Pres­i­dent rides rails one last time

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page -

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.

SCOTT OL­SON/GETTY

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.

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