March 23, 2002

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BurlingtonJohn
Conductor
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March 23, 2002

Postby BurlingtonJohn » Fri Mar 23, 2018 8:58 pm

On this day, 23 Mar 2002, a very special thing happened in the railfan world. The colors of the American Freedom Train returned to the rails on an overnight Portland-Bend round trip.

For those of you that aren’t aware, it was a different time back then. The nation was still reeling from the impact of terrorist attacks on our country a few months previous. In the fall of 2001, the Bend trip was announced by the good people of the Friends of 4449 and as I recall it sold out in short order. Along with the trip announcement was the word that 4449 would be repainted from the basic black scheme it wore for several years when the locomotive took the head end of several BNSF employee specials.

About 99.9% of the railfan world expected that 4449 would return to Daylight colors. Can’t say that I would have blamed them for dropping a few $$$ in Vegas on the idea. But, there were a small group of us out here in the virtual railfan community that openly pontificated about the possibility of 4449 returning to the rails wearing the r/w/b of the American Freedom Train.

For me, the reasons were simple. It was on the point of the AFT that I first saw 4449 in St Louis Missouri on 7 Apr 1976. It was love at first sight and that infatuation continues to this day. I wondered aloud that there was a whole generation of fans that would like a crack at AFT 4449 with something better than a Kodak 110 instamatic and most importantly, there was a whole generation of fans that had never seen 4449 in r/w/b and considering the events of 9/11, maybe it was an idea worthy of consideration.

Sometime in January of 2002, a 4449 crewman sent me an email with a photo attached of the tender and the simple words “we shot the first coat of white paint today”. Friends, I about went through the roof. A trip to Portland was definitely on. No question about, even though the boss put her foot down and said no as our daughters had birthdays on the 22nd and 23rd of March. When I found out that her brother lived 20 miles from Portland, I was able to sell the idea of a “family vacation”. Ha!

I went to the cathedral and saw the crew working feverishly to ready 4449 for the trip. Originally plans were to paint the auxiliary tender in r/w/b but the weather and the sieve that was the roundhouse had not cooperated. I was concerned that people would complain about the AFT colors. The Man himself (Doyle) wasn’t really worried, saying the AFT scheme was historically accurate and that the AFT veterans weren’t getting any younger. Can’t argue with that one bit.

We left Portland on the morning of March 23rd under damp and dreary skies, but with a train full of fans. I was able to help in the souvenir section of what is now the “Gordo”. I was like a kid in a candy store!

The attached photo is of a run by we did on the way towards Bend. All aboard America, here comes the Freedom Train!

Regards,
Burlington John
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Fitz
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Re: March 23, 2002

Postby Fitz » Sat Mar 24, 2018 3:18 pm

Hey John, and on that trip is when we met each other. I remember what you had to go through to get to Portland and then Doyle put you to work in the concessions group, something I had followed up on for several years until I was unable to do it any longer. This aging process is no fun. I know how much the AFT and the r/w/b mean to you and it was great to see 4449 in those colors for that trip. I will never forget the displays of Patriotism we observed among the spectators along the ROW. Looks like things have sure changed.
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