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Bowling Green Historic Railpark and Train Museum 6/25/2017

by Chris Guenzler

I had dropped Bob and Elizabeth off at the Nashville International Airport then drove straight to Bowling Green, Kentucky to my last stop on the trip.

Bowling Green Historic Railpark and Train Museum

The Historic Railpark and Train Museum, formerly the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Station in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is located in the historic railroad station. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 18, 1979. Opened in 1925, the standing depot is the third Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot that served Bowling Green.


The first Bowling Green railroad depot was built in 1858 prior to the L&N's rails reaching Bowling Green. The rail line from Nashville reached Bowling Green on August 10, 1859. The line between Louisville and Nashville was complete on October 18, 1859, and was celebrated by 10,000 Nashvillians.

During the Civil War, the young L&N found itself to be a point of contention between the North and South. Kentucky was integral to the war and President Lincoln summed up the situation in this manner: "I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game". Bowling Green was critical to both sides with its proximity to the Confederate state of Tennessee. The L&N branched just south of Bowling Green with routes to Clarksville, TN, and the line to Memphis, TN, opening the path to the Western war plans. By 1863 the L&N was the only railroad to cross both Union and Confederate Territories. The actions of L&N President James Gutherie resulted in a contentious relationship with the U.S. War Department, after the Battle of Perryville sealed Kentucky's alliance, but saved the L&N's future.

When the Confederates were forced to retreat from the city in February 1862, they burned downtown and all the supplies they could not carry, as well as the depot and trains. The Union troops occupying the city set about building a new depot. It was a wooden building and served the railroad and people of Bowling Green into the 20th century.

In 1878 malaria broke out from New Orleans to Memphis, Tennessee. Residents of Memphis wishing to escape the epidemic boarded the L&N trains, but residents from other towns refused to let them leave the train at their towns. Bowling Green's station was the first place they could leave the train, but enormous bonfires were built in order to deter infection. The evacuation of Memphis lasted a few days, until Memphis was quarantined.

By the 1880s, the depot was becoming too small to adequately serve all those who used it, and was in dire need of repair. However, the president of the L&N, Milton H. Smith refused to build a new station in Bowling Green after the citizens chartered a competing railroad, the Bowling Green & Ohio, that was to run east to Scottsville and connect with the Chattnooga & Ohio out of Gallatin, TN. In retailiation, Milton Smith moved the railroad operations to Paris, TN, causing economic hardships for Bowling Green. Milton Smith died in 1921 and the current depot was opened with much fanfare October 2, 1925. It was constructed of limestone from the former White Stone Quarry located in southern Warren County, KY.

The L&N Railroad signed an exclusive contract with a taxicab company to pick up riders at the station so a rival company sued claiming an illegal monopoly in 1928. In Black and White Taxicab and Transfer Company v. Brown and Yellow Taxicab and Transfer Company, the United States Supreme Court upheld the contract.

By the early 20th century, local agricultural goods, such as strawberries and tobacco, were shipped from Bowling Green's depot, as well as locally mined building stone and oil. This made Bowling Green's L&N station the largest employment center in Warren County. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Bowling Green station was a stop for over 30 passenger trains, plus freight trains, on a daily basis. The L&N and other railroads operated the South Wind, which made a stop in Bowling Green.

With the signing the Transportation Act in 1957 to create a national interstate road system and the burgeoning popularity of air travel, passenger service began to decline in the 1960s. Amtrak replaced L&N passenger service with the Floridian in 1971, and the last passenger train left the depot on October 6, 1979.


Left abandoned for many years and ownership passing through the hand of several private owners, the depot was saved from the wrecking ball by a group of concerned citizens. They transferred ownership to Warren Fiscal Court and the City of Bowling Green in 1997. Funding for renovations was acquired through the federal Transportation Enhancement program. The Depot Development Authority (DDA) was organized by the local government to oversee the twelve year, five phase, renovation process. Daily operations were under the oversight of Operation P.R.I.D.E., Bowling Green's beautification organization.

