Rail Force One: Presidential Train Facts

Everyone knows the American President jets around in his maxed-out Boeing 747, Air Force One. There was even an action movie about it, starring Harrison Ford. Meanwhile trains have had to make do with Steven Seagal in Under Siege 2. But traditionally, POTUS has always loved riding the rails. In honour of the US election, here are our top presidential train facts.

The President has a super-secret platform underneath Grand Central Station, New York:

Franklin D Roosevelt had it built so he could arrive without people seeing him using his wheelchair. His armour plated carriage would pull into the private platform, and the presidential limo would drive straight out. The platform is not open to the public, because modern presidents still use it. Whenever Obama (or, if you’re reading this after the election, Obama) is in town, the Secret Service prepare it for a hasty escape by rail. Oh, and FDR’s carriage? It’s still there, trapped underground.

Next stop: The Oval Office

On his way to be inaugurated, famous hat-wearer Abraham Lincoln chartered a whistle-stop train journey from Illinois to Washington D.C. Imitating the great emancipator, Obama made a similar trip for his first inauguration. He stopped along the way to pick up his Vice President Joe Biden, who is something of a railway buff.

The Lincoln Special

Speaking of Honest Abe, after Lincoln was assassinated his corpse took a 1,654 mile tour around the US rail network. It visited 180 cities and seven states on its way back to his home in Illinois. Also on the train was the body of Lincoln’s 11 year old son Willie, who had died three years earlier from typhoid. The train was called ‘The Lincoln Special’, and had a portrait of Lincoln fixed to the front, like a morbid Thomas the Tank Engine.


This one might be a legend, but it’s too funny not to include. During his unsuccessful run against John F Kennedy in 1960, Richard Milhous Nixon (who was not a crook) was to give a speech out of the back of a train carriage, as presidential candidates often do. Just as he was about to begin, a prankster signalled for the train to move off, leaving the audience baffled as Dick disappeared into the distance.


Abe Lincoln and trains feature heavily in woeful 90s action film, Wild Wild West:


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