Bushes depart on first presidential funeral train since 1969

SPRING, Texas (AP) — The locomotive was painted to resemble Air Pressure One, however George H.W. Bush joked that if it had been round throughout his presidency, he might have most popular to experience the rails relatively than take to the skies.

“I may need left Air Pressure One behind,” Bush quipped in the course of the 2005 unveiling of 4141, a blue and grey locomotive commissioned in honor of the 41st president and unveiled at Texas A&M College.

On Thursday, that very same 4,300-horsepower machine left a suburban Houston railyard loaded with Bush’s casket for his last journey after virtually per week of ceremonies in Washington and Texas. The practice then launched into a sluggish roll to his presidential library in Faculty Station, passing hundreds of people that stood alongside the tracks. Lots of them held up their telephones for footage and watched from freeway overpasses.

One of many first small cities to greet the practice was Pinehurst, the place Andy Gordon, took his 6-year-old daughter, Addison, out of faculty so she and her 3-year-old sister, Ashtyn, may witness the second firsthand.

“Hopefully, my kids will keep in mind the importance and the that means of in the present day,” mentioned Gordon, 38. In Addison’s hand have been two small American flags.

At one level, state troopers hovering in a helicopter ordered folks to get off the tracks because the practice approached. Some onlookers left cash on the tracks to be flattened into keepsakes.

Greater than two hours after departing, the practice rolled to a cease in Faculty Station, the place Bush was laid to relaxation at a personal ceremony subsequent to his spouse, Barbara, who died in April, and his daughter Robin, who died at age Three in 1953. Relations, together with former President George W. Bush, have been additionally aboard the 12-car practice that was greeted by scholar cadets and mourners upon arriving at Texas A&M College.

The practice’s sixth automotive, a transformed baggage hauler referred to as “Council Bluffs,” was fitted with clear sides to permit the mourners lining the tracks views of Bush’s flag-draped coffin. The practice rolled previous the flashing lights of firetrucks, some hoisting American flags from their ladders, and previous state troopers who saluted from the facet of the tracks.

It’s the eighth presidential funeral practice in U.S. historical past and the primary since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s physique traveled from the Nationwide Cathedral in Washington by seven states to his Kansas hometown of Abilene 49 years in the past. Abraham Lincoln’s funeral practice was the primary, in 1865.

Robert F. Kennedy was by no means president, however he was working for the White Home when he was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968. His physique was later transported to New York Metropolis for a funeral Mass after which taken by personal practice to Washington for burial at Arlington Nationwide Cemetery. 1000’s of mourners lined the tracks for the 200-plus-mile journey.

Union Pacific initially commissioned the Bush locomotive for the opening of an exhibit at his library titled “Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse.” It was one of many few instances the corporate has painted a locomotive any coloration aside from its conventional yellow. After a quick coaching session throughout 4141’s unveiling 13 years in the past, Bush took the engineer’s seat and helped take the locomotive for a 2-mile tour.

“We simply rode on the railroads on a regular basis, and I’ve by no means forgotten it,” Bush mentioned on the time, recalling how he took trains, and sometimes slept on them, throughout journeys as a baby together with his household. He additionally referred to as the locomotive “the Air Pressure Certainly one of railroads.”

Bush, who died final week at his Houston dwelling at age 94, was eulogized Wednesday at a funeral service on the Nationwide Cathedral and once more Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.

The funeral practice has been a part of the official planning for his dying for years, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath mentioned.

Union Pacific was contacted by federal officers in early 2009 and requested, at Bush’s request, about offering a funeral practice in some unspecified time in the future, firm spokesman Tom Lange mentioned.

“We mentioned, ‘In fact and in addition we’ve got this locomotive that we’d need to have clearly be a part of it,'” Lange mentioned. He famous that trains have been the mode of transportation that first carried Bush to his service as a naval aviator in World Warfare II and again dwelling once more.

Eisenhower was the final president to journey by practice frequently. A key motive was his spouse, Mamie, who hated to fly. In the course of the 1952 marketing campaign, Eisenhower traveled greater than 51,000 miles and made 252 stops. And whereas he usually flew, his spouse rode the practice the entire time, Union Pacific mentioned.

Nonetheless, when Bush beat Democrat Michael Dukakis and gained the presidency in 1988, each candidates used trains to make some marketing campaign stops. Bush additionally often traveled by practice in 1992, when he was defeated by Democrat Invoice Clinton, together with making Midwest stops aboard a practice dubbed “The Spirit of America.”

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Weissert reported from Austin. Related Press Author Nomaan Service provider in Pinehurst, Texas, additionally contributed to this report.

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See AP’s full protection of George H.W. Bush right here: https://www.apnews.com/GeorgeHWBush .

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