Planes of the New York Central – The Railroad’s WW2 Combat Bombers

While the New York Central’s famous trains are legendary, it seems that few know of their planes. Believe it or not, the New York Central and its employees raised the funds to purchase two planes, claiming to be the only railroad to have done so, and donated them to the war effort. Each plane was painted with the name “New York Central” and was flown by Army Air Force crews in World War II. At this time, the New York Central’s company magazine, The Headlight, was filled with photos of railroad employees off at war, and updates on their sponsored planes were always a highlight. In some instances, the crews were in fact railroad employees, or family members. And in a perhaps-not-coincidental twist of fate, several of the bomber’s targets were essential German infrastructure – its railroads.

Dedication of the "New York Central System" bomber
Dedication of the “New York Central System” bomber, attended by railroad president Frederick Williamson (left). Photo from the October 1942 issue of the Central Headlight.

The first New York Central sponsored plane
The first New York Central-sponsored plane. Photo courtesy

The New York Central’s first twin-engine bomber, named simply “The New York Central System” was purchased with the funds raised by the railroad and its employees – $170,062.06 in total, money delivered on April 2, 1942 to the US Treasury. The idea was conceived by the employees of the Electric Locomotive shop in Collinwood, Ohio, who proposed small paycheck deductions from willing participants in order to fund the purchase. Nearly 90% of the Central’s workforce donated to this and other wartime fundraisers. Sadly, the bomber was shot down in February 1943 over North Africa after only 13 missions. However, determined railroad employees decided to raise further funds and purchased a replacement bomber, which was named the “New York Central II.” Though it was not unheard of for a group to sponsor a plane, this was the first time a group had come together a second time to purchase a replacement after the first’s loss.


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Attention New Yorkers: Win Chesley Sullenberger’s Hat!

If you are a New Yorker and you don’t recognize the name Chesley Sullenberger, you may be living under a rock… Captain “Sully” was the pilot that landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after a bird strike earlier this year. If you’re interested in having his pilot’s hat, which I must admit looks way cooler than my MTA Conductor’s hat, it is now available on eBay. It is even autographed! The proceeds from the auction benefit Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, CA, and Lockwood High School in Oakland, CA. The winner will also get a personal note from the pilot and his wife. Unfortunately, it was not the hat he wore during Flight 1549, and he won’t be delivering the hat personally (just make a flyover upper Westchester, thanks! We have plenty of reservoirs for water landings too!)… come on New Yorkers, show your love for Captain Sully by placing a bid here. The auction ends on Monday December 14 right before noon.

I’ll trade you one conductor’s hat for one pilot’s hat? It is a good trade, I swear!

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