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Ferdinand Magellan

Presidential Railcar, U.S. Car No. 1


A National Historic Landmark




The U.S. Car No. 1 "Ferdinand Magellan" was built in 1929 by the Pullman Company, as one of six similar cars named after famous explorers. After the United States entered World War II, it was suggested by Secret Service Agent, Mike Reilly and White House Press Secretary, Stephen Early that President Franklin D Roosevelt needed a specialty equipped armored car.

The Ferdinand Magellan was chosen, and it became the first passenger car built for a president since the War Department had built a special car for the use of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Pictured (above): The U.S Car No. 1 Ferdinand Magellan in 1983.
National Park Service Photo

President Roosevelt's first trip in the Ferdinand Magellan was to Miami, Florida, where  he boarded a Pan American World Airways flying boat to the Casablanca Conference in 1943.

He traveled approximately 50,000 miles (81,500 km) in the car in the following two years, using it for the last time on a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia two weeks before he died there.

The Ferdinand Magellan had an open platform on the rear end of the car. The platform on the Ferdinand Magellan is the platform where Harry S. Truman gave his 'whistlestop' campaign speeches. During his campaign, the car traveled more than 28,00 miles (46,284 km) and Truman gave almost 350 speeches from  the platform of the Ferdinand Magellan.

The famous photograph of Truman holding the incorrect 'Dewey Defeats Truman' headline was taken while the president was standing on the platform of the Ferdinand Magellan.


Pictured (above): Photo of Truman's victory-

Florida Division of Historical Resources.


Dwight D. Eisenhower made little use of the Ferdinand Magellan. He traveled a few times in it to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and once to Ottawa, where he addressed the Parliament of Canada. The car was last used officially in 1954, when Mamie Eisenhower rode it to Groton, Connecticut to christen the first nuclear-powered submarine, the U.S.S Nautilus.

Afterwards, the Ferdinand Magellan was declared surplus and offered to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958, but the Smithsonian did not act on the offer, and the Gold Coast Railroad Museum was able to acquire it.

Pictured (above): Dwight D. Eisenhower traveling aboard the Ferdinand Magellan.

Joseph Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

In 1984, the Ferdinand Magellan traveled to Washington D.C. to be inspected by the Park Service for the presidential reelection campaign of President Ronald Reagan. He gave a series of 'whistle stop' speeches from the rear platform of the rail car during a one-day trip to Ohio on October 12th, 1984. Over 100,000 people came to see the President, who at each stop cited the memory of Truman.The Ferdinand Magellan, then was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service, on February 4th, 1985.


President Reagan aboard the Ferdinand Magellan during his re-election campaign.

Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

You can see the U.S. Car No. 1 Ferdinand Magellan on display at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum today where you can also take a guided tour and explore this historic rail car.

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