There used to be plenty of these around the country, but now there is only one: Caltrain’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Train.
Monday morning in San Jose, passengers boarded a ride through history. Since the 1980s, the Freedom Train has carried riders from San Jose to San Francisco, evoking the journey of MLK.
Glenda Pate brought her family for the first time.
“We spent a lot of time reminiscing about what it must’ve been for people of that particular era and what the struggles of poor people and people of color and women,” Pate said.
As the train arrived in San Francisco, there was a fear among Pate and others that this year’s Freedom Train would be the last.
“We understood the service might be coming to an end, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” Pate said.
Organizers of the annual 5- mile train ride said they might have to cancel future freedom trains because of lack of interest.
Riders who marched through San Francisco for MLK Day called the annual journey a moving experience.
“I’m with youth from my church, friends, family,” Daidre Rose said. “I think it’s a great experience that everyone should experience in their life.”
But longtime rider Shaw Alexander, of the Jack and Jill children’s organization, said new restrictions this year inspired her group to buy tickets on a different train.
“When I asked if they would let us come together on the Freedom Train in a car so we could be together with the kids and the parents, they said they couldn’t accommodate this year. And we’ve done this eight years straight,” Alexander said.
In the end, organizers said more than 1,000 people rode today’s train and that it would likely be back next year.
That sentiment was echoed by Aaron Grizzle of the Northern California Martin Luther King Junior Community Foundation.
“We as the foundation are committed to making sure that train survives, and we are looking to work with our partners down in Santa Clara to insure that train not only survives but continues,” Grizzle said.
Riders said the train, which is the last Freedom Train in the country, is a connection to the past and the struggles that laid the tracks for generations to come.
You can get more information on Caltrain's web site.