Friday, February 18, 2011

The Road To Ride

It's pretty common for railroads with long names to be more famous by nicknames or shortened versions of their full names. Two such roads are shown on this sign.

The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific was a classic Midwestern railroad, famed for it's "Rocket" passenger trains, as well as being one of the roads that handled the Golden State Limited from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, declining revenues throughout the fifties and sixties, as well as having routes that were doubled by the Burlington Road, caused the Rock Island to slide into bankruptcy, and by 1980 was out of business for good.

The New York, Chicago, and St. Louis was better known as the "Nickel Plate" because of the road's smooth riding rails. Primarily an eastern carrier, the Nickel Plate ran from New York to Chicago, and was renowned for it's use of steam well into the postwar diesel era. However, like so many mid-sized railroads in America, declining revenues forced a merger with the stronger Norfolk & Western, and the Nickel Plate disappeared in 1964.

The title comes, of course, from the folk classic Rock Island Line, by Kelly Pace, and popularized by Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan. Originally recorded by John Lomax, and sung by Pace and his fellow inmates at an Alabama prison, the song tells the story of a train operator who smuggled pig iron by claiming he had nothing but livestock.

Get your ticket at the station!

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