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A Memorable Visit to the Flying Yankee

November 11, 2011

The most recent newsletter just was distributed from the Flying Yankee Restoration Group.  In it they printed a letter they received from a recent visitor, who with his family, visited the Flying Yankee rekindling the fond memories he had of it as a boy in 1938.  His family had the chance to capture the precious experiences from the man’s youth.

Here is a portion of his letter:


The Hobo Railroad turned out to be a big deal tourist attraction.  There was a very appealing collection of 20th Century rolling railroad equipment – a variety of passenger cars, caboose units, engines, a good replica of a station with covered platforms, and offering several rail rides of differing types and travel distances.  We Wallaces assembled in the large parking area and then began to straggle toward the left covered station platform.  We were met by Patricia Taylor, my friend whom I was meeting in person for the first time (with her was George Kenson, Railroad Engineer preparing to take out one of the Hobo excursion trains).  Ours is a friendship developed over four months of correspondence about the Flying Yankee, my past association with it (FY March/April newsletter), and the on going restoration work.  Patricia was very gracious as I introduced myself and then the collection of Wallaces, one after another, as they came onto the platform.  We were all wondering where our train was.  “Oh, it is over there” she said pointing beyond the Hobo trains, cabooses, and the end of the tracks.  En mass we followed her.

There it was, a nose I would recognize anywhere.  The front end of the Flying Yankee, just as I remembered it, peeking out from under a long tent-like covering, a cocoon, that extended the full length of the train’s three articulated cars.  I couldn’t keep my hands from knocking on the stainless steel of the front and side as I passed them.  The covering has been erected to protect the train and those doing the work for the period of the restoration.  There was just four +/- feet clearance between the train and cover and seemed tight for the heavy equipment that was needed to do the work.  Perhaps the sides could be opened up when needed although I didn’t notice how that was or could be done.
 dave wallace story with sbt

This is when we first met Steve Taylor who became our wonderful guide for the next two hours.  Steve is Vice Chairman for the Flying Yankee Restoration Group’s Board of Directors.  Patricia is his partner and has the title of Coordinator (although it seems to me she is a Communicator and Secretary to the whole effort as well).  Both are volunteers spending most of their waking hours devoted to the FYRG it appeared to me.  Combined they had a wealth of knowledge and we were overflowing with information when our tour ended.  They were superb hosts to us Wallaces for our day at the train. 

 dave wallace story 2 pass car
Steve led us to the wooden ramp rising to the train floor level at a door toward the back of the first car.  Suddenly, we were inside the Flying Yankee.  This part of the car had passenger seating and was fully restored in the original rather austere art deco theme.  What an improvement it must have been to passengers who knew only the coaches of the coal or wood burning trains that preceded it.  The detail was notable particularly in the passenger seats.  While not adjustable, they were at a comfortable incline and upholstered in a fashion of theater seating of the times.  The arms were heavily padded with a thick black foam plastic kind of material.  Nice for an armrest and, perhaps, even for a standing person to sit on from the aisle side while talking to someone seated.  It was notable how a food tray could attach to the arm when delivered to a passenger’s seat.  There were also curious leftover details from earlier trains as in the luggage racks mounted high above the seating.  However the over all impression was clean, lively, and very up to date for the times.
 dave wallace story 2 fy salon
There was a passage way between small utility closets that led to the middle car which was also completely restored.  The decor was the same as the seating area of the first car.  We then moved on to the last car, the observation car which, fortunately did not yet have the finished surfaces installed.  Thus the inside of the trains skin and the support structure could all be seen.  It was built of light sections of stainless steel, all spot welded for a firm train body.  The Yankee is ready for the installation and interior finish surfaces to be added.  Once the HVAC, electrical wiring, and plumbing are completed (“under car” work), the Flying Yankee will be mounted on its wheels and on be put back on the track.  The window detail throughout the train is an innovation that could only be realized with air conditioning.  They are “streamline” sleek on the outside to reduce air flow resistance and on the inside were set smoothly and neatly into the wall.  Window in the rear car are continuous toward and at the curved back end allowing a panoramic view from the lounge chairs located there.  They must have been a structural feat to design and to build at the time.
The first car has even more work still to accomplish.  The Diesel/Electric engine is yet to be installed a long with the various systems that will serve it.  Steve told us how few conveniences were provided the train’s engineer and how the quarters were cramped and the seat dreadfully hot in summer and miserably cold in the winter.  One wonders how this came to be.  In addition to the engineers space and the power system there will also be passengers, cabin seats, and finishes to be reinstalled.
Dave Wallace Grandchildren
Steve and Patricia were with the thirteen of us as we roamed  the three articulated cars explaining the way it was and the whole process of the continued restoration.  There were videos running on monitors in each car donated by the FRA as well as many side conversations.   The Wallaces were given a royal tour and it was greatly appreciated by all regardless of age.  We thanked them and everyone involved in the effort.  Over all, there were no disappointments for me.  I have finally seen, after 73 years, how the interior was finished.  It confirmed what an ingenious advance this train really was for 1935 and during the Great Depression.  The first modern train in the world.  There is still much work to be done and to do it, more donations and funding is needed.  What is done is inspiring and that can go a long way in helping raise the cash. 
         – Mr. David Wallace, excerpt from letter to FYRG as printed in their newsletter. 

To read more about Mr. Wallace’s visit to the Franconia area and more about the Flying Yankee Restoration Group, visit and subscribe to their newsletters.  It’s well worth the trip making your own family traditions.  Any support of their mission is vital to completing the restoration of this magnificent piece of history.  See you there!

– Joe

Flying Yankee Restoration Group
PO Box 145 No. Woodstock, NH

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