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The Latest News

September 17, 2017: The 70th Anniversary of the 1947-1949 Freedom Train! To commemorate the occasion, George Barker created a special 70th Anniversary T-shirt, while Mary Jayne & John Z. Rowe produced a special greeting card for friends of the train featuring art by John Winfield.

 Freedom Train 70th Anniversary T-Shirt

Freedom Is Not Free by John Winfield

September 18, 2016: The American Freedom Train Exhibit at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland, Oregon is now open to the public. The exhibit is set to run through August 2017.

American Freedom Train Exhibit in Portland

September 2016: The 40th Anniversary American Freedom Train Crew Reunion was held in Portland, Oregon September 16-18, hosted by Laurie & Doyle McCormack. The next will be in Chattanooga, TN in the fall of 2018.

American Freedom Train

 

January, 2016: Lionel announces the American Freedom Train in 3-Rail O Scale in their 2016 Signature Edition catalog. Two locomotives and seven cars, with more to follow! Click here to read more.

Lionel 2016 Signature Edition Catalog American Freedom Train

September, 2012: Third Rail delivers their O scale brass American Freedom Train GS-4. More here.

3rd Rail American Freedom Train GS-4 in O Scale

Spring, 2012: Lowell Smith Signature Series is offering the AFT cars in N Scale. More here.

Lowell Smith Signature Series

 

January 31, 2011: Anthony Sava checked in with photos of his new American Freedom Train 610 locomotive model -- made entirely of LEGO bricks! More here...

LEGO American Freedom Train T&P 610

September 26, 2010: The latest American Freedom Train Crew Reunion was held in West Des Moines, Iowa Sept 16-20, exactly 35 years after the train displayed there. Harold & Janis Leeper hosted, and a great time was had by all. More on that here and at John Lewis' AFT Yahoo Group.

September 4, 2010: This website has just topped 500 pages... New material includes 'gallery' sections for people contributing photographs. Each of the 138 display cities for the American Freedom Train now has its own page. Hopefully people will contribute photos for their favorite city. There are also new sections specifically for the interest of the staff & crew of each train. The 2010 American Freedom Train reunion is just days away...

Railroad Model Craftsman April 2010 American Freedom Train

April 2010: John Finnin's excellent HO model of the American Freedom Train was the cover story for this month's issue of Railroad Model Craftsman!

July 2, 2008: This website has just topped 300 pages...

July 1, 2008: Mamie Eisenhower rode the American Freedom Train 32 years ago today. In honor of the occasion, here is her family recipe for Green Beans she shared with the AFT staff...

June 20, 2008: The National Railway Historical Society held their annual convention in Ft. Worth this week. Lone Star Rails 2008 was quite a hit with the hundreds of attendees who came from all over the country! Chairman Skip Waters and his crew with the North Texas Chapter NRHS had a tall order to fill, and they filled it.

On Friday the 20th there was a special presentation of particular interest to fans of steam railroading, especially those from Texas: The Texas & Pacific 610 and the '76 American Freedom Train. Special from my standpoint, because I had to lead the thing...

Not too surprisingly, this seminar was the idea of Skip Waters, himself a lifelong fan of both the T&P railroad and the AFT. Invited to put on the show was Todd Schannuth (yes, your editor) who wasted no time calling for back-up -- inviting subject experts Bob Skillman (AFT veteran from beginning to end) and Stephen Brown (co-author of the book Texas & Pacific: From Ox Teams to Eagles) to help out.

Robert Skillman III, Stephen Brown & Todd Schannuth, Ft. Worth Hilton, June 20, 2008.
Stephen Brown photo.

These are my (Todd's) notes about the weekend: First, let me observe that it's a lot easier looking at a packed ballroom from the back than from the front. We're smiling here because we'd just gotten off stage to quite an ovation -- and quite a relief for the guy on the right. Thank you, Texas! And thank you Bob, Stephen and Skip!

The presentation consisted of a 30 minute video documentary on the restoration of the T&P steam locomotive and its time pulling the AFT through Texas, some discussion, and a Q&A session. The video included some brief segments on the genesis of the American Freedom Train, its cargo and cars. It also included interviews with David Pearson (one time owner of the Texas & Pacific 610) and the late Blair Lavell who helped restore it in Ft. Worth. Those interviews seemed to be the biggest hit with the crowd; many people in the room having fond remembrances of those people and those days. After the video, I said a few words about the production and how it fits into my work on a larger documentary about the AFT. Then Stephen Brown talked about his newest project -- a book specifically about the T&P 610 locomotive. He's looking for stories and photos of the 610 throughout its life. He can be reached at tandp610@yahoo.com. Then AFT veteran Bob Skillman, wearing his uniform/blazer from his days in security on the train, took over to relate a few stories about life on the American Freedom Train -- some funny and some rather poignant. He then handed out some AFT stickers that were carried aboard the train to all 48 contiguous states -- from start to finish. They had been part of a big batch of stickers that was produced to be handed out to Boy Scout troops who visited the train -- and these were the leftovers. The stickers traveled all 25,833 miles of the train's journey tucked away in a box in one of the showcase cars. A neat souvenir with a neat story! After the seminar I met several attendees I'd corresponded with for years over the internet -- and who have helped make this website what it is -- but had never met in person. I must say, the convention was a lot of fun!

