The New York Central Railroad was founded in 1853 and continued to operate until 1968.  In order to recognize the valor of employees who performed courageous deeds, usually resulting in the prevention of loss of life, the New York Central Railroad commissioned a Valor Medal.  The medal dies were prepared by American sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken *May 8, 1878 – †January 3, 1949.  The medals are believed to have been struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.  The first medals were awarded in 1927 for courageous acts performed in 1926, and awards continued through at least 1963.  There were at least 114 total awards made for acts performed from 1926 through 1963.

The medal was struck in bronze, was 38mm in diameter, and weighed approximately 26.2g (example weighed with ribbon and clasp).  The obverse of the medal depicts a man pushing allegorical death away from a fallen person laying on railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming train engine.  Around this image is the inscription: “NEW · YORK · CENTRAL · LINES”, and “FOR · VALOR”.  The reverse of the medal displays a lighted railroad signal lantern at the top and railroad semaphore signals behind and to each side.  Under this, is a rectangular area for the engraving of the name of the recipient and the date of the deed which led to the award.  Under this area is a winged railroad wheel.  At the bottom is the small marking “AITKEN” for the name of the sculptor and the Latin “FECIT” for “Created by Aitken”.  There is a barrel-shaped suspension lug at the top of the medal through which passes a ribbon ring.  The ribbon is 34mm wide with a 16mm wide white center stripe and two (2) 9mm wide purple side stripes.  At the top, the ribbon is sewn around a bronze pin-backed brooch which was then crimped over the ribbon.

The medal was awarded in a black leather covered case, hinged at the bottom, 74mm wide x 133mm long x 22mm high, with a blue velvet bottom lining, and a blue woven lining inside the top.  The case is marked: “MEDALLIC ART CO./ NEW YORK” on the outside.  Also include in the case was a bronze 17mm screw-backed lapel miniature depicting the obverse of the medal.  This miniature was for everyday wear by the employee as part of their uniform.

The action by New York Central Baggage Agent Thomas J. Flynn of Painesville, Ohio which led to his awarding of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal was reported by The Painesville Telegraph newspaper on Monday, September 28, 1931:

 

FRUSTRATE HOLD-UP AT N.Y.C. DEPOT, ROUT THUG

Baggage Agent, Forewarned By Ticket Agent’s Suspicions, Fires As Bandit Points Gun

Alertness and courage on the part of two New York Central Railroad employees at 10:15 p. m. yesterday frustrated an attempted hold-up in the waiting and baggage rooms of the depot on Railroad street here.

When a gunman approached Tom Flynn of N. St. Clair street, baggage agent, and C. F. Sweitzer of Cleveland, ticket agent, and demanded that the two “stick ’em up,” Mr. Flynn fired a shot at the intruder, barely missing him.

Police Officers R. N. Thornton, Harold Czerr and John Barstow were summoned, and they searched the surrounding neighborhood, but the thug had apparently successfully made a get-away.

Mr. Sweitzer, police said, had observed a suspiciously acting man lolling about the platform in front of the depot.  He went into the baggage room to tell Mr. Flynn of his suspicions.

Mr. Flynn reached for a revolver and was holding it when the gunman entered the room through the waiting room door and snarled his terse command.

Fires At Gunman

“Stick ’em up nothing,” Mr. Flynn answered, as he pulled the trigger.

The gunman made a hasty retreat.  The bullet, it was found, had plowed through the waiting room door only a few inches from where the thug had stood.

Police were free to voice their admiration for the alertness of Mr. Sweitzer and for the courageous action of Mr. Flynn.

The gunman was described as being a short, thick-set man, wearing a dark coat and gray cap.

 

According to the New York Central Railroad Company, Report of the Board of Directors to the Stockholders for the year ended December 31, 1931:

 

Valor Medals

Since 1926 the company has presented valor medals in recognition of employees who, at the risk of their lives, saved others.

Valor medals were presented to six employees of the company during the year as follows:

C. A. Montgomery, Crossing Watchman, Willoughby, Ohio

James G. Farrier, Marine Freight Handler, Secaucus, New Jersey

Thomas Flynn, Station Baggageman, Painesville, Ohio

D. J. McCarthy, Yard Conductor, Chicago, Illinois

Jerome T. Mahoney, Conductor, Syracuse Division

Louis H. Klaer, Machinist Apprentice, Cleveland, Ohio

 

Thus, Thomas J. Flynn was one of six employees who were awarded the New York Central Lines Valor Medal for actions during the year 1931.  Ticket Agent C. F. Sweitzer did not receive a medal regarding his actions on September 27, 1931.

