Posts Tagged ‘American Freedom Train’

In Memory of William Benson

January 20, 2021

An Akron man who was involved in steam locomotive preservation has died.

William Benson

William B. Benson, died last Saturday after a long illness. He was 80.

Mr. Benson was a founder of Steam Tours, Incorporated, which acquired Reading Company T-1 No. 2102 from the Reading in the late 1960s.

He worked with Ross Rowland to get former Reading No. 2102 in operation in time to pull the Bicentennial American Freedom Train.

Mr. Benson served as chief mechanical officer for the Freedom Train.

Born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Mr. Benson moved to Akron with his family at age 3.

He was a graduate of East High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Akron.

During his career, Mr. Benson worked for Eastman Dillon Union Securities Company and became branch manager at Hartzman & Company. He was an options specialist at Bache & Company and was an engineering accountant for Goodyear Tire & Rubber.

Aside from his work with Steam Tours and the American Freedom Train, Mr. Benson was a member of the Toy Train Collectors Association, was president of American Coal Enterprises, and owned Right-of-Way Industries model trains.

One of his customers for the latter enterprise was John Menard and Mr. Benson became an importer for Menard’s.

Mr. Benson collected Lionel Trains and enjoyed studying American history.

Information about services and memorials can be found at

R&R Article Triggered Reading 2102 Memories

August 9, 2017

If any of you get Railfan & Railroad magazine you probably read about the Chessie Steam Special and Reading 2101.

The article states that work was done on the engine at the Saucon Roundhouse in Hellertown, Pennsylvania.

I pass through Hellertown on occasion and I have photographed the roundhouse over the years. Here are images of it with the roundhouse and coaling tower still standing in 2009, and the last time I saw it in 2014.

I never experienced the Reading 2101 except on the American Freedom Train when it came to New Jersey. I have encountered and ridden behind 2102 several times.

Photographs by Jack Norris

Rowland Pushing Steam Tour to Aid Veterans

June 10, 2017

Steam impresario Ross Rowland is once again pushing his idea to operate a national steam locomotive tour to be called the Yellow Ribbon Express.

Ross Rowland

Trains magazine reported that Rowland wants the touring train to visit 125 cities and raise money for injured veterans, particularly those who have been wounded since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rowland proposed the three-year tour in 2015 and told the magazine that he is seeking corporate sponsors to fund the construction and operation of the train.

He has dubbed it “the American Freedom Train 2.0.”

The costs of operating the Yellow Ribbon Express are expected to be $100 million, Rowland said. All money raised exhibit ticket sales will go to veterans charities.

Rowland was hesitant to name a date for when the veteran’s charity train would hit rails. Two years ago he had said he wanted it operating by 2017.

Motive power for the Yellow Ribbon Express will be two main line steam locomotives, including his own Chesapeake & Ohio 4-8-4 No. 614.

Rowland Proposes Steam Train to Honor Vets

February 27, 2015

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.

For more information, visit