Throngs witness Obama’s whistle stop tour to DC

Published 1:19 am Sunday, January 18, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama is promising that he and Vice President-elect Joe Biden “will fight for you every single day we’re in Washington” as the pair visited Delaware en route by train to the capital.

Obama paid tribute to Biden, who has commuted by Amtrak from Delaware to Congress for several years. He told a cheering crowd that getting things right for the country is the reason he asked Biden “to take one more ride to Washington.”

At his Wilmington stop, Obama plunged into the crowd and greeted the people. He used his talk to voice the same refrain of recent days: the country should not get discouraged because of its dire economic straits.

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At midafternoon, Obama’s train did a second “slow roll” through Edgewood in the Maryland countryside north of Baltimore. He was greeted by a sizable crowd numbering around a thousand. The temperature dipped even further as the day wore on as the train chugged along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, and onlookers were bundled up to their ears and beyond. The crowds were boisterous, nevertheless. Even as the front of the long train rolled by, with Obama’s distinctive car yet to pass by, the people started a hearty cheer of “O-bama, O-bama!”

A buoyant Obama earlier had waved to cheering throngs of people standing, leaning and jumping along railroad tracks as his whistle stop train slowed to a crawl in Claymont, Del.

Standing on the last car’s flag-draped platform in front of a presidential insignia, he waved enthusiastically as he rode by. He and his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha got an enthusiastic send-off a short time earlier when the train pulled out of Philadelphia’s 30th St. station.

As the train lumbered out of Philadelphia, a conductor bellowed: “Welcome aboard the 2009 inaugural train to DC.”

The route — the same that Abraham Lincoln took nearly a century and a half ago — was 137 miles long, and Obama’s arrival in the nation’s capital was scheduled after the fall of dark Saturday. A couple such “slow-moving” visits were scheduled along the way.

The last car of the 10-car train was built by Pullman Standard in 1939. The train, which otherwise was comprised of Amtrak cars, moved at a fairly fast clip for the 45-minute ride to Wilmington, Del., passing knots of crowds gathered in the bitter cold so as not to miss their piece of the historic events. Commuter train platforms were filled, and smaller groups stood along the train tracks in between as well.