Bush funeral train 1st in nearly 50 yrs

‘Air Force One of the rail­roads’

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL WORLD NEWS ROUNDUP -

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec 6, (AP): The lo­co­mo­tive was painted to re­sem­ble Air Force One, but Ge­orge H.W. Bush joked that if it had been around dur­ing his pres­i­dency, he may have pre­ferred to ride the rails rather than take to the skies.

“I might have left Air Force One be­hind,” Bush quipped dur­ing the 2005 un­veil­ing of 4141, a blue and gray lo­co­mo­tive com­mis­sioned in honor of the 41st pres­i­dent and un­veiled at Texas A&M Univer­sity.

On Thurs­day, that same 4,300-horse­power ma­chine was car­ry­ing Bush’s cas­ket, along with rel­a­tives and close friends, for around 70 miles (113 kilo­me­ters). The jour­ney through five small Texas towns was ex­pected to take about two and a half hours. It will de­liver the cas­ket from sub­ur­ban Hous­ton to Col­lege Sta­tion.

There, a mo­tor­cade was tak­ing Bush to his pres­i­den­tial li­brary at the univer­sity, where he was to be laid to rest at a pri­vate cer­e­mony next to his wife, Bar­bara, who died in April, and his daugh­ter Robin, who died at age 3 in 1953.

The train’s sixth car, a con­verted bag­gage hauler called “Coun­cil Bluffs,” has been fit­ted with trans­par­ent sides to al­low mourn­ers lin­ing the tracks on Thurs­day views of Bush’s flag draped cof­fin.

It will be the eighth funeral train in US history and the first since Dwight D. Eisen­hower’s body trav­eled from the Na­tional Cathe­dral in Wash­ing­ton through seven states to his Kansas home­town of Abi­lene 49 years ago. Abra­ham Lin­coln’s funeral train was the first, in 1865.

Robert F. Kennedy was never pres­i­dent, but he was run­ning for the White House when he was as­sas­si­nated in Los An­ge­les in 1968. His body was later trans­ported to New York City for a funeral Mass and then taken by pri­vate train to Wash­ing­ton for burial at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery. Thou­sands of mourn­ers lined the tracks for the 200-plus-mile jour­ney.

Union Pa­cific orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned the Bush lo­co­mo­tive for the open­ing of an ex­hibit at his pres­i­den­tial li­brary ti­tled “Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse.” It was one of the few times the com­pany has painted a lo­co­mo­tive any color other than its tra­di­tional yel­low. After a brief train­ing ses­sion dur­ing 4141’s un­veil­ing 13 years ago, Bush took the en­gi­neer’s seat and helped take the lo­co­mo­tive for a 2-mile ex­cur­sion.

“We just rode on the rail­roads all the time, and I’ve never for­got­ten it,” Bush said at the time, re­call­ing how he took trains, and of­ten slept on them, dur­ing trips as a child with his fam­ily. He also called the lo­co­mo­tive “the Air Force One of rail­roads.”

Bush, who died last week at his Hous­ton home at age 94, was eu­lo­gized Wed­nes­day at a funeral ser­vice at the Na­tional Cathe­dral. By evening, his cas­ket was at St Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church in Hous­ton.

The funeral train has been part of the of­fi­cial plan­ning for his death for years, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said.

Union Pa­cific was con­tacted by fed­eral of­fi­cials in early 2009 and asked, at Bush’s re­quest, about pro­vid­ing a funeral train at some point, com­pany spokesman Tom Lange said.

“We said, ‘Of course and also we have this lo­co­mo­tive that we would want to have ob­vi­ously be part of it,’” Lange said. He noted that trains were the mode of trans­porta­tion that first car­ried Bush to his ser­vice as a naval avi­a­tor in World War II and back home again.

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