The Freedom Train of 1947

Photo courtesy of The National Archives

American pride was at an all-time high in the years immediately following the end of World War II, and there was much for which to be thankful. The U.S. and its allies had defeated Germany and Japan on opposite sides of the globe, the U.S. economy was growing and on a solid footing, and the future looked bright ahead. There was another factor that was helping build U.S. patriotisms at the time, and symbolically it too started in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The "Spirit of 1776," an Alco-built PA1, left Philadelphia with seven custom-painted cars to begin a 16-month journey across the U.S. -- "from sea to shining sea." Commonly referred to as the "Freedom Train, it carried important historic documents, such as the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States, along with other historically important artifacts: The Flag that flew over Iowa Jima and the Japanese surrender documents signed on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri.

The train's journey covered 37,100 miles with stops in 324 large and small towns across the nation. More than 3.4 million people toured the train, which in some communities meant waiting in line for several hours. There were parades, bands and long lines at each stop along the train's route. The Freedom Train helped build a stronger appreciation of the country's heritage, and it strengthened a nation's pride.

Uploaded: 10 January 2019


Additional Information


Alco Builder Data Card

Courtesy of George Barker

"Sprit of 1776" & Train Notes:
  • Locomotive Builder: American Locomotive Company August 1947 (s/n 74696)
  • Train departed Philadelphia, PA on 17 September 1947
  • Train Consist: 7 cars - 3 display, 3 pullmans for honor guard and staff, and one equipent
  • Final stop Washington, DC 16-22 January 1949

We also thank the FREEDOM TRAIN ORGANIZATION for their assistance.

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