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Access Points 12: Southeastern Railway Museum train

Did you make a guess at this week’s Access Points photo game? Maybe quietly, without saying so in the comments? It showed original fixtures inside the Superb, a Pullman car at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth.


Inside the Pullman train at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

If you’ve been inside the train car and noticed the metal work at all — it runs along the sides, and appears in the lower left corner of this photo — it would be because they look quite ornate, and very old.

And it is old: this Pullman car was built in 1911. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned in it, but it’s far more famous for the journey it took with President Warren Harding’s during a 1923 trip across the United States.

It was luxurious, offering five bedrooms for passengers and space for a two-person crew. Steam heat came from behind those fancy vents, and there was air conditioning provided by ice blocks.

Harding set off from Washington, D.C. in June, and used a public address system and broadcast transmitter installed on the train at stops along his western journey.

Once he was off the train, he made a short side trip by boat to Alaska, then returned to California, where, on Aug. 2, was rushed to a hospital in San Francisco. He died of a heart attack there, just two years into his presidency.

The next day, his body and casket were loaded back onto the Superb to make the journey back to Washington. People  lined the tracks to pay their respects on his last journey back to D.C., and then to Marion, Ohio, for this burial.


The Superb, on display at the Southeastern Railway Museum. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

The car went on to be used for other journeys, and was updated along the way with tile showers and electric lights. It was used a rolling office car for several railroads before it came to the Southeastern Railway Museum decades ago.

GWX RAILWAY 2_14556 (WinCE)

Chuck Hardt polishes the Superbs brass rail in this 2005 photo. The train was restored in the 1990s. AJC file photo

The Museum expected to get a different car from the Seaboard Coast Line, but it was too difficult to transport to Duluth, home of the state’s official transportation museum

Instead, the museum landed a railroad car that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s listed under “Superb.”

Want to go? Southeastern Railway Museum, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, April through December, Saturdays only January through March. $8, $6 for people ages 65 and older, $4 for people ages 2-12, free for people younger than 2. 3595 Buford Highway, Duluth. 770-476-2013,

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