The Nickel Plate Road was constructed in 1881 along the South Shore of the Great Lakes to connect Buffalo and Chicago, in competition with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. At the end of 1960, NKP operated 2,170 miles of road on 4,009 miles of track, not including the 25 miles of the Lorain & West Virginia. That year it reported 9.758 billion net ton-miles of revenue freight and 41 million passenger-miles.
In 1964, the Nickel Plate Road and several other midwestern carriers were merged into the larger Norfolk and Western Railway. The goal of the N&W expansion was to form a more competitive and successful system serving 14 states and the Canadian province of Ontario on more than 7,000 miles of railroad. In 1982, the profitable N&W was itself combined with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Origin of the "Nickel Plate" Name
The following is an excerpt from the book The Nickel Plate Road, A Short History of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis R.R. printed in 1954. The book is a record of an address given by Lynne L. White (a former president of the Nickel Plate) to the Newcomen Society of the United States, held in the ballroom of the Hotel Lawrence, Erie, Pa., November 11, 1954. Mr. White was guest of honor at this "1954 Lake Erie Dinner".
Through northern Ohio, already served by four railroads, location of the line developed intense rivalries among cities. Three routes were surveyed and communities along each proposed route vied in the raising of public subscriptions to donate rights-of-way. The road's general offices at Cleveland frequently were besieged by delegations hoping to bring about the routing of the line through their communities. During these inter-city rivalries was born the nickname for the New York, Chicago and St. Louis - The Nickel Plate Road - which rapidly became the name most commonly used.
Numerous legends have grown about when and how the name "Nickel Plate" was first applied. The accepted version is that it appeared first in an article in the Norwalk, Ohio, Chronicle of March 10, 1881. On that date the Chronicle reported the arrival of a party of engineers to make a survey for the "great New York and St. Louis double track, nickel plated railroad."
Later, while attempting to induce the company to build the line through Norwalk instead of Bellevue, Ohio, the Chronicle again referred to the road as "nickel plated" - a term regarded as indicative of the project's glittering prospects and substantial financial backing.
In 1882, the Nickel Plate recognized F.R. Loomis, owner and editor of the Norwalk Chronicle, as originator of the term and issued him Complimentary Pass No. 1.
Thus Norwalk named the road - but Bellevue finally got it.
To continue the tradition and preserve the history and name of the Nickel Plate Road, on Oct. 1, 2015, HGR Industrial Surplus, current owner of the former General Motors Fisher Auto Body site in Euclid, Ohio, on the Nickel Plate Road line dedicated its site as "Nickel Plate Station."