A locomotive unveiled in 2005 for a special exhibit at George H.W. Bush’s presidential library will be used to pull the late president’s funeral train. Dubbed 4141 in honor of the 41st president, the 4,300-horsepower machine will carry Bush’s remains on December 6 to his final resting place.
Presidential funeral train will be first in nearly 50 years
It will be the eighth presidential funeral train and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s remains were carried from Washington to his native Kansas. Abraham Lincoln had the nation’s first presidential funeral train in 1865.
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.
White House successors:Donald Trump and Melania; Barack Obama and Michelle; Bill Clinton and Hillary paying tribute to George H.W. Bush in Washington on Wednesday.AFPBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
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“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 will carry 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 will take Bush to his presidential library at the university, where he will 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 views of Bush’s flag draped coffin.
“Air Force One of railroads”
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 on December 5 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 spokesperson 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 spokesperson 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.