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Office Car and Sleeping Car Go Hollywood

Here is the story of the brief "Hollywood" career of former American Freedom Train cars 201 and 204.

Both cars appeared in the Paramount Pictures television series The Sentinel, which ran on the UPN television network from 1996 to 1999.

The Sentinel was a crime drama about a man with hyperactive senses who helped police solve crimes. The series starred Richard Burgi and Garett Maggart and was set in the fictional town of Cascade, Washington (the city council of the actual city, Seattle, asked it not be named, not wanting their city associated with crime scenes every week).

The episode the AFT cars appear in is number 006 "Night Train", from the first season.

In the episode, our heroes find themselves stuck on a train with some bad guys. Don't worry; everything works out fine.

Of more interest is the appearance of former AFT cars #201 (the AFT sleeper) and AFT 204 (the "parlor car", though sometimes the "Ethan Allen car" for its furnishings, and finally the "Office car" once some of the foundation executives started using it as such).

The train featured in the episode consists of a diesel locomotive and four passenger cars. AFT 204 is directly behind the locomotive. AFT 201 is directly behind 204. The last two cars can't be identified, but they are clearly not former AFT cars.

The locomotive (an SD40-2 numbered 758) is still in BC Rail colors but not lettered "BC Rail". Instead it is lettered "OR" in a small plaque on both sides. The train crew also sport the "OR" logo on their uniforms and former AFT car #201 has a plaque on one end that says "Olympia Rail". Apparently "Olympia Rail" was not a real operation, but if you know otherwise, please email the webmaster.

Former AFT car #204 is the first car on the train. This was the "Office car" on the AFT. The car is painted blue with thin white stripes running down its side (with tiny red stripes within the white stripes). The car is lettered "Discovery". It provides the set of several interior scenes on the train. The car interior now has a bar that can easily be seen in some shots. The bar was added by BC Rail after the run of the AFT.

Former AFT car #201 is the third car on the train (next-to-the-last car). This was the sleeping car on the AFT and its interior appears in several shots throughout the episode. The car is painted blue with large white stripes and a yellow and red "Olympia Rail" plaque on one end. The car is lettered "Norman A. McPherson" on its side (readable, with difficulty, in a shot of the car passing directly in front of the camera).

The third car on the train isn't clearly marked, but it'ss not a former AFT car.

The fourth and last car is a heavyweight observation car named "Caribou" with 6-wheel trucks and a short tail platform compared to the AFT. The Caribou Business Car is not a former AFT car. (FYI: The Caibou was built for the Missouri Pacific by ACF as a dining car, but became Missouri Pacific Business Car #7 and is now in the collection of the 3 Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town & Railway Round House in Revelstoke, BC Canada. You can read more about it here...)

The cars are featured throughout the episode. Near the show's climax, 204 is separated from the locomotive with all the stars peering out its side door as the locomotive pulls away.

Not bad for two of the most nondescript cars on the American Freedom Train!

The Sentinel is now available on DVD from Paramount Pictures/CBS.

Former AFT 204 and 201 make their first appearance.
Former AFT 201 is in the center of the screen lettered "Norman A. McPherson".
Former AFT 204 behind the locomotive, 201 is next-to-last.
The bar added to 204 after the run of the AFT.
The interior of 204.
Former 204 lettered "Discovery" (after one of Captain Cook's ships).
Trackside shoot-out with AFT 204 in the background.
Former AFT 204 running a police barricade.
Near the climax of the program, 204 is uncoupled from the locomotive as the bad guys escape.
Thumbing their noses at our hero.
Aforementioned hero having none of it and leaping from 204 in hot pursuit.
Sidekick with this week's romantic interest. 204's last appearance.
Justice is dispensed on a runaway locomotive.
Much of the Night Train episode was filmed along the Sea to Sky Highway in BC Canada -- note the locomotive in the background about to round the point. Brackendale and Alice Lake are among the locations seen in the episode. Both are very close to 204's current home in Squamish.
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