Until late 1942, the President of the United States rode in a standard, private Pullman car when he traveled by train. He did not use a specific car, although the Roald Amundsen was frequently assigned to him. In early 1942, just after the United States became involved in World War II, white house aids Michael Reilly and Steven Early suggested that the President of the United States should have a custom built railroad car to afford him maximum protection when he traveled by rail. President Franklin Roosevelt approved of the idea after he was told that the car would not only be used for him but for future Presidents as well. After consideration, the Ferdinand Magellan was chosen to be the Presidential car and was withdrawn from general service and returned to the Pullman Company's "Calumet Shops", near Chicago, Illinois, for complete rebuilding.
The car was originally painted "Pullman Green", a color similar to that of this page. This color was chosen for the Pullman fleet for several reasons, not the least of which is it's ability to not show the type of soot and dirt that accumulates on railroad cars painted in a lighter livery! It is 84' - 0" (25.2 m) long, 15' - 0" (4.57 m) high, and 10' -0" (3.05 m) wide. President Roosevelt's only request for the design was to "make it a little more comfortable", so the interior of the car was redesigned. At the Calumet shops, the number of bedrooms was reduced from five to four to create more room for the dining room and the observation lounge. Nickel-steel armor plate 5/8" (15 mm) thick was riveted on to the sides, floor, roof and ends of the car in a manner that made it undetectable when the car was viewed from any distance. 3" (76.2 mm) thick, bullet resisting glass, manufactured by laminating 12 sheets of 1/4" (6 mm) thick glass into one piece, was installed and sealed into the window frames, replacing conventional safety glass in the windows.
Two escape hatches were built into the car, one in the ceiling of the observation lounge and one on the side wall of the shower/bath in the Presidential bathroom, near the center of the car. Special trucks, wheels and roller bearings were installed to support the additional weight. A "standard," heavyweight, Pullman car of the Magellan's era weighed about 160,000 pounds (72,563 kg). The rebuilt Ferdinand Magellan weighed 285,000 (129,252 kg). At 142.5 tons (129.3 metric tons), it is the heaviest, passenger railcar in the United States!
This is pretty neat about the communications on the train car:
The last president to use this car was Eisenhower:
President Reagan though also used this car:
The arrangements were made and the trip took place on October 12, 1984, leaving Dayton at 9:00 A.M. (09:00) and traveling 120 miles (197 km) to Toledo, making five stops along the way. At each stop, President Reagan made a speech to a large crowd gathered around the rear platform of the railcar. In each speech, he made reference to the historical significance of the car from which he was speaking. The trip was very complicated from a security standpoint. It involved about 1,000 police and Secret Service agents. An officer was stationed every .25 mile (400 m) in the woods alongside the railroad right of way and heavy equipment blocked every roadway grade crossing. President Reagan said that the trip was the highlight of his campaign and that he would rather travel by train than airplane any day. At the conclusion of the trip, the President met with representatives of the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and extended his thanks for the use of the car. The car then returned to Miami and was placed back on public display.
The Ferdinand Magellan is today a national landmark and can be found at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.