When Ronald Reagan called to space from Dayton's Union Station

President Ronald Reagan kicked off a five-city train tour from Dayton’s Union Station in 1984.

Seeking re-election, Reagan said, “We’re taking the whistle-stop tour of ’84 to demonstrate that our government is once again on the right track and our national renewal is not going to be derailed.”

Reagan flew into Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Oct. 12, 1984, accompanied by then-U.S. Rep. Mike DeWine.

He was welcomed at Courthouse Square by newly planted flowers, a large blue and white banner that read “Montgomery County Welcomes President Reagan,” and a crowd of people, some who had been waiting since before dawn.

Former Ohio Gov. James Rhodes introduced the president to the crowd after taking Reagan’s opponent, Walter Mondale, to task for allegedly having a 13-year history of high blood pressure.

Reagan kept his speech to 15 minutes before heading to the train terminal.

There, the Ferdinand Magellan, a Pullman car built in 1928, waited for him to board.

The railroad car, named after the Portuguese explorer, was the only one ever designed for the exclusive use of United States presidents, according to a Dayton Daily News story published Oct. 12, 1984.

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

It was the same car that carried Harry Truman through Dayton in 1948.

It weighed 285,000 pounds and featured a rear platform with a loud-speaker system used by presidents to make speeches from the train.

Reagan climbed onto the platform and then turned to the crowd and told them he “had a phone call he had to take and they could listen in,” before stepping inside the car.

“Houston, Houston, this is Dayton,” blared the president’s voice over the loud speaker.

Reagan was on a special call to Commander Robert Crippen and the crew of the orbiting shuttle Challenger.

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

He reportedly told Crippen he was in Dayton about to take a train ride across the state while the astronauts orbited overhead.

“I think we can justify the slightly higher cost” of the shuttle by what it’s accomplishing, Reagan said. “Have a good safe journey home tomorrow and God bless you all.”

When he re-emerged Reagan, said to the crowd, “It was a little old-fashioned, like using a party line.”

“It’s quite a miracle we have up there and we’re going to have quite a few more miracles with the support of you,” he told the crowd just before the train left the station.

About the Author