American Freedom Train 1976

The American Freedom Train made a three day stop in my hometown of Austin, Texas in the fall of 1976 (Feb. 15-17). My Family spent an evening touring this awesome spectacle, although it was quite a while ago I still have vivid memories of visiting the American Freedom Train. My Father moved from my boyhood home last year and came across these photos of the American Freedom Train and gave them to me. I would like to share them with you, enjoy.

The American Freedom Train was the greatest railroading event of the 20th century. For 21 months in 1975 and 1976 this 25-car steam-powered train crisscrossed the nation in celebration of the Bicentennial of the America Revolution. Over seven million people would seek out the train on its 25,833 mile journey - venturing aboard to witness over 500 precious artifacts significant in the shaping of their country. Forty million more would watch the train go by at trackside.

In Texas the American Freedom Train was pulled by two enormous steam locomotives, Texas & Pacific #610 and Southern Pacific #4449. The following is a few pictures and brief history, the links at the bottom of the page provide a wealth of information on the American Freedom Train and the engines that pulled it across America.

In 1969, the huge 2-10-4 steam locomotive #610 had become the property of David Pearson of Ft. Worth. As the Bicentennial approached, word of the AFT reached Pearson. After discussions with Ross Rowland and the AFT Foundation, it was decided that if Pearson and his friends could get the 610 restored, it could pull the AFT through Texas. And with the backing of local millionaire Amon Carter, Jr., restore it they did. 

The third and often overlooked steam locomotive to pull the American Freedom Train, the 610 took the point on runs from Austin to Houston, Houston to Ft. Worth, and from Ft. Worth to Dallas and back.

#610 Being pulled out of it's home at the Texas State Railroad in Rusk Texas.

 A picture of myself in front of #610 now retired and on display at the Texas State Railroad.

 A picture of #610 leading the American Freedom Train through Texas.     


Built in 1941, Lima C/N 7817, SP 4449 "Daylight" with her sister "Golden State" GS-4Class 4-8-4's (4430-4457) continued the tradition of "the most beautiful train in the world" that began in 1937 with the GS-2 class and the new highly successful coast daylight trains of that time. SP-4449 was retired in 1957 and donated to the city of Portland, Oregon. It came under the watchful eye of the R&LHS. 4449 returned to action in red, white and blue to help power the American Freedom Train in 1975 & 1976. 

Pulling such a magnificent train would require the finest motive power ever put on rails. To Ross Rowland, that meant only one thing: steam. Which meant the return to life of two huge steam locomotives: The former Southern Pacific GS-4 'Daylight' #4449, and the Reading T-1 #2101. Both giants were pulled from their slumber - one from a public park in Portland, Oregon, the other from a supply company in Baltimore. The immense Daylight was chosen for the Western portion of the AFT's journey, while the slightly shorter Reading engine would negotiate the tighter clearances of the Eastern US.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 GS-4 "Daylight" #4449

Me in front of the enormous 80" dia. drivers of the famous #4449 which was re-painted in Red White & Blue for the American Freedom Train.

#4449 at rest with Bi-Centennial Diesel helpers.


American Freedom Train Links

Texas State Railroad now the home of # 610

#4449 is maintained by the Friends of the 4449 with support from the Northwest Railway Museum.

Back to Table of Contents