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Delivering Box Lunches on the L & N

Submitted by Ray Evans

During the 1920’s through the 1940’s Brodhead, Kentucky was a bustling little community. Much of the activity centered around the L & N railroad depot and three restaurants (Miss Murphy’s, Frith’s and Miss Clark’s) that were across the tracks from the depot. The L & N had four passenger trains that discharged and boarded passengers there daily. There were two north bound trains (Number’s 22 and 24) and two south bound trains (Number’s 21 and 23). There were usually a number of people that gathered to pickup arriving passengers or to drop-off those who were departing.

The northbound train number 22 from Lynchburg, VA. to Louisville’s Union Station arrived at Brodhead around 5 or 6 p.m. which was considered to be supper time for most people.

The three restaurants served as a place where train crews could get a quick meal or a hot cup of coffee. In addition the restaurants alternated putting boxed lunches on the north bound train number 22. The restaurant owners used young boys and girls as extra help to take the lunches on board the train. They paid the children 10 or 15 cents for this effort. Of course, this provided comic book or other spending money for the youngsters. During the early forties, I was fortunate enough to be employed to take the lunches onto the train.

The lunches were made up of a choice of roast beef or baked chicken. Various vegetables were served in little paper trays and all lunches included some kind of pie for dessert. The pies baked in these restaurants were as close to being homemade as you could get anywhere.

As World War II ended, many of the trains were loaded with returning service men in what was commonly called cattle cars. Some days there were as many as 300 box lunches put on the train in one day.

I thought I was cock-of-the-walk during the summer of 1945 when I was a student operator for the L & N railroad at London, Kentucky. One of my tasks was to take the lunch order from the conductor of train 22 and relay it by telephone to the railroad operator at Brodhead. He would then give it to whichever of the three restaurants whose turn it was to make up the box lunches for that day.