Presidential Trains Take Us Back In Time

A few weeks ago, our family was planning a trip to San Antonio, Texas to watch my youngest brother-in-law’s youngest Son graduate  Basic Training for the National Guard. None of us were able to get enough time off for that distance, and as  is often the case, I was unable to get any of the time off, so  instead my girls chose to travel to Omaha, Nebraska for the weekend. Since I was not along for the trip, and I know rail-fanning can get old for those that are not “into it”, I really did not expect them to do anything train related.

But wouldn’t you know it, they stayed at the Sure Stay Plus at 305 N Fort Crook Rd, directly across from active railroad tracks, and among other places, they visited the  Omaha Union Station, taking pics of several pieces of equipment from models to real, steam to diesel. Those units included Union Pacific 4504 (SD70M), UP 5733 (AC4400CW), UP 6053 (AC4400CW), UP 7370 (ES44AC). Union Pacific CA-8 Class Caboose 25559 built October, 1964 (the year my Paternal Grandfather passed away) and retired 08/11/1986. Union Pacific Steam #1243 (4-6-0 built October, 1890 at Cooke Locomotive & Steamworks. A model of UP steam 9000 (102 foot long, 782,000 lb coal burning prototype 4-12-2 built 1926-1930: the real one  is on display at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, California. They also caught a ‘Fallen Flag” in a Southern Pacific Box car, that along with an ADM Tanker and lots of assorted covered hoppers, were on a mixed manifest.

The Sure Stay Plus is also unique in the fact that all the rooms are named after various United States Presidents. They stayed in the Warren G Harding Room.

As I am trying to be more diverse in what I bring to you, the readers here on Legacies…On The Rails, it got me thinking as I not only love trains, but I love history, so Presidents….and Trains…..Hmmmm! So let’s look at some connections of our Presidents and Trains, starting with the aforementioned Warren G Harding.

Built in 1911, The Superb was President Harding’s personal Pullman railroad car in his cross country tour in 1923. It was that year that he drove the final spike completing the Alaska RailroadThe Superb is the 2nd oldest steel private car in existence. The Superb had also been used by President Woodrow Wilson. It also carried President Harding‘s body from San Francisco to Washington DC by way of the Southern Pacific and the B&O Railroad. after his death on 08/02/1923. He had traveled hoping to improve his health and his image with the American people as his administration was was plagued with scandal in The Tea Pot Dome.  But high blood pressure, an enlarged heart, pnuemonia and an obvious stroke (though many speculated as  to a heart attack or food poisoning, even trying to cast guilt on Mrs. Harding or the Mob)  took his life. Mrs. Harding did not allow an autopsy of the President’s body. The Superb was temporarily renamed Pope Pius XI for his train from New York City to Chicago.  The Superb  was later an office car for the Charleston & West Carolina, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Coast Line railroads.

The Superb was donated to the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia and opened to the public in 1995 after a 20-month restoration. It was placed on the National Registry Of Historic Places on 03/09/1998.

President Franklin D Roosevelt made use of United States Railcar #1 in late 1942. It was later a part of his funeral train. He had traveled 243,827 miles in 399 trips by rail in his life. It is on display in Miami, Florida. President Harry S Truman later inherited US Railcar #1, used it for his 1948 “Whistle Stop Tour“, and enjoyed running it at 80 mph. The iconic pic of President Truman holding the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” copy of the Chicago Tribune was taken at the St Louis Union Station.  The term “Whistle Stop” was actually coined by Robert A Taft as an insult to Truman.

President Rutherford B Hayes was the first President to travel Coast To Coast in 1857 after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

President Abraham Lincoln  used a train trip for his inaugural trip in 1861. It took twelve days, and 23 railroads. He later used the Executive Coach “United States” that was built for him in 1865. He was also the first President to use a train for Military purposes as he used it to visit Civil War Battlefields, including to deliver the Gettysburg Address which he put the finishing touches on during the train ride. Like President Harding, and others, it later carried his body home after he was killed by John Wilkes Booth.

On May 28,1886 President Grover Cleveland got engaged, and would later travel with his new bride to their honeymoon spot aboard the B&O Railroad.

President Zachary Taylor rode a riverboat from Louisiana, then a stagecoach to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, by horseback to Cumberland, Maryland, and the B&O Railroad to Washington

In 1853 President Franklin Pierce and his family were traveling on the B&O Railroad, when it derailed, and his son Benny was killed. The White House was always a sad place during his term as a result.

In 1857, President James Buchanan (who succeeded Pierce) rode the B&O Railroad to his Inauguration

President James Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau in July 1881 at the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad station-planning to board a train for vacation but was without his security detail.

President William Henry Harrison was the first president to campaign on a train, as his 5 predecessors never rode them. He also took a train to Washington after he was elected in 1840. But John Quincy Adams was the first to actually ride a train.

President Theodore Roosevelt (before he was President) took lots of train rides on behalf of President William Mckinley. After Mckinley was killed in New York, in 1900, he rode a train to Mckinley‘s funeral. Roosevelt would become the first President with an entire train at his disposal, then dubbed the “Potus (President Of The United States) Train.

The Ferdinand Magellan is a Pullman Standard observation car refitted to serve as living quarters and office for Presidents from 1943-1958. and is on display at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Its last official use was by 1st Lady Mamie Eisenhower in 1954 on her way to cristen the world’s 1st Nuclear Powered Submarine the USS Nautilus in Groton, Connecticut.  President Ronald Reagan used it for a one day tour on 10/12/1984, traveling 120 miles in Ohio, from Dayton to Perrysburg doing Whistle Stop speeches.

President Dwight D Eisenhower campaigned aboard a train. On March 28th, 1969, he died of congestive heart failure. His body was carried aboard a military train on a B&O Railroad baggage car.

President Elect Barack Obama traveled part of President Lincoln’s Inaugural Route in 2009. He used the Georgia 300 car built in 1930, that was also used by President Gorge H.W. Bush for campaigning in 1992.

Prince Charles did a 5 day Whistle Stop Tour of the United Kingdom on 09/06/10.

I hope you have enjoyed this little Whistle Stop Tour back in time looking at connections to our nation’s leaders and the trains they rode.

I’m John Losh, “The Losh-Man“, and as always, I hope that the very first priority in your life is a living, breathing, active relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you have never come to know Him as your personal Lord & Savior, my prayer is that you will do that today!

And I’ll see you next time here on Legacies…On The Rails!

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