Kuiper poses with an orange locomotive.

Southern Pacific 4449

Thanks again to the @orhf for granting Kuiper permission to visit their steam locomotives. This one is my favorite; she is Southern Pacific 4449. She was built in 1941 in Lima, Ohio.

In 1976, 4449 emerged from her 1956 retirement to pull the 2nd incarnation of the American Freedom Train, touring the nation to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. Like its predecessor, the 1947 Freedom Train, the 1976 edition was a heckin’ epic marketing campaign. They both toured all 48 of the conterminous United States over the course of two years. The ’47 train attracted 3.5 million visitors and the ’76 train double that.

Also, neither Freedom Train was segregated! In 1947, black poet Langston Hughes wrote a poem expressing “I hope there ain’t no Jim Crow on the Freedom Train.” The poem went viral, and President Truman declared 2 weeks before the train’s departure that train visits would not be segregated. Memphis and Birmingham attempted to insist on having separate visiting hours/lines but the train folks said “lol no” and cancelled their stops in the two cities.

Both Freedom Trains carried hundreds of precious historical artifacts, e.g. Abraham Lincoln’s hat, the 1776 Poor Richard’s Almanac and original copies of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The ’76 train also included a few more “modern” additions, like Alan Shepard’s spacesuit and a moon rock.

4449 almost didn’t make it to pull the Freedom Train; she came very close to rusting away into obscurity. In 1958 she was donated to the City of Portland, where she subsequent sat out in the rain for nearly 20 years at a local theme park. She was repeatedly vandalized, and some of her parts were even stolen. One man saved her: an extremely dedicated train historian named Jack Holst. For nearly 15 years, he regularly came and greased the engine bearings and rods of 4449 and the other two locomotives in the park.

Jack’s work paid off; it directly led to the selection of 4449 for the Freedom Train in 1974. Unfortunately, Jack would never see the fruits of his labor; he passed away in 1972 at the age of 38. In the cab lives a brass plaque dedicated to his memory. ❤️

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BkygvzXgIUR/

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