March 22, 2002

Railfan General Discussion
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March 22, 2002

Postby BurlingtonJohn » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:11 pm

18 years ago today on 22 Mar 2002, 4449 backed out of the Brooklyn Roundhouse, looking every bit like the Freedom Train locomotive she was. All of the masking had been removed and I daresay 4449 had not looked this good in a number of years. Heck, I even helped a gentleman clean the tape residue from the tender to ensure that she looked her very best. No detail was ignored by the 4449 crew and to those of us in attendance it was very apparent. The engine moved forward slowly where checks were made and the sand dome was filled prior to the locomotive proceeding to Portland Union Station to prepare for the departure for Bend the next morning.

A bit of background if you will. I first saw the American Freedom Train in St Louis on 7 Apr 1976 with 4449 on the point. I was in love. Seriously. I saw 4449 on the World’s Fair Daylight in 1984 and the Tough Guys Daylight in 1986, but I secretly wished for just one more chance at her with something a little better than an Instamatic camera. After all, it is good to dream, isn’t it?

4449 ran other trips in her daylight colors and had recently finished a stint on lease to the BNSF where she pulled a series of BNSF employee appreciation specials. BNSF asked that it be painted in basic steam engine black and Doyle said he was happy to oblige. He said that if somebody wanted to pay for the paint job and pay to have the engine run, he’d paint it pink!

The attacks of 9/11 gave us all a wakeup call that doesn’t require repeating here. Not long after, the 4449 team announced that she would be repainted for an overnight excursion from Portland to Bend in March 2002. As I recall, the tickets sold out in short order, BEFORE the scheme was announced. 99.9% of the fans out there figured out that the daylight colors would return and who would blame them? But, a small group of us started “beating the drum” so to speak, hoping that the r/w/b of the American Freedom Train would return. I was in contact with several of the crewmembers over the following weeks, trying to make the case for the AFT colors. I really didn’t expect that it would amount to anything, but figured I had nothing to lose. Then one day in January 2002, one of the crew emailed me a photo labeled “classified” with the words ‘we just shot the tender today with the first coat of white paint’. I think I woke up the San Diego area yelling my approval.

Told the Boss that we were going to Portland. She said no way, as our daughter’s birthdays were on March 22 and March 23rd (separated by five years). I stood my ground until I was struck by a rare flash of brilliance (for me). Asked her where her brother lived …. Camas Washington was the reply. Did a quick search and his house was about 20 miles from downtown Portland. HOT DAMN, time for a family vacation! I informed my 4449 contacts that I was on the way … they had one request. They were all going to replicate the uniforms worn by the 4449 crew while on the AFT, but they needed American flag patches which were hard to find in the right size. Nada problem, as I was still on active duty in the Navy, a quick trip to the uniform store and that problem was solved.

We made the 1000 mile road trip from San Diego to Portland which was no easy feat with two youngins in the vehicle, but I was determined. More tomorrow!

Burlington John


John Bohon
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Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:30 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: March 22, 2002

Postby John Bohon » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:00 am

When I was a working high school teenager back in the seventies I stopped by the park in Hagerstown, MD before work where Western Maryland Railway pacific 202 was on display. The Chessie System had agreed to paint the locomotive one last time for the city, something the WM had done yearly since it was placed on display in 1953. Knowing all the WM men on the site I made the off hand statement that I sort of wished the WM had put a freight locomotive in the park since the passenger engines did not carry the WM's Fast Freight Line fireball logo. I would never have the opportunity to see a fireball on a real WM tender. To my shock when I returned the next day the painters had just finished putting the fireball logo on the tender of 202 because of what I had said. To this day I have mixed feelings about what happened. I am proud of the fact the WM men thought enough of a kid in the WM family tree to do what they did. At the same time I have often thought it was my fault the locomotive was painted wrong for a number of years until another repaint happened I suppose about 10 years later. Like Burlington John, the moral of the story is it can sometimes be amazing what happens when you open your big mouth.

John Bohon

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