(Please note that the photos here depict the CB&Q's Zephyrs.)
The Flying Yankee, a product of regional New England lines Maine Central and Boston & Maine is sometimes looked over or forgotten due to the railroads which operated it, the region in which it served, and its lack of publicity. However, the trainset, which debuted in the mid-1930s as the streamliner craze was just kicking off was virtually identical to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's Pioneer Zephyr that hit the rails in 1934. That train witnessed an incredible amount of fanfare because of its futuristic design and amazingly fast speeds, awing the public as the Burlington attempted to regain passengers due to the dawning of the automobile and Great Depression that hit in 1929. The B&M and MEC recognized that such a train could perhaps boost their publicity and traffic as well. The Yankee operated for more than 20 years, being renamed several times while in service. Today, it is being completely restored by The Flying Yankee Restoration Group, Inc.
As the depression was worsening in the country during the 1930s railroads were trying to make a splash in an attempt to get passengers back to the rails. Just prior to the depression the automobile had already begun pulling patrons off trains as the public could now afford their own cars and trucks. In 1934 both the Union Pacific's M-10000 and the Burlington's Pioneer Zephyr (also referred to as the Zephyr 9900) proved that passenger trains were still a viable industry as the public was absolutely amazed by their sleek look and incredibly fast speeds. It was not long until railroads around the country began buying or building their own streamliners understanding the potential such trains could have on their publicity and passenger traffic.
For the Maine Central and Boston & Maine they elected to go with what already worked, in this case the CB&Q's Zephyr. The trainset was a joint venture between the Winton Motor Company, which provided the prime mover (featuring its 201-A model diesel engine) and the Budd Company, which designed the carbody and streamlined, fluted stainless steel look. However, unlike the Burlington's trainset the Flying Yankee would differ somewhat with its interior setup. The Zephyr came equipped with a baggage-buffet, diner, and coach-observation while the train did away with the diner and employed a baggage-buffet, full coach, and coach-observation. This gave the Yankee a seating capacity of 142, slightly more than the Burlington's Zephyr.
Despite the two streamliners' slightly different setups they both had one thing in common; their impressions on the public were unquestionable and both trains saw a significant leap in ridership. For instance, according to Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh's, Streamliners: History of Railroad Icon, the Boston & Maine and Maine Central saw ridership grow by a solid 50%! While the train was dazzling its transit times also drew in new patrons as the train could make the journey between Bangor, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts via Portland (its original routing) in just under 4.5 hours bettering the old schedule by more than 65 minutes.
Officially, the train was christened on April 1, 1935 and would operate a six-day weekly schedule with Sundays reserved for maintenance and overhaul of the trainset and to prepare it for the upcoming week of operations. For the MEC and B&M, both railroads operated other named trains on their respective lines but none ever reached the level of publicity as the Flying Yankee. During World War II the trainset could simply not keep up with passenger demands and as such was switched to a different routing between Boston and Littleton, New Hampshire. Soon afterwards the Maine Central sold its interest in the train to the B&M.
After this time the B&M renamed the train several times and operated it through different regions. For instance the Minute Man operated between Boston and Troy, New York, the Mountaineer between Boston and Littleton, New Hampshire, and Cheshire between Boston and White River Junction. Finally, the railroad felt that the trainset was too worn to continue operations, particularly as patronage was rapidly declining.
As such, the original train was discontinued after its final run on May 7, 1957. Soon after it was donated to the Edaville Railroad which used it as a static display until the late 1990s when Bob Morrell purchased the trainset, sent it to Woodstock, New Hampshire and determined to completely restore it. Later, The Flying Yankee Restoration Group, Inc. was formed and has been working to restore the train ever since. For more information about the Flying Yankee and the group's ongoing restoration efforts please click here.