by Edward D. Hodges
A popular pastime of many railfans has been to form new names from the initials of railroads. In many cases these names were none too complimentary. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, for example, was referred to rather scornfully as the “Long Stops and Miserable Stations.” The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton was tagged with the rather slanderous nickname “Delerium Tremens and Indigent”, a name which hardly seemed appropriate during the period when Henry Ford owned the DT&I. West Coast railfans, upset by the hostile attitude shown during passenger service by the Southern Pacific, referred to the line as the “Something Pathetic.”
Not all nicknames had a negative connotation, however. The Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington, a Massachusetts short line, was rather affectionately dubbed the “Hoot, Toot and Whistle.”
A little artistic license was employed in the case of the Boyne City Railroad. This seven-mile line connected several tanneries in Boyne City with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Boyne Falls and was dubbed by locals the BF&B–”Boyne Falls and Back”.
Some nicknames described the railroad in question quite graphically. A classic example was the New York, Ontario and Western. This picturesque and interesting Class I Railroad wandered across much of rural New York State hauling milk and coal. It survived several financial crises, but the fact that it bypassed many large cities and eventually lost much its traffic to trucks brought about its abandonment in 1957. Its initials were O&W, and in its final days it was called the “Old and Weary,” which truly reflected its position. Even the Wall Street Journal got in on the fun by referring to it as the “Old Woman”.
But the award for the most nicknames has to go to the Pacific Great Eastern (later the British Columbia Railway). The PGE was supposed to connect North Vancouver with the Grand Trunk Pacific (now the Canadian National) at Prince George, British Columbia. In its first three years of existence, bits and pieces of disconnected trackage were built before the company went bankrupt amidst great scandal. The province of British Columbia took over the task and eventually completed a 340-mile segment between Squamish and Quensel, two tiny towns in the wilderness of British Columbia with no rail connection. The PGE thus found itself in the embarrassing position of being a completely isolated railroad, causing the residents of British Columbia to refer to the line scornfully as the “Province’s Greatest Expense” and “Past God’s Endurance”. Others noted that while the railroad was certainly Pacific, it was definitely not great and hardly eastern. Sporadic attempts to complete the line to Prince George led to the nickname “Prince George, Eventually”. The line was completed from North Vancouver to Prince George in the 1950’s (eventually!!). The many struggles of the PGE led one anonymous poet to compose this bit of free verse:
I clatter, clatter as I go
From Nowhere on to Never
I have a middle without ends
I am the Please Easy Go.
This article was originally published in the April-May 1982 edition of The Cross Tracks, newsletter of the Lenawee Area Railroaders.