From the January 19, 1913 issue of The New York Times:
One of the most important and responsible positions any man can hold is that of railroad engineer, and, unfortunately, it is one to which here has been the minimum of personal fame attached until the Erie Railroad commenced, recently, its peculiar system of rewards. By means of these an engineer, after protracted fine service, can have his own name painted on his engine.
Locomotive engineers do not belong, of course, to the uniformed corps, so that they cannot have service stripes, such as are given to conductors, brakeman and signal men. It has been a long-standing problem to reward engineering service properly. The position is undeniably the most vitally important of the running staff of a train, but by its very nature it enforces privacy and anonymity upon the men holding it. Being a highly specialized position, it does not put a man in line of promotion for work in other departments, and because of its peculiar charm to the men who hold it it is a rarity when the engineer will leave his locomotive for any other branch of railroad work. Yet it has seemed manifestly unfair that these men, many of whom are particularly loyal and efficient, should have no visible honors. So the Erie turned the question over in its mind.
As a result there was established "The Order of the Red Spot," under the stipulations of which any engineer in the service of the Erie can be distinguished for fine work by having the number plate on his locomotive painted bright red.
This order has the following rules and regulations:
(1) Name: This Order shall be known as The Order of the Red Spot, of the New York Division and Side Lines, and all other divisions of the Erie Railroad.
(2) Membership Committee: The Membership Committee shall consist of a Master Mechanic, Chairman, one Road Foreman of Engines, one Trainmaster, the Chief Dispatcher, and the Superintendent, ex officio. This Committee will elect on the last day of each month, the members of the Order for the following month; membership for any month shall be posted on the first day of that month.
(3) Conditions for Membership: Engines in good physical condition, clean and tidy, free from avoidable failures, both mechanical and engineering failures.
(4) Advantages of Membership: Red Spot engines will be given preference over other engines in the following particulars: Preferred space in the roundhouse; preferred attention by hostlers and cleaners; preferred runs for exhibition, test or special purposes. Red Spot engines will not be loaned to other divisions when other suitable engines are available. Red Spot engines will not be taken from their regular engineers when such action is avoidable. Red Spot engines convey to their regular engineers and firemen special disciplinary conditions. Membership for any one month will modify any suspension given during that month by five days. In case discipline be discharge, membership will be carefully considered in favor of the engineer or fireman implicated.
(5) Conditions removing engines from the Order: On application of five days' relief from discipline, engine, barred from membership during the remainder of that month. Avoidable engine failure, as determined by the Committee, bars engine from the Order during the remainder of the month. Neglect to maintain in condition or appearance of engine, as determined by the Committee, bars engine for remainder of the month.
(6) Badge of Membership: Number plate to be painted bright red.
Following the installation of this order to which, of course, only engineers were eligible, the Erie enlarged its credit system for all its men and established a "Roll of Honor," a list printed each month in the little monthly magazine devoted to the employes of the railroad, of the most unusual and distinctive services rendered to the company by its men.
Then, as a crowing tribute to its engineers, it was decided to allow to each man of long service and exceptional loyalty the privilege of having his own name painted on the cab of his locomotive.
In the early days of locomotives, when they were something of a rarity, it was customary to name each engine just as steamboats are named, and the National heroes all had their due representation among the engines. There was an "Abraham Lincoln," a "George Washington," a "Ulysses Grant," a "John W. Garrett" and countless others, all distinguished by having the names painted on the side of the engine. Then, as locomotives grew more numerous than National heroes, the system of numbering them was evolved, and gradually the old roster of heroes went to the dump heap. From this the Erie took its idea. This ultimate honor has no codified rules governing it. It is conferred simply, when, in the opinion of the railroad officials, it has been fairly earned. There are 1,500 engineers in the service, and many hundreds of them have belonged to the "Order of the Red Spot," but only eighteen men have received this highest dignity. They are, naturally, the veterans of the service, the men who have proved their reliability in test after test of thier brain and brawn. There is no actual time stipulation controlling the gift, though time is rightfully considered to be one of the supreme tests of efficiency.
Following is a list of men whose cabs bear their names, given in the order of their promotion: Samuel W. Evans and Harvey Springstead of the New York Division; Harry W. Smith, Greenwood Lake Division; Calvin Voorhis, New Jersey and New York railroad; William H. Johnson, Northern Railroad of New Jersey; Michael F. Fritz and W.S. Carpenter of the Delaware Division; James J. Salley of the Rochester Division; J.A. Hammond of the Susquehanna Division; W.R. Benedict of the Buffalo Division; T.C. Clark of the Allegany Division; J.F. Bruner of the Meadville Division; W.R. Shade of the Cincinnati Division East; J.M. Dando of the Cincinnati Division West; John Wonderly of the Chicago & Erie; Alexander Larkin, Mahoning Division; Philip Nixon, of the NYS&W Railroad; and William R. Martin of the Allegany.
Not one of these men has ever varied once from the pinacle of perfection since he was given his name on the cab. The pride it inspires absolutely baffles description. Many of these men are known in every city they pass through. Passengers frequently delay their trips till it is possible to travel with them. The engines they drive are fairly resplendent. These precious locomotives, named instead of numbered, are nurtured like children, and woe be to the flippant bystander who tries to mar their gleaming sides.
It is not possible to make any application for the named engine, and no engineer knows when it will come to him. It may be conferred after prosaic years of fine service or after some sensational act of signal gallantry. For exammple, Alexander Larkin was instructed to send his engine into the roundhouse for repairs and general cleaning, and when it came back to him, lo, there was his own name in place of the number. So unexpected was the distinction that the old engineer broke into sobs at the sight of it.
It is to this system of personal rewards and personal responsibilities that the Erie Railroad attributes the most remarkable fact in its history: That it has carried 225,000,000 of people in the past eight years and has had only one fatality.