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The Eisenhower Collection

September 28, 1964 former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was guest of honor at the National Railroad Museumin Green Bay, WI. The occasion was the dedication of a recent addition to the museum’s collection, a British steam locomotive named in his honor following the Allied victory over Germany in World War II. It had been one of many honors Eisenhower received for his service as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.

Five years later the museum acquired two British built coaches that had been assigned to General Eisenhower during the war. He had used them exclusively as he toured various military facilities and held meetings on board with key allied leaders, both in Great Britain and on the European continent.

These three pieces comprise the heart of the Eisenhower Collection at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. During most of their time at the museum, they were on display in the McCormick Pavilion. But now they are safely housed and exhibited in the new Lenfestey Center, where they can be properly showcased with other major artifacts in the museum’s collection.

London & North Eastern Railway A4 Pacific #60008

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

The locomotive as you see it on exhibit is how it appeared after the war and the nationalization of Britain’s railroads in 1948. Built by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1937, its original color was described as Garter Blue. It was christened Sparrowhawkand numbered 4496. The name was soon changed to Golden Shuttle.

A4 is the model number and Pacific is the designation of its wheel arrangement of 4-6-2. A sister locomotive, Mallard, is credited with setting the speed record for all steam locomotives. This series of locomotives, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, was used in high-speed passenger service. Its wartime color, like all of Britain’s locomotives, would have been black. And curtains would have been hung inside the cab in compliance with blackout regulations.

The locomotive’s specific war service is unknown at this time. When acquired by the museum in 1964, the general consensus was that it had been assigned exclusively to General Eisenhower’s train. But further research indicates that the railroads made motive power assignments based on the route to be taken and the purpose of the trip. There is also evidence that as any train passed from one of the four major carriers to another, the locomotive and crews were switched. This assured that experienced crews were always operating their own equipment over their own routes.

The war in Europe officially ended on May 8, 1945. General Eisenhower immediately became the hero of the hour and was showered with awards and honors of all kinds. One of these took place at Marylebone Station in London on September 9, 1945. Steam locomotive Golden Shuttle was renamed Dwight D. Eisenhower. And this is the name it carried all through its postwar service.

With the nationalization of the railway system in 1948, Dwight D. Eisenhower took on its new green livery and number but continued to carry passengers over express routes until its retirement in 1963. The museum secured its donation with the help of Union Pacific President Arthur Stoddard, who had served in Europe during the war as an officer in the Military Railway Service. The locomotive arrived in Green Bay in May of 1964, with the official dedication ceremony taking place in September.

On that occasion former President Eisenhower said, “I dedicate it not so much just to the visitors who will see it. I really dedicate it to those people who seeing it will be reminded of the great wartime operation between two great nations, English speaking nations, Great Britain and the United States.”

London & North Eastern Coaches #1592 and #1591

The coaches you see following the locomotive were built by the LNER in 1936 as first class sleeping coaches. Their exterior appearance is how they looked following the war, when they were returned to passenger service along the eastern express routes in Britain. But their interiors hint of their wartime service when used by General Eisenhower and his staff.

Coach #1592 was assigned to Eisenhower in 1942 to facilitate his tour of military bases and depots by rail. Legend has it that this came at his request after being a guest on board an LNER train, codenamed RAPIER, in use of the commander of Britain’s Home Guard. It seems he also expected a more masculine sounding name, which resulted in the assignment of codename BAYONET to Eisenhower’s coach.

In actuality Eisenhower rarely used BAYONET that first year. By November he was on his way to North Africa in command of the allied troops and the eventual invasions of Sicily and Italy. It was not until his return to England as the Supreme Commander in January 1944 that BAYONET began to see extensive service as Eisenhower and his staff prepared for the invasion of Europe. Most of these trips took the General to military bases and depots to meet with key military and civilian leaders, to review their preparations and observe invasion rehearsals taking place around Great Britain. Eisenhower also made his train available to visiting dignitaries, most of whom arrived in Scotland by plane and then took the train south as the safest means of reaching London.

BAYONET,along with the entire ALIVE consist, was ferried to the European continent following the invasion of France. There it continued to function as Eisenhower’s private car, but covering far fewer miles due to the extensive damage inflicted by Allied bombers on the European rail system prior to D-Day. A second coach, LNER #1591, was placed into service as BAYONET II after the original BAYONET was damaged in a bomb blast during a German air raid. The replacement coach had the same floor plan as its predecessor but was fully armor plated as enhanced protection for the Supreme Commander. At war’s end, both coaches were returned to their sleeping car configuration and used in passenger service until their retirement in the 1960s.

Following the acquisition of Dwight D. Eisenhower, museum leaders began negotiating for the donation of both coaches, which were due to be dismantled. Instead a sales price was arranged. Their purchase and transportation to America was made possible by contributions from museum board member, Ted Lenfestey, for whom the exhibit hall is named, and E. R. Harriman, then chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Their interior restoration to a wartime appearance was overseen by William McAlpine (now Sir William), with #1592 given the original BAYONET floor plan and #1591 configured like sleepers that were part of the ALIVE consist carrying the SHAEF staff. In a ceremony held at Kensington Station on November 25, 1968, His Royal Highness Prince Philip handed over the keys to BAYONET to the American Ambassador, David Bruce. The coaches arrived in Green Bay in 1969 after a stop at Abilene, Kansas, where certain wartime artifacts were placed in the cars to enahnce their wartime appearance.

Codename: ALIVE

The head of Services of Supply in Great Britain was General J. C. H. Lee. His duties required a great deal of travel as he established the various bases, depots and port facilities used by the arriving American forces. On the advice of General Harbord, who held the same position during World War I, Lee requested that a train be put at his disposal to expedite the movement of he and his staff to these various facilities. Codenamed ALIVE, General Lee’s train consisted of Great Western Railway equipment that allowed him to carry his staff, supplies, and motor transport to each destination.

According to the Army’s official history of Lee’s command, “General Lee set a grueling pace on his inspection trips, and it was rare indeed when a meal was served on the train during daylight hours, for most runs were made at night. The day’s work, consisting of inspections and conferences, normally began at five in the morning and lasted until evening. Most of the staff members who accompanied the SOS commander considered the trips agonizing ordeals and would have avoided them if possible.”

Assigned to Lee’s train was a British steward named Frank Brookman. This enterprising steward likely had some perception of the significance of the role his train would play in the war effort. He reported the train’s movements to his wife, who recorded them in a journal she kept at home. Brookman himself also kept a guest register on board the train in which he gathered autographs of his guests. It is from these documents that we have our best view at present into how the ALIVE consist was used. What we do not know at this time is if the official command of the train passed into the hands of SHAEF staff from that of SOS. But from 1944 onwards, when BAYONET was made a permanent part of the ALIVE train, various accounts of its activities refer to it as General Eisenhower’s train.