Hunt County Railroad Photographer, “Boxcar” Jim Satterwhite, journeyed to College Station, Texas on Thursday to get a picture of the George H. W. Bush Funeral Train as it passed by. He wavered several times about making the trip due to the forecast of heavy rain. Nancy, his wife, said, “You will never forgive yourself if you do not make the trip. It is a once in a lifetime event.”
The President George H. W. Bush Funeral Train was pulled by Union Pacific locomotive 4141. It was a brand-new General Motors model SD70AC built in July 2005. The unit was painted explicitly in colors similar to an Air Force One VC-137. It pulled several executive trains from Omaha to College Station, Texas when the George Bush Presidential Library was dedicated in October 2005. The locomotive will eventually be displayed at the library along with “Air Force One” used by our 41st president.
Shortly after the election of 2008, the political climate took a turn for the worst and vandals targeted the locomotive for “tagging.” Many wonder what political message painted on private property by the anarchist opposition can be so crucial as to deface a work of art? The engine remained stored in North Little Rock, Arkansas for the duration. It was inspected and sent to Houston, Texas when Mr. Bush was hospitalized with a severe respiratory infection in 2017. The locomotive was vandalized, and Union returned it to the shop for repainting. It was pulled out again on November 30th when the president passed.
Boxcar Jim went to Rotary Thursday morning and then delivered bread to the workers at Redeemer Lutheran for distribution to food pantries in Greenville and the southern portion of Hunt County. He thought, “it will be a gray, dismal day but it should render a decent photograph.” He had studied the route on Google Earth to determine the best vantage point for the train.
Satterwhite arrived at the Deer Chase Ranch in Millican, Texas about an hour and a half before train time. There were only four or five spectators. The crowd soon grew to fifty or sixty. The ranch owner brought hot chocolate out to the shivering, wet spectators waiting to pay a final farewell to the President.
Some came from Oklahoma and others from nearby cities and surrounding states. AJ St Hilaire flew in from New Hampshire. Soon, radio scanner traffic indicated the train was passing through Navasota a few miles from Millican. Helicopters following the train announced the impending arrival. Well-wishers place coins on the rails. The train came by at a sedate 25-miles per hour. The crowd that had been boisterous became silent and somber as the engine and train passed by. Several placed hands over their hearts as the baggage car bearing the Bush casket passed by. By that time the clouds opened and the rain-soaked everybody. Vehicles started, and peace once again returned to Deer Chase Lane.
Rest in Peace, Mr. President