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Freedom Train Pullman Car CENTRAL PLAINS

Quite likely the only railcar ever to visit 49 of the 50 states...

Pullman observation car CENTRAL PLAINS was built in 1926 by Pullman as a sleeper to plan 3959, lot 4971 -- a 3-2 observation lounge for the New York Central.

Luminaries visiting the Freedom Train were often entertained in the Central Plains. After the Freedom Train tour ended, the car (still in FT paint) was part of the train that pulled some of the 49 newly arrived French Merci Train boxcars on the first part of their journey to their receiving state capitals. See Earl Bennett's Merci Train web site under "Historic Photos".

Image: At Walla Walla, WA. Todd Schannuth collection.



After its run on the Freedom Train, the car went back into Pullman service until sold the the Southern Pacific in August 1953 to become their #106, Central Plains. At some point, SP gave the car a thorough makeover, altering the car's sides, windows, and roof. Later it became SP Business Car 106 SHASTA; then SP Business Car 106 OREGON. As 106 OREGON, the car worked a couple seasons on the Rio Grande Ski Train operating from Denver to Winter Park, CO in the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons. (American Freedom Train power car 111 had worked the Ski Train in 1988 as UP 206).

Ski Train Image: John L Shine, December 1989


The car then went to the Union Pacific by merger in 1996 until they retired it in 2000. From there it went to the Livingston Rebuild Center in Montana as LRCX106 where it also picked up an Amtrak private car number: 800475.

While still lettered LRCX, the car was loaned to the Alaska Railroad for the summer of 2000. The Central Plains had already visited all 48 states as part of the Freedom Train (Alaska and Hawaii were years away from joining the Union). Traveling by barge in 2000, Alaska made 49 states for the Central Plains! It is likely the first and only railcar to visit 49 of the 50 states.

Yes, there is just enough standard gauge track left in Hawaii to hold the Central Plains, so there is hope.

For much more on the Alaska Railroad, see John Comb's


Today the former Central Plains is on the Tri-City & Olympia Railroad in Washington State, still very much in use as business car TCRY106. Many thanks to Doug Brown and Rev. Page for tracking down the history of this elusive car!

Image: TCRY, courtesy of Randolph Peterson


The Central Plains survives today in Washington state as Tri-City & Olympia Railroad business car TCRY106. It has since been relettered Mare Island Rail Service after spending 2013 in California. Today, the car is back in Washington.

Image: TCRY, courtesy of Randolph Peterson


The drumhead from the Freedom Train has also survived and is in a private collection. It is on display at Motts Military Museum in Groveport, OH.

Image: Courtesy of Mary Jayne and John Z. Rowe


Pullman observation car Central Plains at Trinidad, CO.

The Central Plains is the only car to have been hauled by locomotives from both Freedom Trains. American Freedom Train locomotive 4449 hauled it in 1977 on the final leg of 4449's journey from Miami, FL to its home in Portland after the 1975-76 run of the American Freedom Train. And again in 1988 as part of a Shipper's Special. Both times it was in use as a business car named OREGON on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Image: Todd Schannuth collection.


Pullman car Central Plains.

Image: Todd Schannuth collection.


President Harry S. Truman gave a speech in Pittsburgh, PA from the rear platform of the Central Plains.

The president is seen here behind the microphone.

Image: John Cobb collection.


President Truman and Col. Scott relax in the lounge of the Central Plains.

Image: Scott family collection.

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