Whistle stop train tour

A whistle stop or whistle-stop tour is a style of political campaigning where the politician makes a series of brief appearances or speeches at a number of small towns over a short period of time. Originally, whistle-stop appearances were made from the open platform of an observation car or a private railroad car.

Definition and Usage

The definition of the term derives from the practice of a small, occasionally used railway station signaling a train so the engineer will know to stop. Trains inbound to a "whistle stop" station would signal their approach with a blast of the train's steam whistle which would alert the train depot attendant to their arrival. If passengers, mail, or freight waited to be picked up at the depot, the depot master would raise a tower signal to indicate to the train engineer that the train should stop. If no stop was necessary, a different signal would be raised and the engineer could pass through the depot without a stop.[1]

One usage of the term in the political context, by Robert A. Taft, was derisive. He accused then-President Harry S Truman of "blackguarding Congress at whistle stops across the country".[2]

Use of the term has spread to cover any travel done very quickly and with only brief pauses. It is common to hear this expression in the United States, where the term originated, as well as the United Kingdom.


In the 19th century, when travel by railroad was the most common means of traveling long distances over the vast expanses of land as in the United States, politicians would charter tour trains which would travel from town to town. At each stop, the candidate would make a speech from the train, but might rarely set foot on the ground. "Whistle stop" campaign speeches would be made from the rear platform of a train.

One of the most famous railroad cars to be used in the U.S. whistle-stop tours was the Ferdinand Magellan, the only car custom built for the President of the United States in the 20th century. Originally built in 1928 by the Pullman Company and officially the "U.S. No. 1 Presidential Railcar", the Ferdinand Magellan is currently on display at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, Florida. The famous news photo of Harry S Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with a banner headline stating "Dewey Defeats Truman" was taken on this platform on Wednesday, November 3, 1948, at St. Louis Union Station. The Ferdinand Magellan was also used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and, to a much lesser extent, by President Dwight Eisenhower. The Magellan’s last official trip before retirement was in 1954, when first lady Mamie Eisenhower rode it from Washington, D.C., to Groton, Connecticut, to christen the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. President Ronald Reagan used the Magellan for one day, October 12, 1984, traveling 120 miles in Ohio, from Dayton to Perrysburg, making five stops to give "whistle stop" speeches along the way.

Modern whistle-stop tours

Prince Charles of the United Kingdom started a five-day whistle-stop tour of the United Kingdom on Monday 6 September 2010 with a speech in Glasgow. The green campaigning tour is a part of the Prince's Start initiative that aims to build public awareness of sustainable activities. Indeed in Europe, touring politicians still occasionally take a train, as the excellent and still dense railway network offers access comparable to road travel and as it is better suited for extensive trips than air travel. In 2009 for example German chancellor (and CDU candidate) Angela Merkel made a highly publicized tour in Konrad Adenauer's old campaign train.[3] The SPD on the other hand only discontinued the use of train tours for campaign purposes ahead of the 1998 election.[4]


The following are examples of whistle-stop train tours:

Bryan Wellsville

William Jennings Bryan delivers a whistle stop speech during his 1896 presidential campaign

Teddy Roosevelt at Kansas City, Kansas (15178301101) (cropped)

Then-Republican vice presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt conducts a whistle stop during the 1900 election

Charles Hughes whistle stop 1916

Republican presidential nominee Charles Evans Hughes, and his wife shake hands with supporters at Chicago's Union Station during his 1916 campaign

JamesCox RRsteps 1920A (cropped)

Democratic presidential nominee James M. Cox makes a whistle stop appearance during his 1920 campaign

Franklin D. Roosevelt,Eleanor Roosevelt, and Earl Miller in Savannah, Illinois - NARA - 195405

Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor conduct whistle stop tour for his 1932 presidential campaign

Truman with wife and daughter

President Harry Truman and his family embark on a whistle stop tour during his 1948 campaign

LBJ and Ladybird Train New Orleans 1964 (cropped1)

President Lyndon B. Johnson joins his wife on a whistle stop tour for his 1964 campaign


Robert F. Kennedy speaks during a whistle stop for his 1968 presidential campaign

President and Mrs. Ford wave during their primary campaign in Michigan - NARA - 7027911

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford wave from a train during their whistle stop tour of Michigan during the 1976 election

