WHCA comm car

Railroad Car 2409 was built in 1912 by the Pullman Co. as a palace car for the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Line to carry dignitaries between Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C. It was rebuilt in the 1920s and in the 1930s with the addition of air conditioning.

During World War II, it underwent another change in look and personality when it was sold to the Clyde Beatty Circus as a pie car, where performers or crew members could buy food such as soda, chips or ice cream during their free time. The car was moved to Fort Lauderdale where the circus maintained winter headquarters on Sunrise Boulevard at what is now the Gateway Shopping Center.

In the 1950s, the car was sold again to Royal American Shows, at the time the largest midway in North America. Still used as a pie car, it spent its last 30 working years traveling from the carnival`s winter headquarters in Tampa to state fairs in the Midwest and Canada. In the early 80s, railroad costs rose prompting Royal American to switch to trucks and retiring the railroad car.

The car sat derelict in a Tampa woods until Richard Winer, known for his books on haunted houses and the Bermuda Triangle, found and bought it for $3,500 in 1983. He moved it by rail to a siding at William Thies and Sons, a beer distribution plant in Wilton Manors, Florida and began work on it in November 1986.

After completing it’s restoration in 1987, he convinced the Fort Lauderdale City Commission that Car 2409 would complement the planned River Walk and help keep people downtown, opening the Direct Orient Express ice cream parlor at 150 W. Broward Blvd. Two years later, he was evicted to make room for a 1,200-car parking garage and moved the railroad car into storage.

Interior of the General Myer communications train car as it looked in 1961.
Interior of the General Myer communications train car as it looked in 1961.

Built out of an old hospital car in 1951, the General Albert J. Myer(labeled POTUS-1), SC-1 communications car, replaced the older ‘Car 1401’ which always accompanied the presidential train car, Ferdinand Magellan. Following the Myer was the Morn(labeled POTUS-2), also built from a hospital car and was the living quarters for the personnel of the Myer. It included a small kitchen, bunk beds, a small bathroom with a shower and a living area. No photos of the interior of the Morn in service have been found, as ordered by the Colonel in charge.

Here’s description of the Myer from a piece done by Cryptome:

The Radio car was a converted something and 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 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.

When the Ferdinand Magellan was taken out of service in 1958, the two communication cars were moved to the New Cumberland Army Depot in Harrisburg, PA in the 60s and 70s. The railcars made their last official trips when President Kennedy went to the Army Navy football in Philadelphia in 1961.

Dorothy Walker Bush Great Floridian 2000 | Photo © 2013 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

In 2005, Tony Campos, project director at the Hollywood Railroad Station Museum, was tasked with creating a train to commemorate Dorothy Walker Bush dubbed the “Dorothy Walker Bush Great Floridian 2000.” The train was to include the 1924 FEC Engine 253, the Myer and Morn, a mail car used in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, a “Jim Crow” segregation-era car, and the Direct Orient Express ice cream parlor. He was granted $375,000 by the Florida Division of Historical Resources and was expected to have the cars ready for display by June 2006.

In 2006, Campos acknowledged the restoration wasn’t going to be completed on-time and cited hurricanes, a break-in, sketchy historical documents, lack of grant money, and a PBS documentary crew’s delay in filming the project. In October 2006, the Florida Division of Historical Resources sent a letter to Campos asking about the expenditures of the grant money. Campos then disappeared; he never responded, doesn’t phone calls and is hardly ever at his office at the station. It was requested he return the money or face legal action. He’s since been arrested and is thought to be out on parole as of this writing.

What’s left of the failure of a project now sits rotting away behind a South Florida warehouse. Among them are two train cars thought to be presidential trains cars, with the names “POTUS I” and “POTUS II” stenciled on the sides of cars, sit on wood blocks at the front of the tracks. Attached is a 1918 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show postal car, the Direct Orient Express ice cream parlor, and a “Jim Crow” segregation-era car that carried a baggage compartment to separate black passengers from whites on the rest of the train. The state they are in is abysmal; holes in floor from where scrappers have cut their way into the train cars, graffiti covers the walls and a lack of windows where the ones that do remain have bullet holes in them.

As of June 2016, the train cars are no longer there. A friend of mine took photos of them showing them destroyed, either by a fire or scrapped for the metal, which is more plausible in my opinion.

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