After the convention, Bob and I went down to San Antonio. The Lone Star Brewery where the AFT displayed was once an opulent palace of a brewery. Now it's just an empty shell behind a rusting padlocked gate. In Austin, the AFT display site is only vaguely discernible down the middle of 3rd Street at Congress. The Whitley Company building with the giant "W" on its side -- that figures so prominently in a lot of pics of the AFT in Austin -- is still there. The rails are either gone or buried (until you get down to the convention center).

Photo of AFT in Austin by Tom Nosera - taken from atop 4449's tender. February, 1976.

Back up in Dallas, we visited Fair Park where the AFT had displayed and where the Age of Steam/Museum of the American Railroad collection now sits. In all, it was quite a weekend! Now, if I could just find a place in Los Angeles that knows how to make such BBQ...

Which reminds me... I used to live next to the Kansas City Barbeque in San Diego (sleazy bar scenes from Top Gun). It just burned down! Not only was it real BBQ, but I'm from Kansas City! Man, I hope they rebuild. But I digress...

May 21-26, 2008: The crew of the American Freedom Train got together for their latest reunion -- this time in sunny St. Augustine, FL. Over 40 AFT crew, family and friends gathered in America's oldest city for a weekend of fun in the sun. Hosts were Joan "Grape" Mitchell and her husband Kevin. By all accounts, it was a great get-together. At the closing banquet/business meeting it was decided the next reunion would be in Des Moines, Iowa in 2010 with (Harold) Jim Leeper as host. Des Moines should be dry by then. 2008 group photo courtesy of Joan Mitchell.

Past News & Events

November 22, 2007: A retraction of sorts... It was formerly reported on this site (on the "Where are the Trains Now?" page) that a coach car numbered 2936 was lettered AFT and used on the three-car train that went along on the test runs of AFT loco #1 (2101) in March 1975. This is incorrect. The car that was mistaken for a coach was a diner -- #448, former NYC. We are still looking for anyone who recalls the car number of the ex-B&O (apparently "Oriole" series) slumbercoach used on those same test runs. If you have any recollections or photos of those test runs, please email us. The coach car in question -- former NYC coach # 2936, ex PC 2936, ex D&H 2936, purchased by HIGH IRON CO. in 1972 -- was apparently on the Chessie Steam Specials, but not the AFT. The 2936 is a stainless steel ribbed Budd coach car that is now in the collection of the Morristown & Erie RR, lettered "Morris County". Information on this car courtesy of Mr. Walter B. Curll Jr.

September 21 - 23, 2007: Five US Marine Guards & one ALCO engineer -- along with their families and friends -- celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the 1947 Freedom Train in Memphis, TN. Sherry McCullough and her family hosted the event (Sherry's father had also been a guard on the train). Click here for more.

 

HO scale decals for all 26 cars of the American Freedom Train are now available from Accuen Media! Click here for more info.

September 17, 2007: It's been 60 years to the day since the Freedom Train opened in Philadelphia. Our thanks to all who made this extraordinary exhibition possible!

August 1, 2007: Freedomtrain.org has seen some changes! If you've been to the site in the past, you'll notice quite a few new things to keep your interest, especially on the "Where are the Trains Now?" page.

August 2007: The Yellow Ribbon Express -- Ross Rowland -- the creator of the Golden Spike Centennial Ltd, Preamble Express, American Freedom Train, Chessie Steam Specials and Chessie Safety Express -- looks to do it again!

July 31, 2007 (Looking back, as I am writing this in mid-2008): On a personal note... It seems I have been around these American Freedom Train veterans way too long and asked way too many questions. They got together, voted, and surprised me with the title of 'Official Historian" of the American Freedom Train. Ross Rowland even sent me an email of congratulations. I recall it being a very humbling day. It's quite an honor to be thought of in that way and I need to acknowledge it somewhere -- so there you go.

Precision Craft Models has offered their new Reading T-1 locomotive model in authentic American Freedom Train colors. The paint scheme is the third and final one the T-1 wore on its Bicentennial run. Also announced is an HO model of GS-4 #4449 in AFT colors!

