Rowland Proposes Steam Train to Honor Vets

Ross Rowland wants to replicate the American Freedom Train, but this time he would focus on honoring America’s veterans.

Rowland has proposed a steam-hauled exhibition train that would visit 125 cities between 2017 and 2020.

To be named the Yellow Ribbon Express, Rowland said the train would deliver a “a national loud and proud thank you” to American military veterans, especially those who have served since 9/11.

Rowland also hopes to raise $1 billion to aid wounded veterans of the wars who have fought since 2001.

“It’s a thank you from the 99 percent of us to the 1 percent of us who have done the heavy lifting,” he said.

To get the Yellow Ribbon Express rolling, Rowland is seeking 10 corporate sponsors to invest $2 million a year each for five years.

“It’s a tall mountain to climb, and there are no guarantees,” Rowland says. “I’m modestly optimistic that we can do this.”

Pulling the train would be Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, a 1948 Lima 4-8-4 that Rowland has owned for three decades.

Rowland said he and his engineering team are considering converting the locomotive to burn natural gas.

He also said that another main line locomotives will double-head with No. 614 on the tour so that a live, steaming locomotive will be on hand every day at every exhibit site.

“There are quite a few large, mainline locomotive available around the country so we can have a live locomotive on site every day,” he said.

“It will be a spectacle,” Rowland said. “Steam will draw people to the train. It will be a happening.”

Rowland is seeking support of several Class I railroads, and one, which he declined to name, is already on board with the idea.

The American Freedom Train operated in 1975-1976 and carried hundreds of historic artifacts and documents that were seen by more than 7 million people.

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