HO Scale American Freedom Train

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by MadCoW1, Dec 27, 2006.

  1. MadCoW1

    MadCoW1 Member

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    In 1975-1976 the United States was treated to a train full of historical artifacts that criss-crossed the Nation. This train was known as the American Freedom Train. It was a beautiful 25 car train pulled by various steam locomotives. The train visited thousands of U.S. cities and would lay-over 2-3 days to accomodate the throngs that turned out to view the train.

    The train consisted of mostly converted smoothside baggage cars. 12 of which were designated 'display' cars; 10 that folks rode through and 2 that were viewed from ground level through large showcase windows. The other cars were coaches used for train personnel and the press. Storage/tool cars were heavyweights and there were 3 89' flats that carried concession wagons, ticket wagons and support vehicles.

    I have always had an interest in 'specialty' trains. Circus, carnival, exhibits and the Freedom Train. So I decided that I will build an HO scale version of the train. In the mid 70's, Lionel produced 2 sets of the train. One had 3-display cars, a coach and was pulled by an Alco type engine. The other, more collectable, set had an extra display car and was pulled by the most famous of the Freedom Train engines, the ex-SP 4449.

    If you have a soft spot for collectable trains, STOP reading this now. I am using the cars from these sets and they will be modified from their collectable status. The reason I decided to use the Lionel cars as a starting point is because they have the display windows already framed in, the cars are very close to prototype dimensions, AND, most importantly, they have the correct ends. These cars were equipped with conveyor belts down one side of the car and folk would ride the belt through the car to view exhibits. At the end of the car, they would cross through off-center doors and get on the next belt in the next car. Because of this, the cars could only be coupled one way to facilitate the use of this sytem. I will use this thread to post the progress.

    THE POWER:
    A new, better quality, HO Scale GS-4 is coming out soon so I will add it as the power for the train. But for now I took the time to save the Lionel engine from the trash. These engines are BAD. Poorly motored, poor detail and details improperly placed. They, in my opinion, have ONLY collector value, nothing else. I acquired a Lionel 4449 in one of the car lots I purchased. It was, to say the least, in rough shape. The drivers were all screwed up, the motor had been fried and was frozen solid, parts were broken and missing and it was caked with dirt,mud and who knows what else, a real basket case at best.

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    So I did a bit of work on it figuring I'll use it for photos for now. I tore it completely down and that's when I discovered how bad they were made. The frame is die-cast and a small hollowed out hole the size of a quarter, is where the motor was installed. I removed it, and decided I didn't want to spend the time reworking the frame to re-motor it. I cleaned everything as good as possible, then fixed the broken and/or missing pieces, re-quartered the drivers and made a smooth rolling 'dummy' out of it. I touched up the paint on both the engine and tender. The drivers got white tires as per proto as well as the rims of pony, trailing trucks and tender wheels. The tender was fitted with a kaydee coupler and 36" metal wheels. I figure if nothing else, I'll be able to tuck homeroad backup power between it and the train like was done on the prototype. But for now she's become a little more 'photogenic'.

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    Coming next; The first of two 'showcase' cars...........

    Johnny
  2. MadCoW1

    MadCoW1 Member

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    Showcase Car No.41

    The first cars back from the engine to carry artifacts were the two 'showcase' cars. These cars were ex-baggage cars that were fitted with three large four-pane windows per side allowing viewers from the ground to see the contents of the cars. These cars were always open and had no coverings. A kind of interesting side-note is that the two showcase cars actually changed numbers during the trains' journey. The cars were reversed in order from what the train list depicted, so the hosting road would not move/accept the train. So rather than switch it out, costing time and money, the AFT crew simply changed the car no. 40 to no.41 and vice-versa and they were on their way!

    My car No. 41 represents the post number debacle.

    The Lionel Car:

    The cars Lionel produced have shorter windows than did the real ones but they are pretty close. The most notable thing is the displays. The cars have a 'Freedom' bell, a 1903 Oldsmobile, and a Lunar Land Rover. The Olds goes in the other car and the way Lionel produced them, the other items are not in the proper places. Also of note is that the items were produced as toys and didn't have a 'believable' look to them. That needed to be changed. So that is where we start on AFT car No.41.

    The Fredom Bell:

    This was a twice-sized replica of the Liberty Bell. When I pulled it from the Lionel car it looked like this;
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    I did some drilling for where the bell hung, finely sanded out the molding parting lines and gave it a 'brass' finish;
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    And the side-by-side comparison;
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    The Lunar Land Rover;

    Although this was an acurate artifact, the real ones never came back from the moon. This was a training vehicle that was on loan from NASA. The Lionel part was a very bleak starting point;
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    After some paint and a few scratched details, a more tolerable model emerged;
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    And the comparison;
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    The U.S. Route Map:

    In the center windows of the car, was a map of the trains 1975-1976 journey. This map was mounted on a mirrored surface as is my model. I did not photograph the process of putting the map in place, why, I don't know. The map is from an actual photo of the real one and although hard to see on photos, has the route lines across the country. If you are interested in obtaining any of these accurate maps w/ display window inserts, contact me via PM and I will point you in the right direction.

    AFT Car No. 41:

    The Lionel cars are a good starting point but some work needs to be done. First, the car sits too high and needs to have the bolsters shaved to lower it. Next was shaving off the body-molded grabs and re-placing with wire. The cars came with truck mounted horn hook couplers so they were modified to body mounted kaydees'. Wheelsets were removed and replaced with correct 36" wheels. And the ends and underbodies got the correct paint.

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    Next up, Car No.101..............

    Johnny
  3. Alan B

    Alan B Member

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    Wow! I saw the freedom train when I was a youngster, does this ever bring back some fond memories. Thanks.

    Alan
  4. Thoroughbreed

    Thoroughbreed Member

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    I saw this train in May 76, found the route on wiki with stop dates.:thumb: