There’s a good article in Marie Claire about how President-elect Joe Biden has become known as “Amtrak Joe”
Will he be using a Presidential train to get around instead of a 10 ton armoured limo? Maybe. He’s been a regular Amtrak user for years and took a train journey in September on the campaign trail. And there’s a long history of US Presidents using railways as their preferred means of travel, in the US and overseas.
Barack Obama arrived in Washington for his inauguration by rail as he followed Abraham Lincoln’s historic route and picked up Joe Biden on the way from Philedelphia. They travelled in an historic Pullman car known as The Georgia 300, which has also been used by Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior.
Another Pullman railcar, known as the Ferdinand Magellan has been used by four presidents and is designated a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1928 as a private railcar, it was rebuilt in 1942 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Known as “Presidential Rail Car U.S. Number 1,” it took precedence over all other rail traffic. As well as Roosevelt, it was also used by Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, retiring from service in 1959 to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in southern Florida. It then had a brief reprieve in 1984 when Ronald Regan used it for a one day campaigning journey to Ohio.
The first presidential railcar, the “United States” was built for Abraham Lincoln in 1865. However he never used it, various accounts say Lincoln thought it was too ostentatious, and it only saw use for his funeral train, which passed through 7 states in the North Eastern US over a two week period. Sadly the railcar no longer exists, being destroyed in a fire in 1911
There have been several other presidential funeral trains, most recently that of George HW Bush.
Meanwhile, in the UK, there have also been presidential trains. In 1942 a special train was put together by the GWR, code named “Alive” for President Eisenhower to travel the UK planning for D Day. The train consisted of various items of GWR rolling stock with specially converted LNER teak sleepers. It was shipped over to mainland Europe in 1944 after the D Day invasion. Two of the coaches survive, in the National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Winsconsin coupled to the A4 pacific 60008 “Dwight D. Eisenhower”. There’s a short film showing the interior of the cars on Youtube
For an in depth look at the history of US Presidents rail travel check out “The President Travels By Train” by Bob Withers, available on Abe Books:
A painting in the National Museum of Wales depicting Eisenhower’s train
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