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Preamble Express Cars 1, 2, 3 & 4

The Preamble Express' 48-state tour in late 1974 helped the AFT Foundation increase awareness of the coming American Freedom Train and validated some routes and display sites.

The four cars of the Preamble Express had most recently been with the Lancaster & Chester Railway and still retained large metal plaques from the L&C on their sides (removed before their run on the American Freedom Train).

The train is seen here in September '74 at San Francisco on the tracks that once served the Presidio and Crissy Army Airfield -- having earlier passed through the tunnel under Ft. Mason. It's the same picturesque spot where the American Freedom Train would display a year later -- and where the original Freedom Train had displayed in 1948. The tracks are no longer there, but remnants of them remain all along the route back to the Embarcadero.

Click on the image for a beautiful wide shot showing the Golden Gate Bridge. Image: Keith Muldowney.

The Story of "the Preambles", AFT Cars #202, 203, 204, 205: Of all the cars on the American Freedom Train, these four had the most colorful past. These four (originally Reading Company Class CVM all-steel combination passenger-baggage #592 built in 1927, and Reading Company all-steel Class PBm passenger coaches #1327, 1329, and 1332 built in 1922) all started life as Reading Company commuter cars. In 1935-36, the cars had their roofs modified as they were shopped to add air conditioning, trading in their ancient "celestory" roofs for rounded roofs matching passenger cars from the streamline era of the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. Still, there was never anything uncommon about the four. There were at least a couple dozen just like them.

That all changed in June 1966 when the Reading Company sold 592, 1327 and 1329 to Permacel (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) for use on their Permacel Express -- an exhibit train to promote sales of their industrial tape products. Number 592 became P1 and was named "Innovator". 1327 became P2, "Motivator". 1329 became P3, "Educator".1329 also received an open platform on one end, effectively creating an observation car. By this time, all three had at least one large, almost chimney-like roof vent where other Reading cars had very small, low profile vents. In September 1966, the maiden voyage of the Permacel Express saw the cars pulled by the New York Central's 20th Century Limited from New York to Chicago. The Permacel Express would last until December 1967.

On November 21, 1968 the three cars were sold at auction at the Parke-Burnet Galleries in NY to the Lancaster & Chester Railway (The Springmaid Line) of South Carolina, where a fourth car (former Reading #1332) was added to provide space for corporate exhibits and product displays. The new car had, and retains to this day, the small, low-profile roof vents it had with the Reading. This allows it to be distinguished from its near-clone, #1327. It received the name "Stimulator". Together, the four cars (now numbered 11, 12, 13 & 14) become the Springmaid Special which was used as a traveling classroom and meeting place for company employees. Later it was used for public promotion.

In mid-1974, the quartet went to the American Freedom Train Foundation where they served as the Preamble Express, a four-car diesel-powered train that scouted the route of the upcoming American Freedom Train. They were renumbered 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Finally, renumbered yet again, they became the last four cars of the AFT itself. Throughout its journey the staff still affectionately referred to them as "the Preambles". In their capacities on the Preamble Express and the American Freedom Train they have been to all 48 contiguous states. Twice!

But their story didn't end with the American Freedom Train. They were later sold to BC rail in Canada for use on their Royal Hudson (#2860) steam excursion program. Their first big assignment was a trans-Canada trip to celebrate the Bicentennial of Captain James Cook's discovery of Vancouver Island. The trip ran in April and May of 1978. The cars were renamed for Cook's ships -- AFT #202 became "Endeavour", #203 became "Resolution", #204 became "Discovery", and #205 became "Britannia".

After their days with the Canadian steam excursion program, the band was finally broken up. Their individual stories and fates appear below. For those who are counting, that makes six different high-profile programs that this team of four was a part of! Well, except for Reading #1332/AFT 204 which missed out on the Permacel Express.

The Preambles were the nerve-center of the American Freedom Train. This is where the staff worked, the press gathered, local supporters were thanked, and luminaries were entertained. But it was also where the staff and crew -- mostly college aged -- always ate, sometimes slept, and often stared out the window contemplating their country embracing its Bicentennial while still reeling from political scandal and a terrible war.

Much of the information on these four cars comes to us from Mary Jayne & John Z. Rowe, AFT veteran Robert Skillman III, Walter "Butch" Curll, Lee Bishop, John Finnin, Nelson Winterburn, Jim Boyd's in-depth article on BC Rail steam excursions titled BCROYAL in the Sept 1988 edition of Railfan & Railroad magazine, and a fantastic article titled Exhibit Trains and Cars, by George W. Green appearing in the National Railway Bulletin, Volume 69, Number 5, 2004. The Reading numbers are courtesy of Keith Muldowney, who lived in Preamble Express #1 (later AFT #202) during the run of the Preamble Express. As a bit of trivia, Bob Skillman tells us that the security staff used to advise local law enforcement to remember "BOP", for Bar/Office/Press as a way to remember the last three passenger cars. According to Bob, BSP/BOP (Bunk/Sleeper/Pie, Bar/Office/Press) just wasn't catchy enough to remember. Besides, most of the fun took place in the last three anyway.

Click here for more on Preamble Express Car 1/AFT Car 202.

Click here for more on Preamble Express Car 2/AFT Car 203.

Click here for more on Preamble Express Car 3/AFT Car 204.

Click here for more on Preamble Express Car 4/AFT Car 205.

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