Bush fu­neral train made his­toric run

Bush’s pres­i­den­tial fu­neral train first in nearly 50 years

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Will Weissert and David J. Phillip The As­so­ci­ated Press

The fu­neral train has been part of the of­fi­cial plan­ning for Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s death, a spokesman said.

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 then em­barked on a slow roll to his pres­i­den­tial li­brary in Col­lege Sta­tion, pass­ing thou­sands of peo­ple who stood along the tracks. Many of them held up their phones for pic­tures and watched from high­way over­passes.

One of the first small towns to greet the train was Pine­hurst, where Andy Gor­don, took his 6-yearold daugh­ter, Ad­di­son, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sis­ter, Ashtyn, could wit­ness the mo­ment first­hand.

“Hope­fully, my chil­dren will re­mem­ber the sig­nif­i­cance and the mean­ing of to­day,” said Gor­don, 38. In Ad­di­son’s hand were two small Amer­i­can flags.

At one point, state troop­ers hov­er­ing in a he­li­copter or­dered peo­ple to get off the tracks as the train ap­proached. Some on­look­ers left coins on the tracks to be flat­tened into keep­sakes.

More than two hours af­ter de­part­ing, the train rolled to a stop in Col­lege Sta­tion, where Bush was laid to rest dur­ing a pri­vate cer­e­mony next to his wife, Bar­bara, who died in April, and his daugh­ter Robin, who died at age 3 in 1953. Fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, were also aboard the 12-car train that was greeted by stu­dent cadets and mourn­ers upon ar­riv­ing at Texas A&M Univer­sity.

The train’s sixth car, a con­verted bag­gage hauler called “Coun­cil Bluffs,” was fit­ted with trans­par­ent sides to al­low the mourn­ers lin­ing the tracks views of Bush’s flag-draped cof­fin. The train rolled past the flash­ing lights of firetrucks, some hoist­ing Amer­i­can flags from their lad­ders, and past state troop­ers who saluted from the side

of the tracks.

It is the eighth pres­i­den­tial 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 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 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 and again Thurs­day 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.

Eisen­hower was the last pres­i­dent to travel by train reg­u­larly. A key rea­son was his wife, Mamie, who hated to fly. Dur­ing the 1952 cam­paign, Eisen­hower trav­eled more than 51,000 miles and made 252 stops. And while he of­ten flew, his wife rode the train the whole time, Union Pa­cific said.

Still, when Bush beat Demo­crat Michael Dukakis and won the pres­i­dency in 1988, both can­di­dates used trains to make some cam­paign stops. Bush also oc­ca­sion­ally trav­eled by train in 1992, when he was de­feated by Demo­crat Bill Clin­ton, in­clud­ing mak­ing Mid­west stops aboard a train dubbed “The Spirit of Amer­ica.”

Weissert re­ported from Austin. As­so­ci­ated Press Writer Nomaan Merchant in Pine­hurst, Texas, also con­trib­uted to this re­port.

See AP’s com­plete cov­er­age of Ge­orge H.W. Bush here: https://www.ap­news. com/Ge­orgeHWBush .

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


The flag-draped cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush passes through Mag­no­lia, Texas, Thurs­day along the train route from Spring to Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas.


Peo­ple pay their re­spects as the train car­ry­ing the cas­ket of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush passes Thurs­day along the route from Spring to Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas.


Fire­fight­ers stand on their truck and salute along with other at­ten­dants on an over­pass as the train car­ry­ing the body of for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush trav­els past on the way to Bush’s fi­nal in­tern­ment Thurs­day in Spring, Texas.

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