Norfolk Southern Corporation is gifting the historic Marco Polo rail car, a car President Franklin D. Roosevelt used while in office, to the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia.
The Pullman Company built the Marco Polo in 1927 as part of a small fleet of cars named for world explorers, reserving them for VIPs who chartered their own railcar. Roosevelt traveled in the car when he was governor of New York and later as president, using it on trips to and from Warm Springs, Georgia.
The car is scheduled to arrive at the museum at 11 a.m. on Nov. 14, and a brief unveiling ceremony will follow.
The museum plans to display the car on its 35-acre campus alongside the Superb, a Pullman car used by President Warren G. Harding.
“The Marco Polo is a critical piece of railroad history, and we are honored Norfolk Southern has entrusted us to help preserve the railcar and its story for future generations,” said Sue Kelly, interim executive director of the Southeastern Railway Museum. “Railroads played an invaluable role in transporting presidents across the country. President Roosevelt had a unique connection to Georgia, and on his trips to Warm Springs, he regularly passed through Duluth and by what is today the museum, and we’re excited to welcome the car back home.”
The car also transported many dignitaries over the years, including Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, the wife of China’s wartime president. She used the Marco Polo during a United States tour in 1943.
“The Marco Polo holds a unique place in Norfolk Southern history, and we couldn’t think of a more appropriate location for the car to be displayed than at the Southeastern Railway Museum,” said John Friedmann, Norfolk Southern VP Network Planning & Optimization. “As we move our headquarters to Atlanta, forging relationships with surrounding communities like Duluth and organizations dedicated to preserving railroads like Southeastern Railway Museum will be critical to making Atlanta feel even more like home.”
The Central of Georgia, a Norfolk Southern predecessor railroad, bought the car in 1944 and converted it into an office. The Southern Railway assumed ownership of the car in 1963 after it merged with the Central of Georgia.
Over the years, the railroad has displayed the car, which was later renamed the Savannah, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and at Union Station in Washington, D.C. For more than 25 years, Washington commuters walked past the Marco Polo, most not knowing the railcar’s history as a predecessor to Air Force 1.
About the Marco Polo
- Builder: Pullman Company
- Built: 1927
- Inside Length: 74 feet, 1 inch
- Inside Width: 8 feet, 11.5 inches
- Outside Length: 84 feet, 1.5 inches
- Outside Width: 9 feet, 10.75 inches
- Height: 9 feet, 10.75 inches
- Weight: 199,900 pounds