Within 30 years the network reached from Ohio and Missouri to Louisiana and Florida.
As one of the premier Southern railroads, the L&N extended its reach far beyond its namesake cities, stretching to St. The railroad was economically strong throughout its lifetime, operating both freight and passenger trains in a manner that earned it the nickname, "The Old Reliable." Growth of the railroad continued until its purchase and the tumultuous rail consolidations of the 1980s which led to continual successors.
By the end of 1970, L&N operated 6,063 miles (9,757 km) of road on 10,051 miles (16,176 km) of track, not including the Carrollton Railroad.
Its first line extended barely south of Louisville, Kentucky, and it took until 1859 to span the 180-odd miles (290 km) to its second namesake city of Nashville.
There were about 250 miles (400 km) of track in the system by the outbreak of the Civil War, and its strategic location, spanning the Union/Confederate lines, made it of great interest to both governments.
They discreetly continued the NC&St L as a separate subsidiary, but now working with, instead of in competition with, the L&N.
Ironically, in 1902 financial speculations by financier J. Morgan delivered control of the L&N to its rival Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, but that company made no attempt to control L&N operations, and for many decades there were no consequences of this change. Its widespread and robust network coped well with the demands of war transport and production, and the resulting profits harked back to the boost it had received from the Civil War.While room service can often elicit luxurious connotations―breakfast in bed, anyone?―a lackluster pile of soggy fries can also be a real drag.The arrival of L&N transport and investment capital helped create a great industrial city and the South's first postwar urban success story.The railroad's access to good coal enabled it to claim for a few years starting in 1940 the nation's longest unrefuelled run, about 490 miles (790 km) from Louisville to Montgomery, Alabama.The L&N guaranteed not only its own fuel sources but a steady revenue stream by pushing its lines into the difficult but coal-rich terrain of eastern Kentucky, and also well into northern Alabama.