The Freedom Scrolls have been found! Craig Harmon of The Lincoln Highway National Museum & Archives has unearthed the scrolls at the National Archives in College Park, MD. The Freedom Scrolls were paper scrolls that visitors to the 1947-49 Freedom Train could sign pledging to uphold their country's legacy of Freedom. Over three million visitors signed them. While in the process of his research Craig has amassed the largest compilation of 1947-49 Freedom Train information and images on the internet. Click here to see it!

- Check out the MTH Electric Trains 2004 Vol 2 catalog if you like your O gauge American Freedom Train east-coast-style. MTH is offering their new Reading T-1 locomotive in AFT colors.

- Former AFT car #201 has a new home! On July 1, 2003 (Canada Day), the car was presented by BC rail to the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum in Prince George, BC Canada, which also owns former AFT #202 -- the "Pie Car". A former Southern Pacific Golden State 4-4-2 Pullman sleeper (former #9111, former "Golden River" #212) from 1942, this sleeper provided quarters for the small number of staff members who actually lived on the AFT. After the AFT it was sold to BC Rail and given the name Norman A. McPherson in honor of a past Vice President of Operations and Maintenance. In 1996 it had a roll in an episode of the Paramount TV series "The Sentinel". The car is now in the shops at the museum undergoing restoration (Sept 2006).

- Lee Bishop checked in with photos of Ameican Freedom Train cars #203 and #205 as they look today. Click here for the list and then follow the links near "203" and "205" to see his photos.

- Prolific railroad artist Howard Fogg made two paintings of the 1947 Freedom Train. One had been missing for decades. But not anymore! Click here for the whole amazing story!

- Con-Cor International has released their N-scale model of GS-4 locomotive #4449 in AFT paint! They have also begun shipping their N Scale model of the entire 1947 Freedom Train. The AFT staff and crew held their latest reunion in Tucson, AZ over Labor Day weekend 2002. (See summary below.)

- American Freedom Train locomotive #1 was unhurt by the roundhouse roof collapse at the B&O Railroad Museum (AFT #1 is stored outside).

O Gauge Railroading magazine has published two articles about the K-LINE American Freedom Train model in their December 2002 issue.

In 2002 the Museum of America's Freedom Trains, in association with K-LINE Electric Trains, offered a very special addition to K-LINE's O-Gauge model of The American Freedom Train! Click here for details!

Labor Day Weekend, 2002 -- The staff of the American Freedom Train held their latest reunion in Tucson, AZ. Over 50 people were in attendance, including several invitees from the 1947 Freedom Train. Events included a trip to Trail Dust Town and a tour of model train maker Con-Cor, hosted by Mr. Jim Conway and his staff. At the reunion banquet Mr. Richard Beard, mechanical engineer on the 1947 Freedom Train, delighted the '76 crowd with stories of the two times he remembered the 1947 Freedom Train being pulled by steam locomotives. Later, Mr. Warren E. Motts reminisced about his days chasing and photographing the American Freedom Train all around the country. Click here for an image from the reunion.

If you worked on either Freedom Train and have never attended a reunion, please contact the Webmaster and your contact information will be forwarded to the reunion hosts.

June/July 2002. Locomotive #4449 makes an appearance in Hillsboro, Oregon. The occasion is the arrival of the ArTrain to the Portland area. For several days the locomotive displayed with the five-car traveling art museum. The only difference in its paint from 1976 is its silver stripes on the pilot (cowcatcher). The stripes where white in '76.

March 2002. 4449 makes an excursion run from Portland to Bend, OR and back.. See the Friends of 4449 for more information on this famous locomotive and their efforts to keep it running. Images courtesy of Mr. Aaron B. Hockley. Images Copyright 2002 Aaron B. Hockley

March 2002. Portland, Oregon. Former AFT locomotive #4449 returns to her AFT red, white and blue paint for a sold-out excursion run from Portland to Bend, OR! Don MacDonald shares these images of the repainting.

February 2002. K-LINE Electric Trains releases their first 2002 catalog once again featuring the American Freedom Train in O-Gauge. New in this catalog is a rather fanciful "Preamble Express". The real Preamble Express (diesel locomotive and four cars) preceded the real American Freedom Train by one year, scouting locations for the big Bicentennial train.

October 2001 -- K-Line Electric Trains, in cooperation with the Museum of America's Freedom Trains, announces the American Freedom Train in O-Gauge. With a locomotive, two showcase cars, ten display cars and five passenger/crew cars, the model promises to be the most accurate and complete rendition of the AFT ever offered in any scale! A portion of the sale of each car and locomotive K-LINE sells will go to the Museum of America's Freedom Trains.

