By Thomas Palmer

There are certain events in my life that allow me to place myself at a given place at a given time.

One such date was May 21, 1975. About 6:00 AM that morning, together with hundreds of other people, I found myself standing along the tracks near the Big Four Depot, waiting.

And waiting. And waiting some more.

The occasion was the brief visit of the Freedom Train to Galion. It was traveling from Cleveland to Columbus, both cities hosting the train for a multi-day period. In Crestline, it had just passed by the Civil War-era depot which was still standing.

The Freedom Train had 26 cars led by a restored steam engines, the “America.” It traveled over 25,000 miles and visited 138 cities, attracting millions of visitors during the summer before the Bicentennial. The train showcased over 500 precious artifacts of Americana, including iconic items like George Washington’s copy of the Constitution, Judy Garland’s dress from The Wizard of Oz, and Martin Luther King’s pulpit and robes. 

Through Ohio, it was taking the same route as Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train had taken over a century before. It was making the same stops as well.

Moving about 30 miles per hour, it was scheduled to get to Galion about 6:15 AM. Lincoln’s train had also arrived here in the early hours of the morning. People started gathering an hour before to watch the Freedom Train pass. It turned out to be an hour and 35 minutes late.

The Big Four Depot was in a state of disrepair, with weeds sprouting profusely in the concrete of the passenger platform.

Immediately after the train passed, one of if not the last steam engines to come through Galion, dozens of “souvenir buffs,” as the Inquirer called them, ran to pick up pennies which had been placed on the rail for flattening, including several youths.

One of those doing so was yours truly. No, I do not know where my penny is.

Each Saturday, we post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.

Photo: Creative Commons License