American Freedom Train Locomotive #4449

Susan Vinson

Kennewick, United States

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The steam-powered Southern Pacific 4449, nicknamed “The Daylight,” passed through Pasco, Washington (USA) about noon today on its way home to Portland, Oregon.
This steam engine train is on the last day of its 2,500-mile journey from Portland to Train Festival 2009 in Michigan. It came through the Tri-Cities in July on its way east. The train stayed overnight Monday in Spokane and stopped briefly in Pasco, at the Amtrak station at 535 N. First Ave.

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American Freedom Train Locomotive #4449
Former Southern Pacific Daylight locomotive 4449 was pulled from Oaks Park in Portland, OR on December 14,1974 to begin restoration to pull the American Freedom Train.
A local rail fan named John Monterey (Jack) Holst had for years kept the locomotive’s critical parts oiled in hopes it might one day steam again. He didn’t live to see the day his efforts paid off. Jack died on August 26, 1972. He was 38. There is now a brass plaque inside the locomotive’s cab in his memory.

4449 was the locomotive of choice to pull the AFT through the west and south. The locomotive’s clean lines, large size, and pulling power (especially at speed) made it the perfect candidate for the AFT. Wile pulling the AFT its number boards on the smokebox read X4449. While pulling the Southern Steam Special in 1976 and most of the Amtrak Transcontinental Steam Excursion in 1977 the number boards read simply 4449.

4449 wore her original orange and red “Daylight” paint scheme through most of the 80’s and 90’s, and appeared this way in the 1986 Disney film ‘Tough Guys’ with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Eli Wallach, Charles Durning, and Dana Carvey. (Doyle L.“You’re Crazy — Nobody Robs Trains Anymore” McCormack played the train engineer — as he did on the AFT.)

In the late 1990s, the locomotive was painted almost completely black.

After 9/11, the Daylight locomotive was repainted to American Freedom Train colors for a couple of years. The only visible difference was the silver metal stripes on the pilot. In 1975-76 the stripes had been painted-on in white. The number boards were brought forward to their AFT position.

Today, the locomotive is back to its original “as delivered” orange and red Daylight paint.
The locomotive still runs in excursion service nearly every year.

More information on this engine – it was built in 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio. It is one of 27 “GS-4” class 4-8-4 engines built for service on Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Coast Daylight” trains that ran up and down the California coast from 1941-1955. This particular engine began its career as a troop and freight train engine during WW-2. Following the war, it was used on the “Coast Daylight” run until it was retired in 1956. Specs for the engine include driver wheels 80 inches in diameter, an engine weight of 475,000 pounds, a 300 psi maximum boiler pressure, and a maximum tractive effort of 64,800 pounds (77,760 pounds with booster).

Note that the “GS” designation given stood for “Golden State” (California is known as the golden state), but that title was morphed into “General Service” due to the diversion of resources (including several of these engines) towards the war effort.

As they neared the end of their careers, they were relegated to considerably less glamorous roles including pulling commute trains on the San Francisco peninsula. Most of them lost their side skirts near the end of their service life, and were painted plain old basic black (except for the smoke box door which was always silver).

A few of these were built during WW2, and were class GS5 and GS6. The GS5s were unique because they rode on friction bearings instead of roller bearings which were hard to get during the war, and only two were built. The GS6 was the last of the series, and a number of those were allocated to the Western Pacific Railroad. They were all built without the skirts.

The 4449 is 110 feet long and 16 feet tall and doubtless the most photographed locomotive in the world, the former Southern Pacific GS-4 is the property of the City of Portland Oregon. In the 1980’s it pulled a consist of matching cars from Portland to New Orleans for the World’s Fair. It is currently under the care of the Friends of SP 4449.

Artwork Comments

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