PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

MiltonEisenhowerAndPrezEisenhowerWhile a student at the Pennsylvania State University in the 1980s, I became aware of the Bellefonte Central Railroad, an 18 mile shortline that ran between State College and Bellefonte, Pa. At Bellefonte, the BCR interchanged with the Pennsylvania Railroad and the outside world.

51VbK2XiK3L. SX332 BO1204203200 In 2007, Mike Bezilla and Jack Rudnicki published a book entitled "Rails to Penn State: The Story of the Bellefonte Central". The book was an amazing read, and I was particularly drawn to a chapter highlighting excursion trains over the line. One, in particular, occured when United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited his brother, Milton, who was president of the university at the same time.

"Ike" made several visits to Penn State, but only once by train. The accounting of the trip furthered my interest in not only this particular outing, but in POTUS (President Of The United States) trains in general.

The president arrived in State College by train on May 9, 1953. In addition to the presidential car Ferdinand Magellan, there were six additional cars on the POTUS special: four Pullmans (McKeefryHolbeinGlenn Cliff, and Flotow), a lounge car (Afton Canyon), and PRR diner #7966. The train carried about 65 passengers.


The special left Washington, D. C., on PRR rails around 1 a.m. for Harrisburg, presumably via the Northern Central Branch. From there it traversed the Middle Division to Tyrone, then up the Bald Eagle Branch to Milesburg, where it turned onto the Bellefonte Branch to Bellefonte.

On the Middle Division, regularly scheduled train number 67 [The American] served as pilot, making sure the track ahead was safe and secure. The Altoona wreck train served as pilot from Tyrone to Bellefonte.

The train arrived at Sunnyside Yard, Bellefonte, at 6:15 a.m. A Bellefonte Central crew boarded the lead of two EMD E8 locomotives, since the PRR crew were not qualified on the short line. Half an hour later the train was at the wye at Waddle and backing into State College.

1288276183945About 400 people were present when the train came to a stop at the station at 7:00 a.m. Milton Eisenhower boarded the Magellan to welcome his brother. They discussed their itinerary over breakfast. After an hour or so the presidential party emerged, smiled for pictures, and went off to join Milton's family for relaxation and seclusion. Fishing in nearby Spruce Creek and golfing at Centre Hills Country Club were the top priorities.

Ike flew back to Washington the next day, while Mamie stayed behind to participate in Penn State activities. She returned to Washington on Monday by chauffeured automobile.

POTUS to Penn State in HO Scale

PRR EMD E8 Class EP22 #xxxx

PRR EMD E8 Class EP22 #xxxx

Pullman McKeefry

Plan 3410, 12 section-1 drawing room. Painted in Pullman Standard livery, ice air, 242A trucks.

Pullman Holbein

Plan 3523A, 6 compartment-3 drawing room. Painted in Pullman Standard livery (repainted CED5156, 11/2/53), ice air, 242A trucks.

Pullman Glenn Cliff

Plan 3523A, 6 compartment-3 drawing room. Painted in Pullman Standard livery (repainted CED5156, date unknown), ice air, 242A trucks.

Pullman Flotow

Plan 3523A, 6 compartment-3 drawing room. Painted in Pullman Standard livery (repainted Alaskan RR colors, 8/26/55), ice air, 242A trucks.

Lounge Car Afton Canyon

Plan 3975F, 3 compartment-1 drawing room-buffet-sun room. Painted in PRR livery, ice air, 2411 trucks.

PRR Diner #7966

AF 1036 1 A

Communications Car General Albert J. Myer

Though not included in the consist report provided in "Rails to Penn State", it seems unlikely that the communications car would not have been included in the consist.

Overland Models produced an HO scale replica of the General Albert J. Myer.

OMI USno1 zpsfc1cadcaPresidential Car Ferdinand Magellan

Overland Models produced an HO scale brass replica of the Ferdinand Magellan. Both Truman-era and Reagan-era versions were created. There were 104 examples of the Truman-era version produced.