Reagan train tour

President Ronald Reagan goes on a whistle-stop tour through Ohio for his 1984 campaign

Wod-o-Pics-3 0071 - Kodalux Processing Services NOV. 89 P - Bradley for Gov campaign whistle-stop 1986 (9501734601)

Rail car being used by Tom Bradley for a whistle stop tour during his 1986 gubernatorial campaign

Wod-o-Pics-3 0070 - Kodalux Processing Services NOV. 89 P - Bradley for Gov campaign whistle-stop 1986 (9504535246)

Crowd greets Tom Bradley's 1986 whistle stop at the Fresno station

President Bush addresses supporters from the back of his "Spirit of America" railroad car in Cornelia during on his whistlestop train tour across Georgia

George H. W. Bush conducting a whistle stop tour of Georgia during his 1992 presidential campaign

President Bush waves from the back of the train outside of Bowling Green as he travels on a whistlestop campaign... - NARA - 186459

George H. W. Bush waves to spectators along the route of his 1992 campaign whistle stop tour of Ohio

John Kerry on Caboose during 2004 Presidential Campaign Whistle Stop at La Posada Hotel, Winslow, AZ

John Kerry on a whistle stop tour during his 2004 presidential campaign

Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Vladimir Zhirinovsky conducts a whistle stop in support of his party (LDPR) ahead of the 2007 Russian legislative election

President-Elect Barack Obama on a celebratory whistle-stop tour en route to his 2009 inauguration

Democrats Main St. vs. Wall St. whistle stop tour 074 (5136953258)

Chet Culver delivers a speech during a whistle stop tour he conducted with Roxanne Conlin in 2010 for his gubernatorial campaign and her senate campaign

598344 10150881064728687 467347874 n (7482352284)

As part of her 2012 Senate campaign, Elizabeth Warren embarks on a whistle stop tour


  1. ^ Citation needed
  2. ^ Truman by David McCullough
  3. ^ http://www.zeit.de/2009/38/Merkel-Zug
  4. ^ http://www.focus.de/magazin/archiv/periskop-kein-wahlkampfzug_aid_169949.html

External links

Media related to Whistle stop tours at Wikimedia Commons

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The Democratic primary was open to registered Democrats only. Polls opened at 7am and closed at 8pm. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the only candidates on the ballot for President of the United States. The primary was considered to be a "must win" for Clinton, who defeated Obama, but by a smaller margin than hoped for.

2008 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania was won by Democratic nominee Barack Obama by a 10.3% margin of victory. Prior to the election, all 17 news organizations considered this a state Obama would win, or otherwise considered as a safe blue state. Although the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1992, the margins of victory have become smaller over the past elections, as was highlighted in 2004 when John Kerry won the Keystone State by a slim margin of 2.50 percent. Since George W. Bush came so close to winning the state in 2004 and because Barack Obama lost the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton by nearly 10 percentage points in April 2008, many analysts believed that Republican John McCain had a decent shot at winning Pennsylvania in the general election. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania remained blue and gave Obama 54.47% of the vote to McCain's 44.15%, a margin of 10.32%. Normally a close state, 2008 marked the first time since 1972 that Pennsylvania was decided by a double-digit margin and was the strongest Democratic showing in the state since 1964.

Amistad (film)

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Morgan Freeman, Nigel Hawthorne, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey had starring roles. David Franzoni's screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy (1987), by the historian Howard Jones.

Barack Obama 2008 presidential primary campaign

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Barry Goldwater 1964 presidential campaign

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Amid growing popularity in the southern states in the early 1960s, Goldwater had been anticipating and looking forward to an "issue-oriented" campaign against Democrat John F. Kennedy, a personal friend of his. Goldwater, who was an aviator by hobby, wished to fly about the country in an attempt to revive whistle stop train tour-style debates. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963 dashed Goldwater's hopes of an election contest between himself and his friend and political rival. Nevertheless, Goldwater officially announced his candidacy for the presidency in January 1964 from the patio of his Arizona home. Following a battle with moderate and liberal Republicans in the Republican primary, such as Nelson Rockefeller and with moderate conservatives such as William Scranton among others, Goldwater won the party's nomination for president.

