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Bicentennial Minute

By Melody Vallieu

August 3, 2014

Truman and Reagan Whistle Stops


Oct. 11, 1948 and Oct. 12, 1984


On Oct. 11, 1948, President Harry Truman, his wife Bess, and his daughter Margaret, made a re-election campaign swing through Troy as part of Truman’s now famous “Whistle Stop” campaign tour. At the time, Truman was trailing badly in the polls to Republican New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, and was not expected to win re-election. Truman made his “Whistle Stop” tour aboard the historic Ferdinand Magellan train car in the last-ditch effort to save his election.


The Ferdinand Magellan was a Pullman train car specially modified and rebuilt for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II in 1942. It had steel-reinforced concrete added to its base, 3-inch armor plating added to its shell and its windows were made bulletproof. These modifications brought the weight of the railroad car to a massive 285,000 pounds.


On Oct. 12, 1984, President Ronald Reagan also made a re-election campaign swing through Troy aboard the very same Ferdinand Magellan train car that Truman used in 1948. But unlike President Truman — who traveled over 21,000 miles and made more than 350 speeches during his “Whistle Stop” campaign tour — President Reagan traveled only 150 miles and made five speeches in a one-day “campaign tour.” Also, unlike President Truman who won re-election over Dewey in the biggest presidential election upset in U.S. history, President Reagan easily won re-election over Democrat Senator Walter Mondale in a landslide victory.