K-LINE adds an 11th display car to their O-Gauge model of the American Freedom Train! Mr. Guenter Schwindt of Germany has created a screensaver for computers that features images of the 1947 Freedom Train and the 1976 American Freedom Train moving across the screen. If you'd like a free copy, click here and email him with your request and he says he'll send you one. Mr. Brian Bode checked in with some photos of AFT cars #20 and #33 as they appeared in 1981 in Hilliard, OH. See the "Where are the Trains Now" section for details. Garland R. Harper checked in with a nice image of the 1947 Freedom Train at Lynchburg, VA. See the 1947 Freedom Train timeline. In January 2002 Microscale Industries debuted their new sets of 1947 Freedom Train decals in HO and N scales.

July 4, 2001 -- The Museum of America's Freedom Train's had a display at the annual 4th of July celebration at the Fillmore & Western Railroad in Fillmore, CA.

May, 2001 -- The Museum of America's Freedom Trains acquires the last remaining former AFT railcar that over 7 million Americans passed through. Click Here for the story...

March 24 & 25, 2001 -- The Museum of America's Freedom Trains had part of its collection on display at the Fillmore & Western Railroad's "2001: A Railroad Odyssey" in Fillmore, CA -- one hour Northwest of Los Angeles.

March 4, 2001 -- The MAFT directors got the unfortunate news that the Museum's railcar has been broken into and artifacts stolen enroute from Woodland to Santa Paula, CA (via Sparks, NV - over Donner Pass twice!).

March 2 & 3. 2001 -- The American Railfan Weekend - Texas State Railroad, Palastine, TX. The North Texas Chapter NRHS hosts a weekend of fun to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Texas & Pacific #610 to pull the American Freedom Train through Texas. Guest speakers included Larry Wines and Bob Skillman -- both are MAFT members and 1976 AFT alumni.

April 1, 2000 -- Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) asks that an American flag be flown atop the nation's Capitol to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the American Freedom Train which opened in Wilmington, Delaware April 1, 1975.

September 17, 1997 -- Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) delivers a speech to Congress commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1947 Freedom Train - 50 years to the day from its opening in Philadelphia.

Southern California News, Events and Trivia

A bit of SoCal trivia: In the 2009 Star Trek film, the old blimp hangers here in Tustin (largest self-supporting wooden structures in the world) substitute for the hangar bay of the Enterprise. The Vulcan Science Academy is the Skyrose Chapel in Rose Hills Memorial Park, a short walk from where some of the author's wife's family are interred.

4449's sister transporting troops in Germany? If you get the Hogan's Heroes DVD boxed set, you'll see just that in episode #704 (1970) "Operation Tiger", as an old stock shot of #4446 (stripped of running boards and wearing black) is used twice for a night shot of a "German" troop train. The shot is reversed left-to-right so the viewer can't really tell that the building it's passing clearly proclaims "Furniture" on its side.

The finale of the recent film "The Italian Job" features one of Amtrak's oldest bi-level lounge cars dating back to the 1950s -- built for the Santa Fe RR and used on the Super Chief and El Capitan. Two of them are still in use on the Coast Starlight (first class passengers only)!

Did you enjoy Demi Moore's bedroom scenes in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle? That's an unused wing of Los Angeles Union Station posing as her colossal bedroom.

Did you notice that Howard Fogg print of the 1947-Freedom-Train-by-the-Washington-Monument in the movie Legal Eagles? It's on a wall in Robert Redford's apartment in the film.

Amtrak is finally out of the dome car business in Southern CA. In September 2001, Southern Californians said good-bye to their last pair of full-length dome cars (they could be found almost daily on Amtrak's San Diegans between Santa Barbara and San Diego). But don't fret... Look for them on the American Orient Express. Editor's note 08/2005: Another Amtrak full dome has recently popped up here and there in Southern CA, ending a 4 year drought. Editor's note 09/2010: No more American Orient Express. No more Amtrak domes in SoCal. A sad state of affairs.

On January 11, 2002, Knott's Berry Farm celebrated 50 years of the Ghost Town and Calico RR with a "golden spike" celebration attended by hundreds. The amusement park has the largest collection of original Denver and Rio Grande equipment in the country.

Disney's California Adventure theme park (adjacent to Disneyland) once featured a life-size tribute to the Western Pacific's California Zephyr. The locomotive was real, but the cars were not. The front of the locomotive has since been moved to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, CA.

Did you catch a glimpse of Santa Fe Locomotive #3751 in the movie "Pearl Harbor"? The scene with the big 4-8-4 steam locomotive was filmed at Los Angeles Union Station.

Luke Duke is apparently a fan of the 1977-78 Chessie Steam Special. In the 2005 reboot of The Dukes of Hazzard, Johnny Knoxville sports a bright yellow CSS t-shirt in a courtroom scene.

 
     
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