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The Freedom train, 1947-1949


The Freedom train, 1947-1949

Fred Klein, 2003, 2010, 2016

“Following World War II, the American Heritage Foundation assembled a special train to tour the country in order to display historical documents. Headed by a brand new Alco PA-1 diesel, the train consisted of seven cars - AT&SF baggage 1896, three PRR P70R coaches converted to display cars (the windows were plated over) and three Pullman sleepers to house the staff and Marines assigned to protect the train's contents. The train was assembled at Pennsylvania Railroad's Wilmington, DE, shops. The tour began in Philadelphia, PA, on September 17, 1947. During the tour, which lasted a bit over a year, the train traveled 33,000 miles in all 48 states on 52 railroads. The train's look was created by Alco designer Chester Mack” (quoted from Microscale decal sheet 60-1065).


Unfortunately, there are few published photographs of the 1947 train.  None of the photos I have found give a good view of the sides of the cars, but descriptions and types of the cars from which the train was built allow modeling many of the details of the train. See the accompanying prototype page for some web links, and a few of the photos I have found. A bit more information may be found on the page Please forward any other web page addresses, or references of other published Freedom Train photos to me. There are color photos in Pennsy Diesel Years v.6 by Robert Yanosey (Morning Sun 1996, page 110).


The locomotive was one of the first Alco PA1’s built, and was on loan from Alco.  The A unit, powered by a 2000 hp 16-cylinder engine, pulled 7 heavyweight cars and had no B unit.  The cars were loaned by the railroads from which they came.  First was ATSF Baggage Car #1896.  The following 3 cars were Pennsy P70R coaches #3465, 3489 and 3510 with their windows plated over. These were the historic document display cars.  The next two cars were Pullman 6-compartment/ 3-double bedroom sleepers "Glen Fee" and "Penn Square".  The last car was the Pullman 3-compartment 2-drawing room/ observation/lounge "Central Plains".  The Pullmans were used to carry and house the Marine Corps guards and the site managers who accompanied the train.  A golden eagle and the words “FREEDOM TRAIN” alternated on successive cars, except for the large seals on the lead baggage car and the last Pullman.  The eagle on the PA1 was removed partway through the tour due to concerns that it looked like a symbol found in Nazi Germany.  In fact it was an art deco eagle typical of the time.


This color photo was taken at Harrisburg PA and is from


The Freedom Train in Reno Nevada. From the website and the ABPR Archive.


The Freedom Train, painting by Howard Fogg.


You can make a nearly prototypical train from available n-scale cars.  I modified some of the cars, and the train was custom painted by Ernie Giese of Model Railroad Customizing.  Decals and a basic diagram are available from Microscale on sheet 60-1065.  The Microscale instruction sheet falsely indicates the Pullman-observation has “Freedom Train” lettering, but photographs show the US seal instead.  I do not believe the 1947 Freedom Train made by Con-cor is very prototypical because it is made from stock Rivarossi cars not matched to the correct car type, and because the eagles and large lettering are painted on the sides below the windows rather than over them.


Freedom train, first portion


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

The PA1 is a custom painted Kato model.  The Rivarossi heavyweight baggage car, which is a model of the 85’ Santa Fe baggage car #1849, is a good model for the Freedom Train baggage car.  The prototype is a similar Santa Fe car.  The Model Power heavyweight coach is an exact model of the Pennsylvania P70 coach (see the section on Prototypes for N scale passenger cars part 1: Wood and Heavyweight steel cars).  The windows of the 3 coaches were plated over.  I used Model Power heavyweight coaches, and cemented small squares of styrene into each model window opening.  I have not found a face-on photo of a coach to see if the windows were individually covered, or if a smooth steel plate covered the whole car side.


Freedom train, second portion


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

After the coaches, the prototypical Freedom Train used two Pullman 6-compartment/ 3-double bedroom sleepers.  An off-the-shelf plastic 6/3 Pullman model is not available, but I used two Rivarossi 12-section /1-drawing room Pullmans of the early 1920s as an approximation.  The last car in the Freedom Train was a 3-compartment/ 2-drawing room/observation car with an outside observation deck.  The Rivarossi model is the Santa Fe Cafe-Observation-Lounge car of 1930.  The last 3 cars give the feel of the prototype cars, even though the window arrangement is not exact.  The “FREEDOM TRAIN” letters were actually cut out and suspended away from the Pullman windows on the prototype car (see photo on the prototype page).  I glued a strip of clear styrene over the windows and applied a decal to it to simulate floating lettering.





Microscale decal sheet 60-1065.

Pennsy Diesel Years v.6 by Robert Yanosey, Morning Sun 1996, page 110.