Freedom Train was the greatest railroading event of the 20th century.
For 21 months in 1975 and 1976 this 25-car steam-powered train crisscrossed
the nation in celebration of the Bicentennial of the America Revolution.
Over seven million people would seek out the train on its 25,833
mile journey - venturing aboard to witness over 500 precious artifacts
significant in the shaping of their country. Forty million more
would watch the train go by at trackside.
Freedom Train: The Year In Pictures 1975 covers the first year of
the AFT's life - illustrated through hundreds of never-before-seen
photographs from noted railroad photographers, AFT staff and locomotive
crews. From opening day in Wilmington, Delaware to New Year's eve
in Pomona, California, this is the incredible story of the genesis,
construction, and first transcontinental trip of America's greatest
of Ross Rowland Jr., a successful New York commodities broker and
steam engineer, the American Freedom Train became a reality when
Pepsi Cola, Kraft Foods, General Motors, Prudential Insurance and
ARCO each donated one million dollars to give America a birthday
present like no other. Though privately funded, the AFT was to be
non-commercial. In return for their sponsorship, four of these five
companies merely accepted recognition on a small bronze plaque inside
the train. ARCO opted out of taking even that much recognition.
a magnificent train would require the finest motive power ever put
on rails. To Ross Rowland, that meant only one thing: steam. This
volume begins by chronicling the return to life of two huge steam
locomotives: The former Southern Pacific GS-4 'Daylight' #4449,
and the Reading T-1 #2101. Both giants were pulled from their slumber
- one from a public park in Portland, Oregon, the other from a supply
company in Baltimore. The immense Daylight was chosen for the Western
portion of the AFT's journey, while the slightly shorter Reading
engine would negotiate the tighter clearances of the Eastern US.
Over a year
earlier, with President Richard Nixon's blessing, the National Archives
had opened its vaults to the AFT's designers and the stage had been
set for the most incredible traveling exhibit of American history
ever made. Railroad artist Bob Lorenz had given form to Rowland's
dream through pre-production paintings and art. With $5,000,000
dollars to spend, noted museum and exhibit designer Barry Howard
and his staff fleshed out the train, and for the first time gave
life to the concept we take for granted in design today: Multi-media.
A moving walkway
would carry visitors through 10 display cars converted from former
New York Central/Penn Central baggage cars. For twenty minutes visitors
would be awash in the American experience. In front of them would
pass George Washington's copy of the Constitution, Hank Aaron's
"714" bat, Martin Luther King's Vestments and Bible, the original
Louisiana Purchase, paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and Georgia
O'keeffe, Jack Benny's violin, Judy Garland's dress from the Wizard
of Oz, John F. Kennedy's rocking chair, Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe
hat, and even a rock form the moon. All enhanced by photographic
and video images, narration and music. (A tour through the inside
of the AFT is given in the second DVD in this series: "The American
Freedom Train: The Year in Pictures 1976", available separately.)
The first year
took the AFT (roughly) up the East coast, across the upper Mid-west
and down the Western coast of the United States. Because the $2
admission fee was deemed too high by city officials (after all,
anyone could simply go to Washington D.C. and see half of these
artifacts for free), the AFT never displayed in Los Angeles, but
instead ended 1975 at the LA County Fairgrounds in Pomona, CA. There
the massive Daylight engine was dressed as Santa Claus and the Bicentennial
This video focuses
on the design work of the train (through artist's renderings of
proposed exhibits and paint schemes) as well as selection and restoration
of the two steam locomotives, especially the Daylight (which was
restored in six months, compared to 30 days for the Reading T-1).
The tape chronicles the AFT's first nine months on the road featuring
stops in Wilmington (Delaware), Archbold (Ohio), Chicago, Omaha
(where Daylight 4449 was double-headed with the Union Pacific's
own steam engine, 8444), Colorado Springs (pulled briefly by diesels),
Boise, Seattle (where Royal Hudson #2860 displayed with the AFT),
Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Pomona, among others.
ends with a look at the physical parts of the train: the first two
locomotives, the flatcars, the showcase cars, the display cars,
and the passenger cars.
can read some Production Notes by clicking here.
- CLICK HERE