In 1999, the Bowling Green Public Library (now the Warren County Public Library) opened Kentucky's first Digital Library in the former train platform area. In 2002, the newly formed Historic Rail Committee located its first railcar on display tracks behind the depot. In 2007, the library relocated its services, Operation P.R.I.D.E. joined the City offices, and the Friends of L&N Depot (formerly the Historic Rail Committee) opened its museum and retail operations.

The Friends of L&N Depot, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization, manages the building operations through an agreement with the Warren Fiscal Court and City of Bowling Green, KY. The DDA was dissolved in 2008 having completed their assigned task of depot restoration.

My visit

I pulled into the parking lot and walked to the end of the display train.

The display train at this unique museum.

Louisville & Nashville E-8A 796 built in 1953.

Display train with the single track train shed.

The face any railfan would love!

Louisville & Nashville Railway Post Office Car 1107 built in 1927.

Louisville & Nashville Railway Duncan Hines Dining Car 2799 built in 1946.

Louisville & Nashville Railway Pullman Towering Pine Sleeper Car built 1953.

Louisville & Nashville Railway Presidential Car built in 1911.

US Army Hospital Car built in 1954.

Louisville & Nashville Jim Crow Combine 109 built in 1911.

L&N Caboose 6497 is Chessie Class C-27 built in 1978.

The Bowling Green Louisville & Nashville station. From here I went in and paid twelve dollars for a tour of the railroad equipment display. The women walked me out to the tour that was going on and I joined the group meeting Luke our guide for this tour.

Inside of the Louisville & Nashville Railway Post Office Car 1107. Next we were led into the Louisville & Nashville E-8A 796 and then I took the engineer seat.

The excellent view ahead of the train.

Myself at the control stand of the Louisville & Nashville E-8A 796. We all then returned to the RPO Car.

More views inside the Louisville & Nashville Railway Post Office Car 1107.

The inside of the Louisville & Nashville Railway Duncan Hines Dining Car 2799.

The inside of the Louisville & Nashville Railway Pullman Towering Pine Sleeper Car.

The inside of the Louisville & Nashville Railway Presidential Car. That ended the tour. Now I would visit the station building.

Private offices on the first floor.

The murals in the waiting room.

The old ticket windows.

A room off to the side. I took the elevator up to the second floor.

There are fantastic displays throughout this museum.

Passenger train models.

Station benches.

More excellent museum displays.

Engineer display.

Pullman Porter display.

Conductor display.

The rest of the upper floor displays. I went down stairs to the model railroad.

This museum has a very fantastic model railroad. As I walked out of the station, I heard a horn coming from the south so I walked out past the cars on the north end so I could get a picture of the train.

CSX 5450 North with CSX 5384, NS SD-70M-2 and CSX SD-40ES 1712. I left Bowling Green then returned to the Days Inn in Nashville where I got all my quarters then went a half mile to the Coin Laundromat at 2565 Murfreesboro Pike. While I was washing and drying my clothes I made several cell phone calls. After the clothes washing I went and had my dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse and had an excellent steak. I returned to the Days Inn and started my packing for tomorrow. Elizabeth called that they had arrived in Seattle. She also had checked me in for my flght and I was TSA Prechecked again. With my sore knee I would also be preboarded. I am going to check my one bag to make it easier to get around each airport. I took a shower and washed my hair, finally updated my rail mileage for this trip, worked on this story and watched television before calling it a night.

6/26/2017 I woke up and then put the corrections into this story then relaxed until it would be time to check out. I gassed up the rental car then went to MacDonalds for a late breakfast. I returned the car the the airport then went to the Southwest Kiosk to print my boarding pass, checked my one bag before I went through security. I then waited for the first of two flights home today.

Southwest Airlines Flight 380 6/26/2017

I read my new Tennesse Central book of this flight.

Southwest Airlines Flight 406 6/26/2017

On this short flight I did Sudoku puzzles. We landed and I claimed my bag then met my mother who drove me home ending a most excellent trip to the 2017 NRHS Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.