More On The Ferdinand Magellan

Named after the Portuguese explorer, the Ferdinand Magellan (also known as U.S. Car. No. 1) is a former Pullman Company observation car that served as Presidential Rail Car, U.S. Number 1 from 1943 until 1958. The current owner Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami-Dade County, Florida, acquired it in 1959. The Ferdinand Magellan was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service on February 4, 1985.


The Ferdinand Magellan was built in 1929 by the Pullman Company in Lot 6246, Plan 3972B as a private car. It was one of six similar cars constructed in two batches - four on Lots 6037, and two on Lot 6246. They were named after famous explorers: David LivingstoneHenry StanleyMarco PoloRobert Peary (on Lot 6037), Roald Amundsen and Ferdinand Magellan (on Lot 6246).

FM112After 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 specially equipped and armored car rather than using standard equipment provided by the Pullman Company. The Ferdinand Magellan was selected, and the Pullman Company rebuilt the car. The Ferdinand Magellan became the first passenger railcar built for a President since the War Department had built a special car for the use of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

The outside of U.S. Railcar No. 1 had the word “Pullman” simply painted on its side, allowing it to blend in with other train traffic during secretive travels. The Presidential train used the callsign “POTUS,” with the Secret Service calling it “City Hall,” during operations, and had the right-of-way whenever and wherever it traveled, just as Air Force One and the Presidential Motorcade have today. 

Moving the President on the rails was an intricate affair, with one railroad expert stating:

“Special instructions were issued so that no passenger, freight or switching moves would interfere with the movement of the special. Freights had to clear 30 minutes in advance and be at a standstill while the special passed. This was regardless of direction or track. If passing on adjoining tracks, conductors were instructed to insure against loose doors and other possible projections. Division engineers had to arrange for inspection of tracks, interlockings and drawbridges. Drawbridges could not be opened within 30 minutes of arrival of the train. In addition, car inspectors rode the train, state police monitored grade crossings and platform access was limited. It must have been a nightmare for the operating personnel who still had to move all the regularly scheduled trains.”

To lessen the chance of sabotage during the war, the car did not have a permanent storage location in Washington, D.C. It was moved around when not in use and stored on various sidings at Washington's Union Station, the Potomac Railroad yards, the Naval Gun Factory at the Navy Yard and in the sub-basement of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

The other Lot 6246 car, Roald Amundsen has also been preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


When the Ferdinand Magellan was rebuilt for service as United States Railcar No. 1, the original six bedrooms in the car were reduced to four, and the dining room and observation lounge were enlarged. Two of the bedrooms were a suite for the President and the First Lady, with a fully equipped bathroom, including a bathtub, connecting the two bedrooms. The dining room could also be used as a conference room. It has a solid mahogany table that measures 38" x 72" (96.3 cm x 183 cm) and seats eight. The front end of the car held quarters for two stewards, a pantry, a galley, mechanical equipment, storage and ice bunkers.

The car was protected with 5/8" (15 mm) armor plate on the sides, top, bottom and ends. The windows were replaced with sealed three inch (76.2 mm) thick 12-ply laminated bullet resistant glass. As the windows were sealed, the car was air conditioned by blowing the interior air over pipes carrying the meltwater from ice. Other features included bank vault style doors at the rear entrance to the car, two escape hatches (located in the lounge and presidential bathroom) for emergency egress, exterior loudspeakers for public addresses, a telephone in every room that could be connected to a trainside telephone outlet provided by the local telephone company and a custom built wheel-chair elevator that could lift Roosevelt from ground level up to the rear platform of the car. The wheel-chair elevator was removed after Roosevelt's death in 1945. These modifications increased the weight of the car from 160,000 pounds (72,563 kg) to 285,000 pounds (129,252 kg), making the Ferdinand Magellan the heaviest passenger railcar ever used in the United States. The Ferdinand Magellan traveled at the end of a special train that included Pullman sleeping cars for staff, baggage cars and a communications car operated by the Army Signal Corps. Other modifications included change to coupler (Type D to Type E) and draft gear (from N-10-F to NF-11-E); change of trucks (from D-24 to 24-F); additional generator (4 kW.) - all of which were encompassed in the new Plan, 3972D on 12/8/1942. The car was air conditioned on 12/28/1933 to Special Order 546, and was not part of the transformation to Presidential Car. The conversion from the Private Car pool to Presidential Car was accomplished in three steps - at the Pullman-Standard Buffalo Plant (3/5/1941 - S.O. 651); at the Pullman Car Works (Chicago) (9/9/1942 - attached to Report No. 34469) and at Calumet (12/8/1942 - Report No. 34469). In December 1942, after the refurbishment was completed, it weighed 268,520 pounds.

