Public Square

“A man who never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences.  
Only in losing himself does he find himself.”
~ Richard Milhouse Nixon ~

The Ferdinand Magellan lives in Florida!  The Pullman private rail car, which was also known as U.S. 1, the forerunner to Air Force 1, served as the official transport for the President from 1943 through 1958, when it was retired and put up for sale.  The Smithsonian bid one dollar for the train, assuming no one else would be interested in the acquisition; however, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, in Miami, had set her sites on the Magellan as well, and bid one hundred dollars, which was a winning bid. 

Built in 1927, the Magellan was one of six rail cars, all named after explorers, designed for special customers who would rent them from the Pullman Company, and use them to travel in private luxury, much as people now rent private jets.  The car would be attached to a train already traveling to some said destination. 

Recently, we made our way to Miami, hoping to see the Magellan, which I had learned was no longer open to the public, after having been vandalized.  As we purchased our tickets, Kate asked if it was possible to view the Magellan?  We were told that for an extra five dollars, we could have a private tour!  You cannot imagine my glee.  It was a most fascinating experience. 

Not only were we given a private tour, by an extremely well informed guide but we were allowed to linger and take photographs of the train.

There is something rather marvelous about touching history, and walking on the Magellan, the only rail car on the list of National Historic Landmarks, in America, truly gives you an opportunity to touch and feel history! 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Magellan was also the train used by President Truman, for his Whistle-Stop Campaign, and the train he stood on when he held up the famous news paper, which bore the headline: Dewey defeats Truman.   A couple of years ago, we toured Truman’s presidential library, which I can whole heartedly recommend, and saw a display depicting this moment.  I asked a docent where the real train was, and he mentioned it was in a museum – he did not say it was Florida. 

From our guide, we also learned that it was on this train that Winston Churchill wrote his famous “Iron Curtain” speech.  It was in this speech that the term was coined, and the Cold War warmed.   There we were standing in the room where Winston Churchill slept!  He was on the train several times, including during the war.

One can only imagine the conversations which the Magellan must have hosted.  The first time President Roosevelt traveled, on the Magellan, was when he went to Miami, to board a Pan American flight, to attend the Casablanca Conference in 1943.  President Roosevelt routinely road her home, to Hyde Park, during his years at the White House, and the train was also a part of the funeral procession which brought his body back from Warm Springs.  An additional car had to be added to the train, as the only way to put a casket on a train, is through the window; and the Magellan’s window, having been bullet proofed, at the start of the war, could not be removed. 

President Eisenhower used the train, while he was in office, and years later, President Regan asked and was granted permission to use the train, for his own whistle-stop campaign in Ohio, expanding the historical legacy of the Magellan, which remains exactly as it was when used by the presidents.  All of the original furnishings are still on the train.  There are various photographs, on board, which picture the occupants, through the years. 

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is badly in need of financial recourses to restore and preserve this train.  If you are looking for a good place to donate time or money, consider helping out this museum which is the caretaker of an important part of our history.

Me standing in front of the guest room where Prime Minister Winston Churchill slept; and looking out to the conference room
Kate standing on the rear platform where so many speeches were made 
The Presidents room
Guest Room
Notice the thickness of the armored door, this is the reception room
Same room different view


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