Last ‘Freedom Train’ in U.S. makes final trip to SF 

click to enlarge The “Freedom Train,” started by the widow of Martin Luther King more than 30 years ago as a way to mark the famous civil-rights march from Montgomery, Ala., to Selma, Ala., 50 years ago in March, made its final trip from San Jose to San Francisco on Monday. It was the last “Freedom Train” in the U.S. There was also a march to mark the national holiday for the slain civil-rights leader. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • The “Freedom Train,” started by the widow of Martin Luther King more than 30 years ago as a way to mark the famous civil-rights march from Montgomery, Ala., to Selma, Ala., 50 years ago in March, made its final trip from San Jose to San Francisco on Monday. It was the last “Freedom Train” in the U.S. There was also a march to mark the national holiday for the slain civil-rights leader.

The last of the nation's "Freedom Train" rides paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. made its final trip from San Jose to San Francisco on Monday after more than 30 years in operation.

Organizers said they are ending the annual train ride -- one of more than two dozen "Freedom Trains" launched nationwide by King's widow, Coretta Scott King -- because of declining ridership. The final ride was sold out.

"It's a really sad day," said Kathleen Flynn, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, which organized the ride.

She said people now have many other events they can attend on the holiday.

"It's just a different time and different world, people are just not interested," she said about the train ride.

Coretta Scott King launched the trains to commemorate the Alabama march her husband led from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago this March. The march demanding voting rights for black people proved instrumental in the eventual passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The train carrying about 1,400 people left from San Jose and arrived in San Francisco on Monday morning. People sang during the journey and heard stories about the civil-rights movement.

Coretta Scott King chose the San Jose-to-San Francisco route because the distance between the train stations is roughly equivalent to the 54 miles traveled by King and his fellow protesters.

"There's a tremendous amount of pride at being alive at [the same time as] someone as courageous as Dr. King and everyone else who was with him," Dolores Alvarado of Morgan Hill told KTVU (Ch. 2) as she rode the train.

The train runs on Caltrain's tracks, and the

transit agency said it is sorry to see the tradition end.

"It's unfortunate," agency spokesman Will Reisman said. "Caltrain has always been part of this tradition and we're sad it's ending. It's been important for us."

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