Dining Room:
President's Stateroom:
Magellan Railcar PresidentsStateroom
On display, restored, in Florida:Magellan Railcar


Presidential Use

fdr speechPresident Roosevelt's first trip in the Ferdinand Magellan was to Miami, Florida, where he boarded a Pan American World Airways flying boat for his trip to the Casablanca Conference in 1943. He traveled approximately 50,000 miles (81,500 km) in the car in the next two years, using it for the last time on a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia two weeks before he died there.

Like Lincoln, the Presidential railcar also was part of the rail procession that delivered Roosevelt’s body back to his home town after his sudden death in 1945. In all, FDR had traveled nearly 250,000 miles on the rails during his presidency.

trumanLike other observation cars of its era, the Ferdinand Magellan had an open platform on the rear end of the car. Observation cars were normally placed at the end of a train, so that the occupants of the car had an unobstructed view in three directions. This is the platform from which Harry Truman gave his "whistlestop" campaign speeches. During the campaign the car travelled more than 28,000 miles (46,284 km), and Truman gave almost 350 speeches from the rear platform. The famous photograph of dam images homes 2008 10 railcar hosl08 railcarTruman holding the incorrect "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline was taken while the president was standing on the platform of the railcar.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower made little use of the Ferdinand Magellan. He travelled a few times in it to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to visit his brother, Milton S. Eisenhower who was President of The Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, 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 Nautilus.

The railcar 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.

In 1984 the Ferdinand Magellan came back to life, when it was briefly loaned to the presidential re-election campaign of President Ronald Reagan, who gave a series of "whistlestop" speeches from the rear platform during a one-day trip in Ohio, on October 12, 1984.

Reagan Ferdinand MagellanPresident Reagan's 5 stop train journey, had involved transporting the train from Florida to Ohio, re-assembling it, and putting it back into commission. Over 100,000 people came to see the President, who at each stop cited the memory of Truman and said, 'Mr. Truman could also make very plain the differences between himself and his opponent, And, my friends, that's just what we're going to do today.'

'It was super,' remarked campaign director Ed Rollins. 'The President loved it.' 

President Reagan's journey was the last time the train was used.

Self Guided Tour

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum

To enter the cab from the rear, one climbs the steps to the open platform lined with brass railings. 

Inside through the armored rear door of the csr is the spacious and restful observation lounge. It is decorated using cream colored woodwork, green carpeting and light brown tufted wall covering resembling leather. All furnishings, fixtures and equipment thorughout the csr are the original equipment when the car was turned over to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. Although portions of the interior have been repainted as part of the Gold Coast Railroad Museum's restoration and preservation program, the paint has been carefully matched with the original color so that the decor remains unchanged.

Each room in the car has a telephone. When the presedential train was standing in a station, the telephone system was connected to a trainside telephone outlet provided by the local phone company. When the train was moving, external communicstions were handled by Signal Corps personnel in communications car #1401, a converted B&O combine car, which was used for the president's communicstions equipment. In later years this car was replaced by a converted hospital car renamed the General Albert J. Myer. THis car has been acquired by the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and is in the process of being restored.

Between the observation lounge and the dining room are four bedrooms lettered A through D. Rooms A and D are identical guest rooms. Each contain an upper and lower bunk, vanity, closet, dresser, wash basin, toilet and medicine cabinet. The lower bunk converts by dday ito a double seat with a table, while the upper bunk folds into the ceiling. Rooms B and C wiith their connecting bathroom form the Presidential Suite. Bedroom B is the First Lady's bedroom. It has a single bed, larger than a standard Pullman berth, dresser, closet and wash basin. The connecting bath has a shower, bath tub, toliet, and wash basin. Room C is the President's bedroom. It is the largest of the bedrooms and contains, in addition to the standard equipment, a commode chair which was installed for President Roosevelt who was a semi-invalid due to polio. Also exhibited in this room is a special wheel chair built for Mr. Roosevelt's use on this railcar. The chair is narrow enough to have clearance through the doors and halls of the railcar.

