The Nickel Plates New “Bluebirds”

In 1947, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway ended its control of the Nickel Plate Railroad, selling off its remaining shares. That same year, the Nickel Plate ordered 11 new ALCO PA diesel-electric locomotives, and named them the “Bluebirds.” These locomotives were the first for the Nickel Plate that had non-black livery since the early 1900s. The Nickel Plate received its last Berkshire in 1949, numbered 779, which was also the very last steam locomotive built by the Lima Locomotive Works. Later in 1949 on December the 1st, the Nickel Plate leased the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. The Nickel Plate began operating its own dining cars in 1949. Before this, all meal service had been handled by the Pullman Company. By 1950, even though passenger revenues only contributed 1.2% of the Nickel Plate’s total revenues, all passenger cars were modern, postwar, streamlined equipment. In fact, passenger miles had increased by 3.2% compared with 1949, a trend unlike other U.S. railroads. The Nickel Plate retired the last steam locomotive from service in 1960, officially ending the steam era and achieving complete dieselization.

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