Retro Charlotte

Freedom Park playtime

The first day the train was open to the public, December 4, 1959.
The first day the train was open to the public, December 4, 1959. The Charlotte Observer

Freedom Park, a jewel in the Queen City’s crown. The rolling hills and Festival in the Park. A fire truck, tank, and a train to clamber on. Sigh, not anymore. Gone are the fire truck and train, and train-climbing has been restricted since 1995 when the park was renovated. Playing in the train cab is still permitted, but that’s all. Take a look at some nostalgic old photos and enjoy a Charlotte News story welcoming “Old 301” to Freedom Park. December 5, 1959:

“No. 301 is yours. Take it. Even try to carry it away, if you can. Climb on it. Jump on it. Play on it. No. 301 is yours. The Freedom Park Special is yours - and this is addressed to the children of Charlotte, young and old.

“No. 301 is the engine and tender, formerly of Gainesville Midland Railroad, in Freedom Park. It was given to the city by Seaboard Air Line Railroad and hauled to the park by Moss Trucking Co. That was on Nov. 15 - and today, starting right now, it is your plaything.

“The Park and Recreation Commission has spent every day since 301’s arrival in getting her in good shape. Handrails have been added, steps have been put to her sides, moving parts have been welded, every safety precaution has been taken and she is clean.

“The train was sandblasted, rubbed clean and repainted. No. 301 is dressed up in black, green, yellow and red - and it shines like a new dollar. ‘Tell the kids to come,’ Parks boss Marion Diehl said today. ‘Tell parents to be sure little children are careful because the train is pretty tall.’”

“Come and have fun. No. 301 is yours.”

(Can’t see captions? Depending on what device you’re on you can hover your cursor over a photo, or look for a letter ‘i’ in a circle under the photo and click on that.)