 

 

Figure 1: Obverse of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal awarded to Baggageman Thomas J. Flynn. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 2: Reverse of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal awarded to Baggageman Thomas J. Flynn. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 3: Obverse of the lapel miniature of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal awarded to Baggageman Thomas J. Flynn. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 4: Reverse of the lapel miniature of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal awarded to Baggageman Thomas J. Flynn. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 5: The New York Central Lines Valor Medal and lapel miniature awarded to Baggageman Thomas J. Flynn in the case of issue. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 6: The exterior top of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal case of issue. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Today, on a wall on the West side of Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal in New York, a large bronze plaque survives which lists the names and titles of one hundred fourteen (114) recipients of the New York Central Lines Valor Medal.  At the top of the plaque is a medallion depicting the obverse of the Valor Medal.  Under this, is the inscription: “NEW · YORK · CENTRAL · LINES , HONOR-ROLL”.  Under this line, is the inscription: “In · Recognition · of · Employees · who · at · the · Risk · of · their · Lives/ Saved · others ·”  Underneath, there are four (4) panels which list the recipients by year.  The first three (3) panels were cast in bronze.  The last panel affixed, listing the Valor Medal recipients from 1949 through 1963, was a flat panel with the names of the recipients applied.  The elaborate plaque itself is a fine example of the sculptor’s art and may have also been designed by Robert Ingersoll Aitken.  Since Aitken died in 1949, this could explain why the last panel was not designed and then cast in a foundry like the other panels.

 

 

Figure 7: The New York Central Lines Honor-Roll plaque at Grand Central Terminal. Photograph by Bridget C. Stapleton.

 

 

Figure 8: Detail of the New York Central Lines Honor-Roll plaque at Grand Central Terminal. Photograph by Bridget C. Stapleton.

 

 

The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the left panel of the plaque are as follows:

 

1926

Arthur Beckner, Brakeman

T. A. Crotty, Locomotive Engineer

E. Dombroski, Sergeant of Police

W. Gallagher, Locomotive Fireman

Frank Gribble, Deckhand

Frank Halpin, Section Foreman

Lewis Little, Conductor

Henry Mansfield, Locomotive Engineer

W. E. Reckner, Brakeman

P. J. Reidy, Clerk

Harry Slattery, Locomotive Fireman

Samuel Sommerville, Deckhand

David Thomas Jr., Brakeman

W. G. Waechtler, Chief Signal Inspector

C. D. Yeazel, Brakeman

 

1927

Elwin S. Ballou, Locomotive Engineer

Thomas E. Corrigan, Yardmaster

John P. Dunne, Trainmaster

James Ferrier, Deckhand

D. C. James, Locomotive Fireman

Miss Jessie C. Knight, Stenographer

Louis E. Lounsbery, Crossing Watchman

William E. Mulherin, Conductor

Henry Nauman, Crossing Watchman

W. R. Stewart, Brakeman

M. B. Truax, Locomotive Engineer

 

1928

William Anger, Car Inspector

Warren A. Clark, Locomotive Engineer

David F. Delaney, Switchtender

James G. Gibson, Floatman

Raymond G. Kaiser, Section Foreman

Charles E. Kloack, Yardmaster

William Macirynski, Car Repairman

H. Frank Myers, Conductor

T. V. Withcuskey, Brakeman

Clark H. Wolf, Hostler

 

1929

William James, Train Porter

Wm. F. Mackie, Locomotive Fireman

 

 

Figure 9: Detail of the New York Central Lines Honor-Roll plaque at Grand Central Terminal. Photograph by Bridget C. Stapleton.

 

 

The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the left center panel of the plaque are as follows:

 

1929 (continued)

Thomas W. Malone, Yard Clerk

Arthur E. Marsh, Signal Foreman

Harry M. Miller, Locomotive Engineer

Ira Charles Ott, Station Agent

William Pfister, Patrolman

Clarence E. Smith, Conductor

 

1930

Howard P. Case, Conductor

Leo F. Cox, Section Foreman

Harvey F. Cundiff, Station Agent

Augustus Kiernan, Freight Handler

John A. Lugar, Signalman

 

1931

James H. Ferrier, Marine Freight Handler

Thomas J. Flynn, Station Baggageman

Louis H. Klaer, Machinist Apprentice

Jerome T. Mahoney, Conductor

D. J. McCarthy, Conductor

C. A. Montgomery, Crossing Watchman

 

