Express Cars 1, 2, 3 & 4
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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".
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.
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.
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.
here for more on Preamble Express Car 1/AFT Car 202.
here for more on Preamble Express Car 2/AFT Car 203.
here for more on Preamble Express Car 3/AFT Car 204.
here for more on Preamble Express Car 4/AFT Car 205.