New York Central E's: Once stood for Elegance

New York Central's six-axle E-units were elegant and legandary; they were ladies of fashion. The EMD-built passenger hauler personified streamling at its best. Thanks to contemporary styling and sleek flowing lines the "Es" were one of the most esthetic locos in dieseldom. Add a splash of color, and the E-unit could turn heads and capture the heart of many a railfan.

EMD introduced the E-unit in 1935; and the demand grew quickly. The later E7A and E8A models were the most popular in terms of total production: 428 and 450 respectively. New York Central owned 96 of the LaGrange-built cab units; they carried road numbers 4000-4035 (E7A) and 4036-4095 (E8A). First of the NYC streamlined cabs arrived in 1947; the railroad created a conservative, yet tasteful attire for its new diesel-powered fleet. The early E-units featured a light gray carbody, with 2" white lightning stripes separated by dark gray. However, it took NYC's graphic designers three or four of years to tweak the overall design concept and achieve a visual image that was both striking and classic.

As passenger revenues declined during the late 1950s, NYC became much more cost conscious and economy minded. The passenger fleet was among the first to see and feel the difference. In 1961, the railroad dropped the lightning stripes in favor of the simple "cigar band," but not until experimenting with three variations of the theme:

  • Solid black with a gold cigar band (full-length of the carbody)
  • Jade green with a white cigar band (full-length of the carbody)
  • Solid grey with white cigar band (wrapping around the nose only).

The final choice was a solid grey scheme sporting a white cigar band stretching the entire carbody length. However, the February 1968 marriage between the Pennslvania RR and NYC brought a new look and culture. Fifth-Avenue elegance became a thing of the past; in its place a veil of black.


NYC E8A #4080 at Algood, Tennessee (R.Craig photo) New: 1 February 2018


Paint Scheme Evolution

click on image to enlarge

NYC 4005 (Initial paint scheme)

NYC E7A 4012 (interim scheme)

NYC E8A 4068 (Final Lightning scheme)

NYC E8A 4055 (black w/short gold band)

(Approval pending)

NYC E8A 4083 (Jade Green **)

NYC E8A 4056 (gray w/ short white band)

(Search underway)

NYC E7A 4021 (final cigar band scheme)

PC E7A 4025 (merger mayhem scheme)

PC E8A 4066 ("nobody cares" scheme)

** There were three jade green E-units: E8As (#4053 and 4083) and one E7B (#4107)

Reference sources:

  • New York Central System Diesel Locomotives, by Edson, Vail, and Smith
  • New York Central: Lightning Stripes by David R. Sweetland
  • New York Central: Color Pictorial (voluems 3 & 4) by David R. Sweetland
  • Ed Nowak's New York Central by Ed Nowak with Karl Zimmerman

Back to Motive Power Rosters

Back to Passenger Lines