It’s 1976 All Over Again

Every year on July 4th, we here in the United States celebrate the birth of our nation. But in 1976, upon the 200th Anniversary, we threw one heck of big a party. For the US Bicentennial every one in the nation was getting into the spirit. Everything, and we do mean everything, was getting a patriotic Red, White, and Blue treatment. The US railroads were no exception. Railroads across the US were painting locomotives and other equipment in celebration of our country’s 200th birthday. Our Canadian railroad neighbors even got into the spirit. The result of all this stars and stripes hoopla was some of the most interesting and colorful railroad equipment ever seen in North America.

As we all know, model railroad hobbyists, even us LEGO® variety, gravitate toward modeling the interesting and rare. The Bicentennial RR locomotives and rolling stock has been a popular modeling subject ever since that great celebration in 1976. So today, on this July 4th, we’re going to take a look at some Bicentennial models created in LEGO

Bicentennial locomotives from several railroads on display.

Swoofty: The man, the myth, the LEGO Bicentennial King
Several of Swoofty’s Bicentennial models.
The star spangled daredevil they call “Swoofty” Really we just wanted to share this awesome photo.

Swoofty, or as he is sometimes known, Dara Norman, is a legendary 6 wide builder who has probably been the most prolific builder of Bicentennial LEGO trains. With at least 5 locomotives, and one caboose from various railroads, Swoofty has done more than anyone. Here’s a rundown of the Swoofty fleet.

Cotton Belt SD45T-2
Cotton Belt SD45T-2
St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) Bicentennial SD45T-2
Seaboard Coast Line U36B
SCL U36B
Seaboard Coast Line no. 1776
Santa Fe SD45-2
SF SD45-2
Santa Fe Bicentennial unit no. 5701
Grand Trunk Western GP38AC
GTW GP38AC
Grand Trunk & Western no. 1776
Southern Pacific GP40-2 and Caboose
SP Bicentennial set
Souther Pacific no. 3197
SP caboose no. 1776
Norfolk & Western Bicentennial Set by Cale Leiphart
N&W Bicentennial set in LEGO

Swoofty may have the most Bicentennial train models, but I can at least lay claim to the most from one railroad.

For the Bicentennial, the Norfolk & Western Railway wasn’t content with painting just a locomotive, and maybe a caboose, like some railroads. The N&W went the extra mile and painted an SD45, a H-12 class hopper, a 40ft semi trailer, and a C18 class caboose. Of all the Bicentennial trains, this N&W’s effort has to be my favorite. The paint scheme is bold, yet not gaudy. It has a timeless quality to it, and was a welcome splash of color in the Norfolk & Western’s sea of black and white.

EMD SD45
Red, white, and beautiful.
In my younger, 9v days, I built a few diesels. I even used all that free space not occupied by Power Functions elements to add engine detail.

The EMD SD-45 was built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division between 1965, and 1971. Power was provided by an EMD 645E3 twenty-cylinder engine which generated 3,600 HP. Norfolk & Western painted engine #1776 in a special red, white, and blue scheme in 1974 to tour the Norfolk and Western system as a tribute to the United States 200th birthday in 1976. Today #1776 is preserved at the Virginia Transportation Museum.

N&W 1776 at the Virginia Museum of Transportation
Norfolk & Western H-12 class Hopper
Not many coal hoppers were ever this colorful.

Without a doubt the most colorful hopper on the Norfolk & Western was H-12 class no. 1776, with it’s American Bicentennial paint scheme. Originally built as no. 138699 in July 1975, it was repainted and renumbered to 1776 that same year to commemorate the United States 200th birthday.

N&W hopper no. 1776
1969 Fruehauf 40ft Trailer
Even a trailer got the Bicentennial treatment from N&W

Norfolk & Western renumbered this 40ft, 1969 Fruehauf trailer to NWZ 1776 and painted it in a special red, white, and blue scheme to tour the Norfolk and Western system as a tribute to the United States 200th birthday. Today this trailer is preserved at the Virginia Transportation Museum.

Side view of trailer 1776 from the N&W Historical Society archives.
Class C18 Caboose
No train is complete without a caboose. And what caboose could be better for a Bicentennial train than a Bicentennial caboose.

In 1964 the Norfolk & Western acquired a new fleet of cabooses courtesy of the Wabash RR. Built by the Wabash from 1941 through 1946, they became N&W’s class C-18 when the Wabash merged with the Norfolk in 1964. Caboose no. 562786 was chosen by the N&W to be renumbered 1776 and painted in a special red, white, and blue scheme in 1974 to tour the Norfolk and Western system as a tribute to the United States 200th birthday.

Caboose 1776, from the N&W Historical Society archives.
American Freedom Train no. 610 by Anthony Sava
Anthony’s model of Texas and Pacific 610 in her American Freedom Train colors.

The American Freedom Train, toured the United States from 1975 through 1976 to commemorate the United States Bicentennial. This 26-car train was powered by three newly restored steam locomotives. The first to pull the train was former Reading Company T-1 class 4-8-4 2101. The second was former Southern Pacific 4449, a large 4-8-4 steam locomotive that is still operating in special excursion service today. The third was former Texas & Pacific 2-10-4 610, which pulled the train in Texas.

Anthony Sava has beautifully modeled the Texas & Pacific 610 in it’s Freedom Train livery.

610 in her red, white and blue.
T&P 610 today, preserved at the Texas State RR

Know of any more Bicentennial LEGO models? We would love to see them.

5 thoughts on “It’s 1976 All Over Again”

  1. Great article! While not bicentennial, but certainly patriotic, the Bangor and Aroostook Red, White and Blue box car is worthy of mentioning. I had some time on the 4th and converted your plans for the 40ft Pullman it that color scheme. Haven’t had time build it yet.

Leave a Reply