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 Post subject: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 6:56 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9314
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Contrary to what it may look like, I'm not trying to stir up an antagonistic political discussion here with this topic. But I found the thoughts it provoked intriguing enough to share here.

Some of us here remember the American Freedom Train era of 1975-76, celebrating the American Bicentennial. Lots of us, like typical railfans, only focused on the railfan aspects of the train's operation--the steam locos, where the cars came from, etc.

There have been subsequent efforts by the "father" of the AFT (and before that the Golden Spike Limited in 1969) to instigate subsequent "event trains" like this--the Yellow Ribbon Express and the 21st Century Limited. Neither got off the ground. Railfans, railroads, and corporate sponsors could all cite different reasons for the lack of success involved.

Here is an essay about the era that highlights the AFT as a national event and de facto national unifier:

https://www.city-journal.org/html/spirit-76-14603.html

This might be a slightly rose-colored-glasses retrospective, but it's worth pointing out that, in an era when we suffered from the divisions exacerbated by the Vietnam War and the draft, Watergate, civil rights riots, oil embargoes, the Cold War, and Middle East tensions, we were still able to come together as a united group of states for the American Bicentennial.

This article brought me about to another possibility not many folks in rail circles (but probably many in boardrooms) may have considered: That the time for such unifying actions may now be long past, absent something on the order of another "Cold War" to unify us against a common looming "enemy."

My father told me that, when selling advertising for special Bicentennial booklets and newspaper editions, the smart salesman would always point out even to those that never bought advertising ever elsewhere: "Hey, look, I'm not going to be back to ask you again for another 50 or 100 years, and this is really your only chance to be a part of a national historic event....." He said it was amazing how well that worked.

We are two weeks or so away from the 50th anniversary of the first landing of humans on the Moon, another national--and international--unifying event, even inasmuch as huge swaths of the American population throughout the 1960s thought the effort a complete waste of money.


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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:13 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
Those of you old enough to remember will recall that in the early 1970's America was spending an enormous amount of time & energy pointing fingers at each other as to who was to blame for the Vietnam war, the Watergate fiasco, the ARAB oil embargo etc. and precious little time discussing the upcoming 200th. birthday.

As the father of then 3 young children I was determined to mount an effort to showcase many of our significant accomplishments in 200 years of participatory democracy and thus I founded the American Freedom Train Foundation,Inc. which produced the 21 month ( April '75-Dec. '76) , 48 state, 25,883 mile, 138 display cities epic journey that 7.6 million Americans ( 4.1 M kids, 3.5 M adults) bought a ticket to see.

My fondest hope was that the kids who went through the 10 display cars ( containing 512 ORIGINAL artifacts borrowed from 285 museums) would come out the other end with a greater appreciation of what their forefathers sacrificed to build the nation they were inheriting by luck of birthright. I stood at the exit ramp on lots of days and talked with countless kids and can testify that we accomplished that goal in spades.

As a steam lover I of course immensely enjoyed having the AFT be steam powered and count the roughly 7.500 miles I was hogger to be among my fondest memories. Please visit www.freedomtrain.org for photos and details of the project in action.

I've been working on a sequel called AFT 2.0 ( formerly Yellow Ribbon Express) whose purpose will be to help America celebrate its upcoming 250th. birthday and to mount a loud & proud thank you to those serving in our nations uniform now and in the past. We've established a 501 c 3 and are making some progress securing the critical corporate co-sponsors needed to fund its $ 100M cost, so that all the ticket revenues can go into the Hidden Heroes fund to help the caregivers for the 10,000 plus veterans who have come home severely wounded since 9/11.

My fondest hope for AFT 2.0 is that its displays will help us celebrate those things that unite us and remind us all how fortunate we are to be Americans.

We do not yet want public donations as until we know we have the corporate co-sponsors committed there is no assurance that the project will happen.

Thanks for your interest and well wishes.

Ross Rowland, Chairman & Founder
American Freedom Train Foundation,Inc.

P.S. Oh yea, if we secure our funding AFT 2.0 will be steam powered throughout its 48 state, 4 year, 25,000 mile journey. This time we will always be double headed to eliminate road failure, eliminate the need for a diesel in the consist and by staggering the boiler wash dates always have a live engine on the display site.
As we speak there a lots of mainline steam locomotives in service and looking for gainful employment ( 611,765,1225,261,4014,844,4449,3751 and soon to be joined by 2926,700 2100,) so finding suitable available steam power is the easy part.


Last edited by co614 on Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:14 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1510
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
Mr. Rowland, Please keep us informed.


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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:22 pm 

Joined: Sat May 19, 2018 10:03 am
Posts: 110
I sincerely hope this plan will come to life. This will be the best 21st century steam event around...


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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:31 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1510
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
As an example of what's theoretically possible, my stock broker's research department tells me that today, 75.91% of CSX stock is held by "institutions". What if Mr. Rowland was to convince the one of them with the largest share of that pile to back his plan? I think that there could then be effective pressure on CSX to cooperate!
Make no little plans if you want big results.


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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:08 am 

Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:28 pm
Posts: 390
Location: Northern WV
I was hoping to see ex_C&O 614 in that list of potential steam locomotives.

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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:14 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 2:46 pm
Posts: 2079
Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
The 200th anniversary came at a time when the country badly needed it.
I was a little kid at the time but I clearly remember how red/white/blue was everywhere that summer.
co614 wrote:
My fondest hope was that the kids who went through the 10 display cars ( containing 512 ORIGINAL artifacts borrowed from 285 museums) would come out the other end with a greater appreciation of what their forefathers sacrificed to build the nation they were inheriting by luck of birthright. I stood at the exit ramp on lots of days and talked with countless kids and can testify that we accomplished that goal in spades.
My parents were (and still are) history buffs, so my brother and I even as little kids had a very good appreciation for history.
That said, the Freedom Train showed me stuff I never thought I'd get to see.
So even for our family, you accomplished your goal 100%. And with 4449 on point, it was one of my favorite childhood memories (I got to thank you in person for that at the Freedom Train reunion in Portland) seeing 4449 rollup to the SCL depot at Tallahassee, Florida and seeing the interior of the train a couple days later. I still have the program from that day!
But as for the new AFT, I think we're in a timeframe when the country is almost as divided as it was in the 70s. We sure could use a return of such a train behind steam.

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 Post subject: Re: OT: The American Freedom Train and National Unity
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:26 pm 

Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:26 pm
Posts: 437
Location: Pure Michigan
co614 wrote:
P.S. Oh yea, if we secure our funding AFT 2.0 will be steam powered throughout its 48 state, 4 year, 25,000 mile journey. This time we will always be double headed to eliminate road failure, eliminate the need for a diesel in the consist and by staggering the boiler wash dates always have a live engine on the display site.
As we speak there a lots of mainline steam locomotives in service and looking for gainful employment ( 611,765,1225,261,4014,844,4449,3751 and soon to be joined by 2926,700 2100,) so finding suitable available steam power is the easy part.


I have a suggestion for you! What if each different region of the country had its own pairing of two locomotives to pull the train? (Similar to how T&P 610 pulled the original AFT in Texas). I understand that the logistics and operational costs would be extreme, but it would give a lot of steam groups exposure to the general American public.

For example (these are all hypothetical):
Midwest/Great Lakes: 1225/261
East/Mid-Atlantic: 765/2100 (or 611)
Southeast: 576/611 (or 4501)
Southwest: 2926/844 (or 3751)
Pacific Northwest:700/4449 (or 844)
Great Plains: 4014/844


I truly hope you succeed in your efforts Mr. Rowland!


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