Engine 576 Whistles & The Pan-American on WSM in Nashville

In the previous post on the restoration of NC&StL Engine 576 and the Marty Stuart/Harry Stinson song, I drew on a post by ‘jh’ on the Mac Resource Forum.  I left out the part where jh posted a link to a video featuring the whistle that had sat on engine No. 576 in Centennial Park for decades.  Surprisingly, it was never stolen, but it had been damaged when someone went after it with a crowbar.  The whistle was repaired and placed on a different but operating steam locomotive, the former Nickel Plate No. 765 (note the same digits!) so fans could hear it powered with steam.

In the video Nickel Plate No. 765 runs with “the shop-built, three-chime whistle that was unique to the NC&StL J-3 class of locomotives and original to No. 576.”  This past Monday jh followed up with another post, offering “a better video of the engineer (on the former Nickel Plate No. 765) blowing the NC&StL 576’s whistle.”

 

Now back to Nashville and a different railroad.  The Nashville, Chattanooga & Saint Louis Railroad ran east-west.  It crossed in Nashville with the more famous Louisville and Nashville, which ran north-south, and had owned the NC&StL since 1888 (however, the two roads maintained separate operations).  jh writes:

Pan-American_whistle_WSM

Undated postcard, attributed to Curt Teich, Chicago (PD, via Wiki Commons)

Speaking of whistles. The Louisville & Nashville (L&N, “The Dixie Line”, “The Ol Reliable”) ran a passenger train between Cincinnati, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana from 1921 to 1971 called the Pan-American. The unique thing about this passenger train is its relationship with WSM radio in Nashville. The Pan-American had its own radio show for a few minutes each day. From 1933 to 1945 the Pan American would notify WSM as it was stopped at Union Station in Nashville of the time it was expected to pass the WSM transmitting tower just south of Nashville (the tower is still there and you can see it as you drive by with the now CSX rail line next to it) and the name of the engineer. As the Pan-American passed the WSM tower it would blow its whistle which was broadcast over North America. Later the WSM microphone was stationed on the L&N Vine Street tower.

There is an illustrated article about the Pan American/WSM whistle being broadcast. I talked to a gentlemen who indeed said you could set your time to the train’s whistle being broadcast.

The legend on the postcard reads:

The
PAN-AMERICAN
On the Air!
Over Radio Station WSM, (Nashville)
5:08 P. M.
L & N CRACK TRAIN RUSHING
PAST AMERICA’S TALLEST RADIO
TOWER (878 Feet) WHERE ITS
Sound AND ITS Whistle
ARE BROADCAST OVER WSM’S
50,000 WATTS EVERY DAY
Tune in 650 on Your
DIALS

In case you were wondering, no, it wasn’t the 576’s whistle; the L&N did not share locomotives with its subsidiary NC&StL (and turned down an offer to buy the NC&StL’s class J-3 engines in 1953, having already converted to diesels).  Doubtless there is a recording of one of those broadcasts.

There were at least three songs written about the Pan-American:

DeFord Bailey: ‘Pan-American Blues’ (1926)

The Delmore Brothers: ‘Pan-American Boogie’ (1949)

Hank Williams: ‘The Pan-American’ (1948)

Thanks to jh for the links, and the opportunity to quote his MRF post.  /CL

Erratum: First paragraph rewritten 26Oct (and divided in two) to make clear that I was not confusing the Nickle Plate road with the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, as two readers thought.

This entry was posted in Country History, Radio Talk and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s