The dining/conference room is the largest room in the railcar. THe solid mahogany table is 38" X 72" and seats eight. This is where the president entertained official visitors while aboard the Magellan. Among the world leaders who were entertained in this room was Winston Churchill, who visited both President Roosevelt and President Truman aboard the car on different occasions, THis room also contains the small writing desk which was used by the president when needed for official business. Displayed in a cabinet above the desk are samples of the china and silverware used on the car and other memorabilia from the period when the car was in frequent use by the president. Included in this display is a water glass and a box of matches which were used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his last trip on the Magellan from Washington, D. C., to Warm Springs, Ga., on the day before his death in April of 1945.

Through the door at the front end of the dining room is the hallway and door that divides the presidential area from the staff area of the car. Located here is the pantry and stewards' quarters, the latter containing a small upper and lower berth, a lavatory and shower and a small closet. Overhead are hot and cold water storage tanks and ventilation equipment. Next is the galley, containing a charcoal stove and an ice box (not a refrigerator). This is where the meals were prepared for the presidential party. Finally on either side of the front entrance aisle are an ice hatch and storage compartments, Air conditioning was provided in the car by filling the ice storage compartments with twelve 500 pound blocks of ice. As the blocks of ice melted, the chilled water runoff was pumped through copper coils in the ceiling. The air inside the car was circulated over these coils and the cooled air was used to ventilate the car. The warm water that had flowed through the coils was pumped back to the ice compartment and sprayed over the blocks of ice.

IMG 2808

More On The General Albert J. Myer

Communications were facilitated by a converted hospital car (labeled POTUS 1 / USA 87325) that had incredibly high-tech radio gear installed so the President could stay connected at all times. A second converted hospital car (labeled Morn / POTUS 2 / USA 89426) was also part of the train. It was used by the President’s Secret Service protection detail and included bunks, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lounge area. The code name for these two cars was “Crate.” An oversize baggage car would often carry two sedans and two convertibles for motorcades, and other cars could be added, like ones carrying the press and other aids for high-profile rail missions.

The communications car, named General Albert J. Myer, was operated by the White House Communications Agency.

The official call sign of the Presidential Train was City Hall and was used when the train was actually in use, but Crate was used as the un-official call sign by the Camp David (Cactus) personnel that maintained the communications equipment onboard. Crate consisted of two old WWII train cars. They were 85' in length, painted Olive Drab, with three axel trucks. One was a converted Hospital Car. This car was converted into living quarters for SS and WHASA / WHCA personnel. It had a small kitchen, some bunks for sleeping, a small bathroom with a shower and a living area. An old Hallicrafters SX-63 was installed for entertainment.

The radio car appeared to have been gutted and then built as required. There was a window installed so the operation could be viewed from the hallway that passed between the rail cars. As you were sitting at the console behind you, there was a large glass window which was by the walkway in the left side of the car. Looking out that glass window past the walkway was another large glass window which was on the car body. If anyone on the platform were to look into the car window, they would see the whole console and operators.

The radio car had to be placed on the tracks, so it faced the ex-hospital car because of the coax connectors on the front end. The train had to be configured with the hospital car toward the train engine and the radio or communications car following. The coax connectors on the hospital car were connected by coax jumpers to the coax connectors on the communications car. This was also because on the opposite end, (from the coax connector end) were connectors which carried audio to the end of the train.

The last car would be an Observation Car where the President would ride, stand and speak to the crowds, who would come to see him while on campaign trips.

The radio car had a console installed which handled all the HF comm. equipment, the audio amps and VU meters for the audio PA function and two patch panels for audio routing. It also had rooms for the AC power generators, radio equipment, switchboard and a small comm. center. The radio console consisted of two HF receivers (R-390A), two SSB/ISB converters (CV-157) and a TTY converter (CV-116). Two TMC (GPT-750) 1KW transmitters were used for phone patch audio and TTY traffic.

