The presidential funeral will be the first in almost 50 years - ABC News

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The locomotive was painted to resemble the Air Force One, but George H.W. Bush joked that if he had been around during his presidency, he would have preferred to prefer the tracks rather than take flight.

"I could have left Air Force One behind," Bush joked at the presentation of 4141 in 2005, a blue and gray locomotive commissioned in honor of the 41st president and presented at Texas A & M University.

On Thursday, the same 4,300-horsepower machine will carry Bush's coffin, along with close relatives and close friends, for around 70 miles (113 kilometers). It was expected that the journey through five small Texas cities would take about two and a half hours. He will deliver the coffin from the suburbs of Houston to College Station.

There, a march will take Bush to his presidential library at the university, where he will be buried in a private ceremony next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and his daughter Robin, who died at the age of 3 years. in 1953.

The sixth train car, a "Council Bluffs" baggage car, was fitted with transparent sides to allow mourners to line up the tracks to Thursday's views of Bush's flag-draped coffin.

It will be the eighth funerary train in US history and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled from Washington National Cathedral through seven states to his home town of Abilene, Kansas, 49 years ago. The funeral of Abraham Lincoln 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 then transported to New York for a funeral mass and then taken by private train to Washington for the burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of mourners lined up the rails for over 200 miles.

Union Pacific originally commissioned the Bush locomotive to open an exhibition in its presidential library entitled "Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse". It was one of the few times when the company painted a locomotive of any color other than its traditional yellow. After a brief training session during the presentation of 4141 13 years ago, Bush took over from the engineer and helped take the locomotive for a 2 mile hike.

"We continued to travel on the railways all the time, and I never forgot," Bush said at the time, remembering how he got trains and often slept on them, while traveling as a child with the his family. He also called the locomotive "the Air Force One of the railways".

Bush, who died last week in his Houston home at the age of 94, was praised on Wednesday during a funeral service in the national cathedral. In the evening, his coffin was in the Episcopal church of St. Martin in Houston.

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

Union Pacific was contacted by federal officials at the beginning of 2009 and, at the request of Bush, asked to provide a funeral train at some point, said company spokesman Tom Lange.

"We said," Sure and we also have this locomotive that we would obviously like to be part of it, "said Lange. He noticed that the trains were the means of transportation that first brought Bush to his naval service in World War II and back home.

Eisenhower was the last president to travel regularly by train. One of the main reasons was his wife, Mamie, who hated flying. During the 1952 campaign, Eisenhower traveled more than 51,000 miles and made 252 stops. And while he was traveling often, his wife drove the train all the time, Union Pacific said.

However, when Bush defeated the Democrat Michael Dukakis and won the presidency in 1988, both candidates used the trains to make some electoral stops. Bush also occasionally traveled by train in 1992, when he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton, including the fact that the Midwest stopped on board a train nicknamed "The Spirit of America".

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