President rides rails one last time
SPRING, Texas — 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 left a suburban Houston railyard loaded with Bush’s casket
for his final journey after almost a week of ceremonies in Washington and Texas. The train embarked on a slow roll to his presidential library in College Station, passing thousands of people who stood along the tracks.
One of the first small towns to greet the train was Pinehurst, where Andy Gordon, took his daughter, Addison, 6, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sister, Ashtyn, could witness the moment.
“Hopefully, my children will remember the significance and the meaning of today,” Gordon, 38, said.
At one point, state troopers hovering in a helicopter ordered people to get off the tracks as the train approached.
The train’s sixth car, a converted baggage hauler called “Council Bluffs,” was fitted with transparent sides to allow the mourners lining the tracks a view of Bush’s coffin. The train rolled past the flashing lights of fire trucks, some hoisting American flags from their ladders, and past troopers who saluted from the side of the tracks.
It is the eighth funeral train in U.S. 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 train in 1865 was the first.
Peter Olyniec waves a flag as a train carrying the remains of former President George H.W. Bush to his final resting place in Texas passes by.