Saturday, December 19, 2015

Daylight Holiday Express

My wife recently arranged tickets for the Holiday Express pulled by Southern Pacific 4449, more commonly known as the "Daylight." She made a childhood dream of mine a reality.

My family has some interesting history with 4449. In the early 1940's my grandfather was drafted into the US Navy. I believe he was 38 years old at the time. As a civilian he had been a mail carrier so he would up being stationed in San Francisco to handle military mail. At some point my Dad and his Mom rode the Daylight (4449) to San Fransisco for a visit. For him, being a gearhead, the steam locomotive capable of 110 MPH made a huge impression.

4449 was eventually retired as a static display in a Portland park in 1958. In 1974 4449 was extracted from the park and restored to operation for use as the American Freedom Train. The train then toured the 48 contiguous United States for the American Bicentennial celebrations. When the locomotive reached Albuquerque my Dad took my brother and I down the see the train roll in under power in 1976. I remember us waiting on the side of the road until the train rolled in. I recall being painfully bored initially, if memory serves the train did not arrive until around 2:00AM. The minute I saw and heard it that all changed. What a fabulous machine. It made a huge impression on me too.

I was very impressed with 4449 as the "Freedom Train" and it's mobile exhibits (I saw a real live moon rock!) but I really wanted a ride... Fast forward just shy of 40 years and thanks to my wife it happened!

4449 has been in restored running state in Portland, Oregon since 1981. Operational steam locomotives in the US are required to have extensive boiler testing and inspection every 15 years, a process that can take 2-3 years. 4449 just complected her's we were fortunate enough to get a ride. I was just as blown away as the first time I saw her. Fulfilling the dream was amazing but being able share the experience with my family was even better. I only wish my Dad had been able to be there. Thanks again to my wife for setting it all up and to everyone else that made the trek down to ride along with us. It was all pretty great.

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