York County Had Brief Glimpse of 1976 Freedom Train
York Daily Record image of 1976 Freedom Train in York
In my recent York Sunday News column and blog post on the very successful visit of the 1948 Freedom Train, I said that the 1976 Freedom Train didn’t stop here. That wasn’t quite accurate, as pointed out by a reader who said that her dad was an engineer on the train, and the family saw him when it stopped here. It did stop, just not for long.
York wasn’t on the exhibit schedule, but the 1976 Freedom Train did do a brief “whistle stop” here on July 1, 1976. It wasn’t open to the public, but paused for perhaps 45 minutes. It on the way to the Harrisburg area stop at New Cumberland from July 2-5 from the previous stop of June 29-30 at Cumberland, Maryland. One reason, perhaps the main reason, for the stop seems to have been so Mamie Eisenhower could get off the train and be driven back to her home at Gettysburg,where she had earlier boarded.
The York Sunday News editorial that week had read:
“Yorkers Affronted Again.
If residents of the first capital of the United States want to see the documents of our birth on the Freedom Train, they’ll have to travel all the way to New Cumberland.
Not that the train won’t be in York. It will–for all of 30 minutes. And it won’t be open to visitors while parked here.
Just one more in a long line of affronts to Yorkers over the years with relation to our historic heritage.”
The editorial continues in the same vein.
Residents of York County were forgiving, and just happy to have a glimpse of the train. The train was to stop near the station at North and Queen streets at 3 p.m. Even though it was three hours late, the streets were thronged, according to somewhat conflicting newspaper reports. The York Daily Record said: “The trainmaster estimated 10,000 persons viewed the train along the rail route in Greater York, while another 10,000 gathered at tracks between N. Duke and N. Queen Sts., where the train’s venerable passenger, Mrs. Mamie D. Eisenhower, wife of the late President, disembarked for a limousine ride back to Gettysburg.”
The York Dispatch agreed on the 20,000 people that came out, but put only 3,000 at the actual stop. Still, train crew members said that the crowds were some of the biggest they had seen along the route.
Mrs. Eisenhower accepted a bouquet of flowers from Karla Spangler, York County Junior Miss. York City business manager, William L. Adams, accepted a Freedom Train medallion. (Mayor Krout was out of town.) And that was about it for the 1976 Freedom Train and York County. Anybody else remember the fleeting glimpse of the train and Mamie?
Click here for York’s liberty bell and the 1948 train.
Click here for local Freedom Train scrapbooks from the 1948 visit.
Click here for the Freedom Train website for extensive information on both trains.