On the top of this car were two HF antennas designed by Collins Radio. In the center of the roof of the car the antennas were grounded to the roof using three 90-degree elbows. A total of six, three for each antenna about 6 to 8 inches in diameter which fed three pipes in each direction to the end of the cars. About 3' from the end of antennas, the three pipes were bonded together and fed at that point, with 50 ohm coax, to connectors on the trailing side of the car. The pipes were supported by insulators from the center ground, out to the ends.

Two diesel AC generators are on the right side of car, can supply enough power to operate the train in any capacity. Equipment and facilities were improved over the years and, as of 1948, the car had a small operating room, a code center, a small bunk room with four bunks, a lounge room and the baggage half of the car packed with equipment.

When the Ferdinand Magellan was taken out of service in 1958, the two communication railcars were moved and during the 1960’s and 70’s stored at the New Cumberland Army Depot just outside of Harrisburg, Pa. The communications car was to be maintained by WHASA/WHCA out of Camp David. Their mission was to provide communications for the President, while on trips, whether campaigning for office, or traveling via rail.

In the late 1960’s the TMC (GPT-750) 1KW transmitters, R-390's and CV-157's were replaced with a Collins Radio state of the art transmitter/receiver, with automatic antenna tuners. The control units were mounted in the console, with the main TX / RX equipment mounted in two 6' 19" racks.

President Kennedy used Crate on one of the last official trips when he went to the Army Navy football game in Philadelphia in 1961.

JFKWHP ST 84 1 61Staff Car (Morn) USA 89426 POTUS 2 (1961) WHCA comm carMyer Communications Car USA 87325 POTUS I (1961) 13th Street StationThe Presidential Rail Car “Crate” is shown at the Thirteenth Street Station in Philadelphia (1961)
JFKWHP AR6928 NKennedy boarding Crate. (1961) Lounge Area CrateLounge area on Crate. (1961) JFKWHP ST 257 22 61large jpeg th th
Staff sleeping area looking toward Lounge Area (1961)


March 1961 photographs by Harold Sellers. John F. Kennedy Library.

pict74Presidential train communications car. Outside of train, with several people standing off to the side. Unidentified location.  pict77Presidential train communications car. Train on left, building on right. Side of train reads, “Pennsylvania,” with “Spruce Falls” below it. Unidentified location. pict78Presidential train communications car. Train on left, building in center, parking lot on right; unidentified man leaning out of train. Unidentified location. 
pict79Presidential train communications car. Parking lot, with two U.S. Army trucks in front. Unidentified location.  pict80Presidential train communications car. White House Army Signal Agency Staff equipment; wall of controls and microphone on table. Unidentified location.  pict75Presidential train communications car. White House Army Signal Agency Staff equipment; wall of controls and two microphones on table. Unidentified location. 
pict87Presidential train communications car. Unidentified White House Army Signal Agency Staff member in small control room. Unidentified location.  pict88Presidential train communications car. White House Army Signal Agency Staff communications equipment in small room. Unidentified location. pict89Presidential train communications car. Two unidentified military officers, standing in small room. Unidentified location. 
pict86Presidential train communications car. Three White House Army Signal Agency (WHASA) staff members stand in small room, with Commander of WHASA, Colonel George J. McNally, in front. The other two men are unidentified, but both are wearing military uniforms (one with Major General or Rear Admiral insignia on shoulder). Unidentified location.  pict85Presidential train communications car. Three unidentified White House Army Signal Agency Staff members in small room; Captain Frank H. Baker at left. Unidentified location.  pict84Presidential train communications car. Several unidentified White House Army Signal Agency Staff members, sitting in train car. Unidentified location.
pict83Presidential train communications car. Five unidentified White House Army Signal Agency Staff members in train car (four sitting, one standing; one in military uniform). Unidentified location. pict82

Presidential train communications car. Unidentified White House Army Signal Agency Staff member, sitting by window. Unidentified location.