Coming down the tracks in my mother-in-law’s hometown of Noble, Oklahoma in March 1976 was the American Freedom Train. The renovated Southern Pacific Loco 4449 steam engine painted in patriotic colors traveled to 48 states in 1976. It was filled with historical documents and memorabilia so that citizens could visit the train and learn more about our history as we celebrated our 200th bicentennial birthday.
According to the Daily Oklahoman it stopped in Purcell before heading north through Noble on its way to Oklahoma City.
The American Freedom Train will sound its Bicentennial whistle salute in Oklahoma for the first time Tuesday, as the red, white and blue steam engine heads for a five-day visit at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
The 25-car train, which carries a collection of historical documents, memorabilia and Bicentennial exhibits, will make its first Sooner stop in Ardmore at 1:45 pm, after leaving Gainsville, Tex., and crossing the Red River into Oklahoma. The train, which will not be open to the public during its trip to Oklahoma City, also will stop in Purcell at 4:30 pm before chugging toward the state fairgrounds. –“Freedom Train Steams Into Oklahoma Today” The Daily Oklahoman, March 9, 1976, page 7.
The American Freedom Train was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma March 10-14, 1976, which was the train’s 69th display city.
According to website The Story of the 1975-1976 American Freedom Train “Within an hour of arrival locomotive #4449 began to list to one side in the soft mud and had to be moved. The crew enjoyed a BBQ on their own grill, fabricated by the locomotive crew out of a steel barrel.”
About The Photo
My mother-in-law has allowed me to borrow her family photos so I can scan and archive them. This photo of the American Freedom Train is among them. Someone named Mary Ann took the photograph and gave it to my mother-in-law’s family, possibly Elizabeth Bullard. To me, the front of the train looks like an older Thomas the Tank Engine. This older “man” with a large nose and gray mustache is smiling at the people standing by the tracks and in particular the lady who is waving at the powerful steam engine as it whistled its way through the small town of Noble, Oklahoma.
To determine where in Noble the train blew by, I asked my husband who lived in Noble for many years, where the photographer may have been standing. He knew it was on the northern edge of Noble because of the position of the water tower in the photo (upper left). He guessed it was at what locals call North Road but is actually named Etowah Road. Using a map, we found the spot just as he suggested. Google Earth lets you rotate the map so, in this case, when we position ourselves on Etowah Road and look south and slightly east our view is very similar to the photographer’s though 34 plus years later.
You just never know the journey you may take by investigating a single photo. Now, full steam ahead as I complete my scanning project with my mother-in-law’s photos!
City by City Stop, here’s the one for Oklahoma City
Our house was located about a 1/4 south of that crossing. My younger brother and I spent a lot of time playing in the field that bordered the tracks. It was often planted in wheat. We would put coins on the rails and try to find them later. If you put ten pennies down you might find six or seven of them.
There was a side rail where trains would pull in to let others pass. My brother and I would talk to the guys in the caboose. I’m sure they got a kick out of it as it had to be boring just waiting for another train to fly by. We got to tour a caboose one time, the guys let us climb all over it.
That must have been a real treat to tour the caboose. Maybe you can go back with a metal detector and find all those lost coins.
I really enjoy these research journeys you take over a photograph or something owned by an ancestor. It makes history come alive and gives a personality to the people who went before us.
Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said:
Great story and photos… Thanks for sharing!! 😉
I love old photos and the stories they tell.
I don’t remember ever hearing about the Freedom Train. It’s amazing what discoveries old photos lead to.
I don’t remember the train either but when I researched it it sounded like it was a widely known event and one that took over 2 years to prepare. After I posted this I found photos of Elizabeth Bullard (who I think owned this train photo) all dressed up for a bicentennial party.