• If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there. Robert Kiyosaki

See Ferdinand Magellan Presidential Railcar



With nickel-steel armor and three-inch thick bullet resistant windows, FDR's train was a rolling fortress.

Today you can visit the Magellan at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, in Miami. The train has nickel-steel armor and three-inch-thick bullet-resistant windows. The rear door alone tips the scales at 1,500 pounds (though this inconvenience is minimized by carefully balanced hinges). In total, the car weighs 142 tons—almost double the weight of the standard 80-ton Pullman car. By way of comparison, a modern M1 Abrams tank weighs 62 tons.

When it was in service, the Magellan traveled with a fleet that included sleeping and office cars for White House staff, an Army medical car, and a communications car nicknamed “the crate.” The Presidential Limousine and Secret Service Cadillacs were brought along in a special garage car. Two locomotives were often required to drag this ensemble up steeper track grades.

The interior of the Magellan contains a Presidential Suite (two separate bedrooms for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt), two guest rooms, a conference room and an observation lounge. The rear platform was wired with a microphone and loudspeakers that came in handy during whistle-stop campaign speeches.

Cross-country trips on the Presidential train were a complex logistical undertaking. Robert Klara’s history of the U.S. Car Number 1 details the security precautions:

“The railroad’s police would begin taking up posts at overpasses and junctions. Plainclothesmen would appear at stations along the route, peering over broadsheets and watching for anyone who struck them as suspicious. Track gangs would begin a slow, watchful trek by foot down every mile of track that the president’s train would travel, checking for broken rails and locking switches as they went.”

The Magellan enjoyed first right of way wherever it traveled, and railroad companies kept other traffic at least 30 minutes ahead or behind the president.

FDR traveled 50,000 miles on the presidential train during his 12-year presidency, and when he died in 1945 the Magellan carried his body from Washington to Hyde Park.

President Truman also made frequent use of the train, and he often urged the engineers to push it up to speeds of 80 mph. (FDR had preferred a languid 30 mph pace that didn’t jostle his wheelchair.) In 1948 Truman traveled across the country on the Magellan as a part of his whistle-stop reelection tour, and the famous Dewey Beats Truman photograph was taken on the back platform.