Freedom Train Visits Bluefield

The American Heritage Program for Your Community
June 1948 (Ms79-87)

Longest Train Tour Marks Rededication To Liberty

The longest train tour in American history began when the American Heritage Foundation's Freedom Train arrive in Philadelphia on September 17 to start its 33,000-mile 13 month-long trip to every state in the Union.

The seven-car Freedom Train, carrying 127 of the nation's most priceless historic documents showing the foundations and growth of American liberty, operates at all times as a special train.

The Freedom Train is, in essence, the spearhead of the Foundation's program which seeks to recreate awareness among U. S. citizens of their priceless heritage.

Prior to the visit of the train to each community, a Week of Rededication is held in which citizens of all age groups rededicate themselves to the American heritage, and pledge themselves to active observance of their duties as citizens.

Security Measures

Since many of the documents aboard the train are irreplaceable, elaborate security measures have been taken to insure their safekeeping. A basic, precautionary feature is the all-steel welded construction of the entire train, and the heavy steel sheathing of the three exhibit cars specially constructed for the train.

A fire-extinguishing system employing carbon-dioxide was custom-built and installed in the exhibit cars. This system is entirely automatic and is activated by means of a temperature- pressure device.

Tested protection for the documents has been obtained by the extensive usage of a new type of lucite plastic, manufactured to meet Freedom Train requirements as specified by the document experts of the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Every one of the valuable documents and books is placed between plastic sheets, which are firmly anchored by bronze bolts inside specially designed steel cases. These cases are covered with shatterproof double glass sheets and are imbedded into plate steel walls with uniquely designed security screws.

Each plastic "envelope" protecting a document is one-half inch thick on both sides. The plastic, which is clearer than glass, is also fire-resistant, water-resistant and shatter-resistant.

Freedom Train's running schedule was planned so that high speeds are unnecessary. All jumps are short - none longer than from supper to breakfast. The train's maximum speed never exceeds 50 miles per hour. While en route the train is accorded high priority security measures.

A total of thirty-eight crew members is aboard Freedom Train. Of this total, twenty-seven are United States Marines assigned to guard duty, a picked group with outstanding records. Lt. Col. Robert F. Scott is in command.

First Public Trip

Most of the documents aboard Freedom Train have heretofore never been taken from their permanent place of safe-keeping. For the most part, custody of the papers belongs to the Library of Congress. The National Archives, the State Department, and the War, Navy and Treasury Departments. Many private collections, notably the Rosenbach Collection of early American memorabilia, are also well represented.

The day-to-day operation of the train during its 13 month-long tour is under the supervision of Train Director Walter H. S. O'Brien, representing the American Heritage Foundation. The Railroad Director for the coordination of all railroad activities for the Foundation is Alfred E. Rowe.

In addition to the usual maintenance crew, a documents expert is aboard to check the condition of the manuscripts. The train's air-conditioning system has been so designed as to provide maximum protection to the historic papers.

The exhibition cars supplied by the Pennsylvania Railroad are without windows as they are entirely covered, inside and out, with steel plating. The exterior of the cars is painted white with horizontal blue and red stripes. Superimposed on the stripes in large letters are the words "Freedom Train."

The rest of the Freedom Train consists of an equipment car supplied by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, carrying a power plant for air-conditioning and other needs, and three Pullmans for the train staff.

The two-thousand horse power Diesel-electric locomotive, "Spirit of 1776," was donated by the American Locomotive Company and the General Electric Company.

Government and Politics

West Virginia Archives and History