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:
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.
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.
The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the left panel of the plaque are as follows:
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
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
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
William James, Train Porter
Wm. F. Mackie, Locomotive Fireman
The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the left center panel of the plaque are as follows:
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
Howard P. Case, Conductor
Leo F. Cox, Section Foreman
Harvey F. Cundiff, Station Agent
Augustus Kiernan, Freight Handler
John A. Lugar, Signalman
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
Bernard J. Deegan, Switchman
Walter H. Wilson, Telegrapher
Frederick D. Karn, Conductor
Bernard Zeller, Deckhand
James G. Bennett, Machinist
Phillip B. Garrison, Asst. Supvr. Track
John A. Ryan, Foreman
Raymond F. Englander, Trucker
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:
Leo Lee, Brakeman
Frank Haley Anderson, Yardmaster
Earl W. Griswold, Fireman
Mert Cook, Yard Conductor
Henry B. Errett, Locomotive Engineer
Dutton Carter, Electrician
Edward Reich, Painter
Michael I. Grabala, Painter
Lester L. Ziler, Brakeman
Verne C. Frizzell, Fireman
Russel L. Brant, Locomotive Engineer
Clyde Dennis Tracy, Brakeman
Joseph Mattiucci, Section Laborer
John Resko, Bridgetender
Walter Sarell, Switchman
John Henry Crane, Signal Foreman
Samuel Leonard Rifkin, Conductor
Giacomo Mazzoli, Section Laborer
Joseph A. Baccomo, Section Laborer
Rocco Romeo, Floatman
Charles H. Frederich, Marine Fireman
John Butler Reynolds, Section Foreman
Chester Joseph Rowe, Section Foreman
John Van Dover, Deckhand
Lowell Earl Arnett, Brakeman
Stark Aga, Deckhand
The New York Central Lines Valor Medal recipients listed on the right panel of the plaque are as follows:
Louis Francis Mahern, Boilermaker
Jesse Lyne Yohe, Electric Welder
Clarence Ross Cook, General Yardmaster’s Clerk
John Edward Driscoll, Electric Helper
Samuel Vesche, Locomotive Crane Fireman
Joseph John Siebold, Brakeman
James Peter Stripp, Deckhand
Theodore, Gulick Lord, Deckhand
Andrew Michael Bohan, Mason Foreman
John Elmer McKim, Fireman
Francis Lawrence Hoffman, Assistant District Manager of Locomotives
Roman William Kaminski, Switchtender
Thomas Charles Speed, Assistant Conductor
Bernard Patrick Powers, Patrolman
Charles Raymond Geer, Brakeman
Clyde Elwood Fletcher, Brakeman
John Thomas Matthews, Fireman
Admiral Crone, Yard Brakeman
Joseph Symbala, Yard Brakeman
Russell Arbogast Weller, Fireman
William Joseph Murphy, Brakeman
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.
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:
For additional information regarding sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken:
For additional examples of medals designed by sculptor Robert Ingersoll Aitken (from the ANS collection):
For additional information regarding the Medallic Art Company:
For additional information regarding the Painesville Depot:
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I am excited to have found a photograph of another example of this medal on-line. The photograph is in the collection of Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery, and may be found here: https://www.si.edu/object/siris_jul_30058
The information that accompanies the photograph mentions that the piece was from the Stack’s Bowers Galleries, June 20-21, 2013 auction, lot no. 3014.
Upon review of the auction listing featured in this catalog: http://media.stacksbowers.com/VirtualCatalogs/2013/Stacks-Bowers-Galleries/2013_08SBG_JuneBalt2013_CatalogLR.pdf ,the medal that was sold was marked on the edge by the Medallic Art Company. Further, the lapel miniature was marked on the reverse “MEDALLIC/ ART CO./ NEW YORK”. These markings were not found on the Flynn full-sized medal and lapel miniature. The piece described in lot no. 3014 also lacked an engraved name of a recipient.