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Funeral train for Bush the first for a president since 1969

By Nicholas Sakelaris
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The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush passes through Magnolia, Texas, Thursday, December 6, 2018, along the route from Spring to College Station, Texas. Pool photo by David J. Phillip/UPI
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush passes through Magnolia, Texas, Thursday, December 6, 2018, along the route from Spring to College Station, Texas. Pool photo by David J. Phillip/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The body of former President George H.W. Bush took a 70-mile journey Thursday aboard a special funeral train, reviving a tradition that hasn't been done in 50 years.

The train carried Bush's casket from Houston to College Station, where he will be buried next to his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, and 3-year-old daughter Robin, who died in 1953. The train was pulled by a special locomotive designated for the 41st president with the numbers "4141." It's been painted in the same blue, gray and white livery as Air Force One.

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Bush, who died Friday at age 94, was honored Wednesday in a state funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., which included a eulogy by his son, former President George W. Bush. Air Force One later flew Bush's casket to Houston where a private funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church will be held Thursday. Afterward, his casket was placed on the funeral train for the trip to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station.

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Union Pacific Railroad painted the train 12 years ago in preparation for the president's final journey.

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"[The funeral train] is an opportunity for a large swath of the population to pay their final respects to someone who has done so much for our country," Scott Moore, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Union Pacific, told Atlas Obscura.

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The procession left at 1 p.m. CST Thursday for the two hour and 25 minute trip. The train moved slower than normal so well wishers could see the casket in a car with glass on both sides. It did not make any stops along the way.

Bush's was the first funeral train for a U.S. president in nearly 50 years. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last to have one, in 1969.

The tradition dates back to 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln's body was transported from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Ill., after his assassination. The route roughly followed the route Lincoln had taken to get to Washington after winning the presidency in 1860. Presidents traveled in their own special passenger car, as there was no Air Force One yet.

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The tradition was revived in 1945 when Franklin D. Roosevelt's body was taken from Warm Springs, Ga., to Washington for his state funeral. After, it carried Roosevelt north to Hyde Park, N.Y., for burial. The newly-sworn-in president, Harry S. Truman, and all nine Supreme Court justices also made the trip.

Other statesmen have also been honored with a funeral train. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Los Angeles while running for president in 1968, was transported from New York City to Washington after his memorial service.

Memorial services honor former President George H.W. Bush

Memorial services honor former President George H.W. Bush
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