• New York Central Nickname...

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Luther Brefo
Nickel Plate is to New York, Chicago & St. Louis as

New York Central is to ...

What was the NYC's "nickname"?

  by jg greenwood
lutherkb wrote:Nickel Plate is to New York, Chicago & St. Louis as

New York Central is to ...

What was the NYC's "nickname"?


  by cw cabin
Thats correct, Big 4 Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and St. Louis. (CCC&St. Louis)

  by Noel Weaver
"Big Four" was only a part of the New York Central in the midwest and did
not mean much in the east. The Boston and Albany was a part of the New
York Central in the east but meant little in the west.
There were nicknames for various lines but these usually were more local
in nature and tended not to be used beyond the area where these lines
Noel Weaver

  by Leo_Ames
I would think the only thing you could consider as a nickname for the NYC as a whole would be "The Water Level Route".

The Big Four is no more a nickname for the NYC than things like the Auburn Road or West Shore. The Big Four was just the nickname for what was the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway.

  by rlsteam
I suppose we need to make a distinction between types of "nicknames." Some were officially used by railroads, others were not. And then, nicknames were different from official slogans.

For example, the St. Louis Southwestern was the "Cotton Belt Route," the CB&Q was "The Burlington Route," the CMStP&P was "The Milwaukee Road," the CRI&P was the "Rock Island Lines," and the NYC&StL was, as you've mentioned, the "Nickel Plate." These were official nicknames because they were on the railroads' heralds.

Then, there were unofficial nicknames, such as the "Pennsy" for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the "Northwestern" for the C&NW, the "Louie" for the M&StL, the "Great Western" for CGW, or the "Espee" for the Southern Pacific. These didn't appear on any heralds or car lettering, to my knowledge.

Additionally, there were derogatory nicknames, such as "Busted and Maimed" (Boston and Maine), "Great Weedy" (Chicago Great Western), "Old & Weary" (O&W, or New York, Ontario & Western).

Finally, there were what I am calling slogans, such as the CB&Q's "Everywhere West," the Wabash's "Follow the Flag," or the PRR's "Standard Railroad of the World." These appeared on timetables or other publicity.

I don't recall hearing any nicknames for the New York Central, either official, unofficial or derogatory unless it was "the Central." "The Water Level Route" was not a nickname but a publicity slogan -- railroaders or fans would not have been likely to refer to the NYC that way in casual conversation. However, the component parts of the NYC retained some of their original identity at the local level, so that lines in central Michigan might be referred to a "the Michigan Central" or lines in Illinois, Indiana or Ohio as "the Big Four," long after absorption into the NYC system. The Boston & Albany, however, was not just a local nickname but a real identity, since it was the NYC's lessee.

  by Dieter
You're looking for something like the old line;

"Denver, Rio Grande and Western: TWO STREAKS OF RUST!". Boy, they really turned that around, didn't they??

New York Central = "The Water Level Route". Stick with that. It's about all we ever had.

  by ChiefTroll
It is significant that neither I (with 60+ years listening) nor any other responder so far, can tell of hearing a nickname (derogatory or otherwise) for The New York Central Railroad Company. That speaks well for the NYC, in my opinion. Even during the times when it was not unversally beloved, it was at least respected.

Now, the predecessor of the Catskill Mountain Branch (Ulster and Delaware) had two nicknames: "Useless and Dangerous," and "Up and Down." The former was derogatory and incorrect. The latter was neutral, and correct.

Train crews on the CMB continued using the term to describe a hand signal to "Proceed." Since the hand or lamp was moved "up and down," the fireman would call across the cab with the signal to leave town, "Up and Down!" That was the only place I ever heard that terminology, and it was derived from the nickname of the Ulster and Delaware.

Gordon Davids

  by hunter_alexander
The only real nickname (if you can call it that) was "The water level route".

  by BR&P
An NYC slogan (as noted, different from a nickname) was "Road To The Future". I can recall one disgruntled old timer snorting "Road To the Future, HUH! Road to the S**THOUSE is more like it!". I sometimes wonder what he would say if he were alive today.

  by Otto Vondrak
The NYC had no proper nickname, except for the shorthand, "Central."

Let's not confuse a nickname with a marketing slogan. "The Water Level Route" and "Road To the Future" were both marketing names. No one ever said, "Oh yeah, I work for the Water Level Route" or "Oh yeah, an old Road to the Future engine!" Same with Northern Pacific's "Main Street of the Northwest" and Milwaukee's "Route of the Hiawathas."

There are railroads that adopted their nicknames as official names. The New York, Chicago & St. Louis officially became the Nickel Plate Road. The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie became the Soo Line. The Chicago, Milwauke, St. Paul & Pacific shortened to simply "Milwaukee." The New York Central was the New York Central to the end of time.

Agreed? I don't want to speak out of turn here. I was born almost 9 years after NYC ceased to be.


  by pennsy
Yo Otto,

Fair enough, I rode the NYC way before that, and I still agree with you.

My only objection was from the double glazed windows that did not keep out the coal dust while going through those tunnels going North towards Kingston. As a kid growing up in beautiful downtown Brooklyn, my yearly trek up to summer camp in Kingston was quite a thrill. Got to get up really close and personal to some of those steamers. Too young for the lounges and bar areas, but I caught up to that later on, by that time it was PRR and the Congressionals. Let me anticipate the burning question. The girls on the NYC were definitely a different class than the girls on the PRR, even though I went North from NYcity on the NYC, and South on the PRR. I preferred the girls on the PRR.

  by LCJ
Huh? What girls? Who said anything about girls?

  by Noel Weaver
I suppose one name you could use as we did years ago and that was the
word "Central" instead of the full name. Some examples, in the New
Haven days approaching Woodlawn sometimes we would comment that
the Central was going to take us right away or in Grand Central maybe on
the Central side which usually meant that a New Haven train was going to
leave from one of the higher numbered upper level tracks which we did
not use too much at that time or after the Penn Central merger and crews
started moving around, I worked with a Central man or a Central crew
today. At Oak Point in the early 1970's, it was not uncommon at all for a
New Haven engineer to work with a Central ground crew or the other way
around for a Central engineer to work with a New Haven ground crew.
I do remember a nameless individual who had a emblem made up with
the New York Central oval and logo but instead of Central, he substituted
the word "Sewer" so the cloth emblem read New York Sewer System,
Water Level Route. This was certainally good for laughs.
Noel Weaver

  by va3ori
Sorry I'm joining this discussion rather late. Just returning to "active online" following 6 months of dealing (successfully) with health issues.

Otto is absolutely correct. THE WATER LEVEL ROUTE was a very clever advertising slogan that served the Central very well for decades. Another one they used was "SEE LEVEL" which was an obvious pun related to their famous slogan.

Many railroads were known by their slogans; that was the whole point of having them!

For a little fun, try remembering the roads that proclaimed the following, and don't look them up! (Well, not right away!) Let us know how many of the 15 you recalled off the top of your heads.

1. Serves the South
2. Route of the Streamliners
3. Serves the Nation
4. Route of the Eagles
5. Main Street of the Northwest
6. Everywhere West
7. Route of the Zephyrs
8. Main Line Through the Rockies
9. Main Line of Mid-America
10. George Washington's Railroad
11. The Road On The Move
12. The Friendly Service Route
13. The Route of the Dashing Commuter
14. Follow the Flag
15. Green Mountain Gateway