New Product Spotlight – Presidential Series Boxcars

17 02 2014

Happy Presidents Day! Our Presidential boxcar series began in 2012 and marked the return of production to the United States. Each year we introduce four more cars into the line, with plans to build a car for each of our 43 Presidents here in the United States. Here’s a little Presidential trivia and a look a this year’s new cars.

New for 2014 will be Presidents Reagan, Jackson, Harding and Eisenhower. Each of these Presidents left their mark on history and the railroads of their time as well.

  • Jackson

    6-81488 President Jackson

    Andrew Jackson has the distinction of being the first sitting President to ride a train in 1833. Jackson came to office when railroads were still a novelty. But within the span of his two terms, the potential of these new “Iron Horses” was sweeping the country with unparalleled vigor.

  • Warren Harding held office when railroads were at the peak of their power. He worked with railroad labor unions in support of an 8 hour work day in 1922 following a great strike in 1921. Upon his sudden death in 1923 his body traveled across the country by funeral train.
  • Ike

    6-81490 President Eisenhower

    Dwight Eisenhower’s biggest contribution to transportation was certainly the creation of the Interstate Highway Act – a program which would come to have a major impact on the railroads. Eisenhower also made extensive use of air travel while President. While not an “anti-railroad” President, his time in office foreshadowed the coming decades of decline for the rail industry.

  • Ronald Reagan’s efforts to downsize the Federal Government put him up against several major railroad programs in the 1980s. His tenure saw the privatization of Conrail, transfer of the Alaska Railroad to the state and a constant battle with Amtrak. Reagan also signed into law the Staggers Act, which would play a critical role in the revitalization of the private rail industry in the coming years.

Lionel Presidential Series Boxcars

Harding

6-81489 President Harding

Like the previous cars in this series, each of these new boxcars will come beautifully decorated with the President’s portrait on the left and a brief bio on the right of the car. These cars are all decorated and assembled here in the USA.

The cars also feature sprung die-cast trucks, a metal frame and opening doors. The cars come attractively packaged so they can be displayed in or out of the box. They’d look great on an oval of track in your office.

The cars retail for $64.99. Our previous runs all sold out quickly. Don’t miss your chance to add to your collection!

Previous cars in this series:

Reagan

6-81487 President Reagan

2012

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt

2013

  • John Adams
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Harry Truman




Presidents’ Day

20 02 2012

The history of America’s railroads and its Commander-in-Chief is long and entwined. Each has supported and at times hindered the other throughout the history of the Republic. Even before the technology of railroads evolved, Presidents recognized the need for a national transportation network of their caliber to facilitate national commerce, communications and defense. It would be the rails that transformed us from these united states to the United States.

Carrying the POTUS

observation

The open platform of an observation car was often the prefered spot for the POTUS - a perfect spot for campaigning

Since Andrew Jackson took the first trip of a sitting President by rail in 1833, railroads have been an important means of travel for the Chief Executive. Even in today’s Airforce One world, the rails continue to represent an opportunity to combine travel with meeting the public.

The POTUS generally made use of whatever equipment a railroad or the Pullman Company would provide for travel. Railroad business cars and private cars of the wealthy were commonly employed. In 1943, a Pullman was specifically allocated for use by the President. The Ferdinand Magellan had been built in 1925 and upon selection by the Secret Service was rebuilt for use by Franklin Roosevelt. The car was modified with armored sides, bullet proof glass and even a chair lift for Roosevelt. The modifications made it the heaviest passenger car ever to operate in the US – 285,000 pounds.

The last official use of the Magellan was by Mamie Eisenhower in 1958. It is preserved today at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, FL. Since then, Presidents have returned to private cars for occasional travel and campaign use. Most commonly and recently, Georgia 300 – a former Crescent observation and business car of the Georgia Railroad, has been the car of choice.

The Politics of the Rails

Amtrak diesel

The political fight over railroads continues. Today Amtrak is usually at the center of discussions over the role of government and infrastructure.

There has been a love / hate relationship between railroads and the President, indeed with the Federal Government, since the 1830s. Railroads challenged all established rules of interstate commerce upon their spread. Their growth has  therefore been both promoted and restrained by the ruling politics of the day.

President Lincoln saw the railroads as a way to literally bind the country together. Amidst the burdens of war, he pressed for the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad. As those railroads grew in scope and power beyond what anyone could have imagined, Presidents throughout the latter 19th and 20th Centuries would seek to reign in the iron horse. Some Presidents, like Harry Truman, wore their love of trains on their sleeves. Some, like Woodrow Wilson brought the railroads under government control in the name of efficiency and security. While more conservative leaders like Ronald Reagan did everything they could to get railroads off of the Federal payroll.

Railroads have been at the forefront of legislation for nearly two centuries. Although they are no longer the biggest of big business, the political climate can still often be gauged in funding for high-speed rail, commuter agencies and Amtrak.

Final Rides

Lincoln Train

The Lincoln Funeral Train was undoubtedly one of the most famous Presidential trains.

Railroads have also born the sad tradition of being the bearers of a President’s last ride home. Lincoln’s funeral train is undoubtedly the most famous and heralded. His was far from unique however. The Presidential Funeral Train was a common practice for much of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The last was given for President Eisenhower who requested that his casket be carried in the baggage car as had been commonly done for fallen soldiers during the war.

The railroad even served as the backdrop for the assassination of one President. James Garfield was shot in the station of the Baltimore and Potomac RR. Garfield’s recovery at the White House was hampered by the heat, humidity and mosquitos. He was taken by special train to a cottage in New Jersey. Special tracks were laid to the home and according to his Chief Physician Dr. D. W. Bliss, “On arriving at the track recently laid to the Francklyn Cottage, we were surrounded by a large concourse of people, who braved the heat of the day in the anxiety lest the journey might have resulted disastrously. The engine had not weight and power sufficient to push us up the steep grade. Instantly hundreds of strong arms caught the cars, and silently, but resistlessly, rolled the three heavy coaches up to the level.” Garfield died 13 days later, more likely from infections than from the bullet itself.