Hopping on the Obama Train

New U.S. leaders hop the train in an event reminiscent of past presidents.

ByABC News
January 15, 2009, 6:46 PM

Jan. 16, 2009— -- The incoming president and vice president of the United States won't be arriving at the nation's capital in a private jet or fancy limousine.

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden have chosen a more traditional form of transportation -- the train.

The Obama and Biden families will kick off inaugural festivities Saturday with a train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., reflecting past presidents' journey to the White House.

Although the Obamas moved to Washington shortly after spending their Christmas holidays in Hawaii, they are traveling with the Biden family and "everyday Americans" by train in the "whistle-stop tour" that resonates the Lincoln aura.

Abraham Lincoln rode by train from Springfield, Ill., to the capital in 1861, making frequent stops in both small and big towns across the country.

"What Obama is trying to do is touch base with these historic characters and touch base with the traditional form of transportation," said Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University in Montreal and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

Troy said that the tour is designed to take Obama and Biden through "little-stop America," which often feels disconnected from lawmakers in Washington.

It also symbolizes Biden's journey as a senator to Capitol Hill. The senator has said he rode Amtrak from his Wilmington, Del., home to Washington every day for the past 35 years before he was elected vice president.

"The trip marks the final leg of a journey that began on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Illinois and will culminate on the steps of the U.S. States Capitol," the Presidential Inauguration Committee said in a statement.

Inaugural train trips, starting with William Henry Harrison in 1841, were the norm before modern jets gained popularity.

And even modern presidents have staged such a tour to take their message to small towns across the United States.