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Thompson began his coverage of the campaign in December 1971, just as the race toward the primaries was beginning, from a rented apartment in Washington, D.C. (a situation he compared to "living in an armed camp, a condition of constant fear"). Over the next 12 months, in voluminous detail, he covered every aspect of the campaign, from the smallest rally to the raucous conventions.

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Obama and others paid homage to Lincoln in the form of tributes and references during several of the events, starting with a commemorative train tour from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2009. The inaugural events held in Washington from January 18 to 21, 2009, included concerts, a national day of community service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the swearing-in ceremony, luncheon and parade, inaugural balls, and the interfaith inaugural prayer service. The presidential oath as administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to Obama during his swearing-in ceremony on January 20 strayed slightly from the oath of office prescribed in the United States Constitution, which led to its re‑administration the next day.

In addition to a larger than usual celebrity attendance, the Presidential Inaugural Committee increased its outreach to ordinary citizens to encourage greater participation in inaugural events compared with participation in recent past inaugurations. For the first time, the committee opened the entire length of the National Mall as the public viewing area for the swearing-in ceremony, breaking with the tradition of past inaugurations. Selected American citizens participated in the train tour and other inaugural events, and a philanthropist organized a People's Inaugural Ball for disadvantaged people who otherwise would be unable to afford to attend the inaugural festivities. Among the celebrations for the inauguration, the committee hosted a first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball with free or affordable tickets for ordinary citizens.

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Observation car

An observation car/carriage/coach (in US English, often abbreviated to simply observation or obs) is a type of railroad passenger car, generally operated in a passenger train as the last carriage, with windows on the rear of the car for passengers' viewing pleasure. The cars were nearly universally removed from service on American railroads beginning in the 1950s as a cost-cutting measure in order to eliminate the need to "turn" the trains when operating out of stub-end terminals.

The push-pull mode of operation removes this limitation. In Europe, various trains are now fitted with observation cars at either or both ends.

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Winning a close election on November 5, 1968, Nixon and Agnew were inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States and 39th Vice President of the United States, respectively, on January 20, 1969. He was the first Vice President elected President since Martin Van Buren in 1836, and the only one to do so while not an incumbent.

Whistle Stop

A whistle stop is a stopping point at which trains stop only on request.

Whistle Stop may also refer to:

Whistle Stop (film), a 1946 movie starring George Raft and Ava Gardner

"Whistle Stop" (In Plain Sight episode), a 2010 episode of In Plain Sight

Whistle Stop (album), a 1961 jazz studio album by Kenny Dorham

Whistle stop train tour, a style of political campaign

"Whistle Stop" (L.A. Law), an episode of L.A. Law

Whistle Stop, a track on the Disney film Robin Hood

William M. Boyle

William Marshall Boyle Jr. (February 2, 1902 – August 30, 1961) was a Democratic political activist from Kansas. Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1949 to 1951, he was a friend of President Harry S. Truman and is credited with engineering Truman's upset victory over Governor Thomas Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election. He was forced to resign as chairman of the Democratic National Committee after being charged with financial corruption.

Boyle was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1902; he became politically active as a Young Democrat at age 16, thereby attracting the attention of Kansas City, Missouri political boss Thomas Pendergast, who made Boyle a precinct captain before his 21st birthday. Boyle's parents were friends of Harry Truman and the future president took him under his wing. Boyle took a law degree, practiced law and was active in Democratic politics in Kansas City. He played an active role in Truman's successful run for the U.S. Senate in 1934. He became police director of Kansas City in 1939.

In 1941, he moved to Washington to take a job as counsel to the Truman Committee and personal assistant to Truman in 1942. In 1944, Boyle joined the Democratic National Committee, where he helped steer Truman's 1944 Vice-presidential campaign. Boyle opened an office in Washington. In the 1948 campaign, he persuaded Truman, at the time an underdog, to launch a whistle stop tour of the Midwest.

In 1949, Truman made Boyle the executive vice chairman and then chairman, of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In 1951, a Senate subcommittee under Senator J. William Fulbright opened a probe of loan decisions by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). The subcommittee report charged Boyle with exerting political pressure on the RFC to provide loans to political allies. Truman said the allegations were "asinine." However another Senate subcommittee opened a probe that revealed Boyle used his influence to obtain a $565,000 loan for an $8000 fee. Boyle admitting accepting fees, but denied pressing for the loan He resigned from the DNC, citing poor health.

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