1932

Bernard J. Deegan, Switchman

Walter H. Wilson, Telegrapher

 

1933

Frederick D. Karn, Conductor

Bernard Zeller, Deckhand

 

1934

James G. Bennett, Machinist

Phillip B. Garrison, Asst. Supvr. Track

John A. Ryan, Foreman

 

1935

Raymond F. Englander, Trucker

 

1938

John A. Cappiello, Crossing Watchman

Fred Anson Wampler, Captain of Police

William M. Murray, Crossing Watchman

 

The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the right center panel of the plaque are as follows:

 

1939

Leo Lee, Brakeman

Frank Haley Anderson, Yardmaster

Earl W. Griswold, Fireman

Mert Cook, Yard Conductor

Henry B. Errett, Locomotive Engineer

Dutton Carter, Electrician

 

1940

Edward Reich, Painter

Michael I. Grabala, Painter

 

1941

Lester L. Ziler, Brakeman

Verne C. Frizzell, Fireman

 

1942

Russel L. Brant, Locomotive Engineer

Clyde Dennis Tracy, Brakeman

 

1943

Joseph Mattiucci, Section Laborer

John Resko, Bridgetender

Walter Sarell, Switchman

 

1945

John Henry Crane, Signal Foreman

Samuel Leonard Rifkin, Conductor

Giacomo Mazzoli, Section Laborer

 

1946

Joseph A. Baccomo, Section Laborer

Rocco Romeo, Floatman

Charles H. Frederich, Marine Fireman

 

1947

John Butler Reynolds, Section Foreman

Chester Joseph Rowe, Section Foreman

John Van Dover, Deckhand

 

1948

Lowell Earl Arnett, Brakeman

Stark Aga, Deckhand

 

 

Figure 10: Detail of the New York Central Lines Honor-Roll plaque at Grand Central Terminal. Photograph by Bridget C. Stapleton.

 

 

The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the right panel of the plaque are as follows:

 

1949

Louis Francis Mahern, Boilermaker

Jesse Lyne Yohe, Electric Welder

Clarence Ross Cook, General Yardmaster’s Clerk

 

1951

John Edward Driscoll, Electric Helper

Samuel Vesche, Locomotive Crane Fireman

 

1952

Joseph John Siebold, Brakeman

James Peter Stripp, Deckhand

Theodore, Gulick Lord, Deckhand

Andrew Michael Bohan, Mason Foreman

John Elmer McKim, Fireman

 

1953

Francis Lawrence Hoffman, Assistant District Manager of Locomotives

 

1954

Roman William Kaminski, Switchtender

Thomas Charles Speed, Assistant Conductor

 

1956

Bernard Patrick Powers, Patrolman

 

1958

Charles Raymond Geer, Brakeman

Clyde Elwood Fletcher, Brakeman

 

1959

John Thomas Matthews, Fireman

Admiral Crone, Yard Brakeman

Joseph Symbala, Yard Brakeman

Russell Arbogast Weller, Fireman

 

1961

William Joseph Murphy, Brakeman

 

1963

William John Bowen, Brakeman

 

 

 

Thank you for your interest regarding this article.

I wish to extend my thanks to Bridget C. Stapleton for her photographic contributions to this article.  Without her kind assistance this article would not have been possible.

Comments are welcome.

– Lorin

 

 

References:

Frustrate hold-up at N.Y.C. depot , rout thug. (1931, September 28).  The Painesville Telegraph.  Retrieved from  https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=7GbmjkRdlf4C&dat=19310928&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

The New York Central Railroad Company. (1932). Report of the Board of Directors to the Stockholders for the year ended December 31, 1931.  Retrieved from  http://www.canadasouthern.com/caso/annual-reports.htm

 

For additional information regarding the New York Central Lines Valor Medal:

http://www.iridetheharlemline.com/2014/12/04/grand-centrals-honor-roll-the-new-york-central-medal-of-valor/

 

For additional information regarding sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ingersoll_Aitken

https://bancroftlibrarycara.wordpress.com/robert-ingersoll-aitken/

 

For additional examples of medals designed by sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken (from the ANS collection):

http://numismatics.org/search/results?q=aitken

 

For additional information regarding the Medallic Art Company:

https://coinweek.com/coins/medals-and-tokens/the-ans-acquires-the-archives-of-the-medallic-art-company/

 

For additional information regarding the Painesville Depot:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painesville_station

http://painesvillerailroadmuseum.org/

 

 

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