Southeastern Railway Museum begins interior renovation of historic ‘Superb’ railcar

The Southeastern Railway Museum has started an interior renovation of a historic Pullman car that transported the body of President Warren G. Harding after he died in 1923.

The Superb is one of five remaining Pullman cars used by the president of the United States. It is the only car to carry a deceased president who died while in office.

The museum has applied for a National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) Railway Heritage Grant for the project. The Atlanta Chapter of the NRHS is contributing funds to support the project.

Museum volunteers expect to spend at least 200 hours on the project.

The Pullman Co. built the heavyweight car in 1911. The United States Department of the Interior approved the Superb for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

As part of the project, the museum’s volunteers will upgrade the Superb’s interior painting, lighting and linens to help present the car in a historically accurate way. The restoration marks the first major rehabilitation of the railcar since 1999, and the museum expects to complete the renovation by the end of May.

Both Harding and President Woodrow Wilson used the Superb. Harding used the car during his planned two-month “Voyage of Understanding,” which began in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 1923.

Before the trip finished, Harding fell ill and died in San Francisco on Aug. 2, 1923. The Superb then carried the president’s coffin to Washington, D. C. for his state funeral and to Marion, Ohio, for his burial.

Later, Pullman renamed the car the “Los Angeles,” and in 1926, it was repainted red and gold and renamed the “Pope Pius XI” for service as part of “The Cardinal’s Train.” The train transported cardinals, bishops and priests from New York City to Chicago for the 28th International Eucharistic Congress.

In 1969, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad donated the car, then identified as No. 301, to the museum. The car, which is the second-oldest steel private car in existence, maintains its original floor plan.

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