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Presidential funeral train will be first in nearly 50 years

AP  |  Austin (US) 

The was painted to resemble Air Force One, but 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 behind," Bush quipped during the 2005 unveiling of 4141, a blue and gray commissioned in honor of the 41st and unveiled at A&M University.

On Thursday, that same 4,300-horsepower machine will carry Bush's casket, along with relatives and close friends, for around 113 kilometres. The journey through five small towns was expected to take about two and a half hours. It will deliver the casket from suburban to

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 on Thursday views of Bush's flag draped coffin.

It will be the eighth in US history and the first since Dwight D Eisenhower's body travelled from the in through seven states to his hometown of Abilene 49 years ago. Abraham Lincoln's was the first, in 1865.

was never president, but he was running for the when he was assassinated in in 1968.

His body was later transported to for a funeral Mass and then taken by private train to for burial at Thousands of mourners lined the tracks for the 200-plus-mile journey.

originally commissioned the Bush 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 colour 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 of railroads."

Bush, who died last week at his home at age 94, was eulogised Wednesday at a funeral service at the By evening, his casket was at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in

The has been part of the official planning for his death for years, Bush said.

was contacted by federal officials in early 2009 and asked, at Bush's request, about providing a funeral train at some point, company 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 that first carried Bush to his service as a naval aviator in World War II and back home again.

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

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

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 22:55 IST