrew Quarles was appointed president,[10] succeeding William B. Munford.[7][9][11][12]

The first train operated between Clarksville and Guthrie, Kentucky, on October 1, 1859,[2] becoming the first railroad to operate in Clarksville.[13] The line's extension to Bowling Green was completed on September 16, 1860, with the first regular train operating through to Bowling Green on September 24.[2] A ceremonial first train was operated on September 18, including a symbolic handshake between William Quarles and James Guthrie of the L&N at the Kentucky/Tennessee state line.[14] The 83-mile (134 km) line of 5 ft (1,524 mm)[15][16] gauge track connected with the Memphis and Ohio Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) between Memphis and Louisville. In Louisville, the railroad used the L&N Depot as the terminal for its passenger trains, and provided connections through to New Orleans via Humboldt, Tennessee.[17]

Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Clarksville in 1889 showing the locations of the freight and passenger stations in the city, then owned by L&N.

Its line was heavily damaged during the American Civil War,[18] and the MC&L entered receivership in July 1865[19] under George T. Lewis.[20] Assistance to restore the line to service was offered by the L&N,[21][note 2] which was declined by the MC&L.[19] The line was restored soon after the war,[23] reopening on August 13, 1866.[3][21] Heavy rain again caused disruption in December 1866 through a landslide near Clarksville.[24] In 1868 the railroad was bankrupt and could not pay its wages; this led to an 11-day strike in February,[25] during which time through trains from Memphis to Louisville were routed on competing lines via Nashville and McKenzie.[19] The strike ended when the L&N leased the line on February 17.[2][3] The railroad was dissolved on September 30, 1871, then purchased by the L&N.[3][5][26] Although the L&N's purchase was effective as of October 1, 1871,[27] the company's accounting was kept separate until October 1872.[19] L&N operated the line as its Memphis Branch,[16] but saw declining traffic through the early 20th century, with the last passenger train serving Clarksville in February 1968.[13][note 3] L&N was merged into CSX, and CSX sold the former MC&L line to R.J. Corman Railroad Group in 1987,[13] becoming that company's Memphis Line.


  1. ^ According to the Nashville Daily Patriot,[9] the groundbreaking ceremony occurred in 1856.
  2. ^ Additional records of the offer by L&N are held by the Filson Historical Society, in their collection of Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company Records, 1836-1912.[22]
  3. ^ Despite the similarity in title, the 1966 song "Last Train to Clarksville" does not refer to this station or its passenger service.[28] But, the city of Clarksville later used the song in promotion of local industrial development.[29]


  1. ^ a b Herr 1964, p. 27.
  2. ^ a b c d Defeo, Todd (February 16, 2003). "Railroad strike 135 years ago left long tracks". The Leaf-Chronicle. Clarksville, TN. p. D1 – via  
  3. ^ a b c d Defeo, Todd (February 16, 2003). "Strike (continued)". The Leaf-Chronicle. Clarksville, TN. p. D3 – via  
  4. ^ "Rail Road Convention". Clarksville Jeffersonian. Clarksville, TN. April 7, 1852. p. 1 – via  
  5. ^ a b Twelfth Annual Report of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission of Illinois. Springfield, IL: W. H. Rokker State Printer and Binder. 1883. p. 187 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Acts of the State of Tennessee Passed at the First Session of the Thirtieth General Assembly. Nashville, TN: McKennie & Brown, Book and Job Printers, True Whig Office. 1854. p. 755 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ a b c Quarles, Wm. A. (October 22, 1858). "The Memphis Branch Railroad". Clarksville Chronicle. Clarksville, TN. p. 1 – via  
  8. ^ "Railroad Convention at Clarksville, Ten". The Louisville Daily Courier. Louisville, KY. April 15, 1852. p. 2 – via  
  9. ^ a b "(untitled)". Nashville Daily Patriot. XX (180). July 2, 1856. p. 3 – via United States Library of Congress. Ground was broken on the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad on the 23d ult. Speeches were made by Mr. Munford, President of the Road...
  10. ^ Warner, Ezra J. (2008) [1959, 1987]. Generals in Gray (second printing ed.). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-3150-3 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Munford, William B. (1810 – 1859)". Tennessee GenWeb - Montgomery County Biographical Directory. submitted by Jill Hastings-Johnson, Montgomery County Archivist. Retrieved January 18, 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. ^ Munford, W.B. (February 9, 1856). Poor, Henry V. (ed.). "Notice to Railroad Contractors. Memphis, Clarksville, and Louisville Railroad". American Railroad Journal. Vol. XII no. 6. New York, NY: J.H. Schultz & Co. p. 94 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ a b c "History: City marked by impact meteors, fires, tornados, war (continued)". The Leaf-Chronicle. August 29, 2010. p. 16 – via  
  14. ^ Herr 1964, p. 28.
  15. ^ "Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville". Confederate Railroads.
  16. ^ a b Poor, Henry V. (1869). Manual of the Railroads of the United States for 1869-70. New York, NY: H.W. & H.V. Poor. pp. 56, 151–152 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville Railroad". The Louisville Daily Courier. Louisville, KY. June 7, 1861. p. 4 – via  
  18. ^ Davis, William C. (2014). Crucible of Command. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-306-82246-9 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ a b c d Vernon, Edward, ed. (1874). "Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad Company". American Railroad Manual for the United States and the Dominion. New York, NY: American Railroad Manual Company. p. 446 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Impeachment Investigation - Testimony Taken Before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in the Investigation of the Charges against Andrew Johnson. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 1867. pp. 226–227 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ a b "Louisville And Nashville Railroad. Annual Report of Superintendent Fink - Condition and Progress of the Road - Its Connections and Extensions". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, KY. October 15, 1866. p. 4 – via  
  22. ^ Cole, Jennie (October 29, 2014). "Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company Records, 1836-1912". Filson Historical Society. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "Mississippi Central Railroad Company". Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS. September 4, 1866. p. 2 – via  
  24. ^ "Land Slide". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, KY. December 17, 1866. p. 4 – via  
  25. ^ Defeo, Todd (January 15, 2003). "Clarksville, Tenn., Railroad Strikes After Money Tightens".
  26. ^ "Clarksville and Princeton Railroad". Nashville Union and American. Nashville, TN. July 31, 1872. p. 4 – via  
  27. ^ Reports and Decisions of the Interstate Commerce Commission. New York, NY: L.K. Strouse & Co., Law Publisher. 1888. p. 34 – via Google Books.
  28. ^ "Just where was that train headed? Arizona". Green Bay Press-Gazette. Green Bay, WI. September 14, 1995. p. 73 – via  
  29. ^ Associated Press (February 21, 2002). "City hopes Monkees hit will boost industry". The Marion Star. Marion, OH. p. 11 – via