Far left: As a Senator from Delaware,
Biden made a daily commute from
Delaware to Washington, D.C.
Left: Joe Biden’s 1987 presidential
campaign kick-off celebration at the
Wilmington, Del., station.
Since then, on those many trips
down to Washington, I got into a routine. From Wilmington to Baltimore I’d
read the papers and make phone calls.
At Baltimore, I’d start preparing for that
day’s hearings, amending my opening
statement or going through the list of wit-nesses. And by the time I arrived in D.C.,
I’d be ready to jump right in.
Getting home was sometimes a sprint,
too. One year, on my birthday, my daughter had planned a party for me. She really
wanted to give me a gift and blow out
candles. Senator Bob Dole was the Majority Leader at the time, and we were voting
that night. I told him that I really had to
be home for my daughter, which meant
that I needed to catch the 5: 54 p.m. train.
Senator Dole backed up the votes
until 9 p.m. I boarded the train and,
in Wilmington, my daughter was
standing there on the middle platform. She and my wife sang “Happy
Birthday,” I blew out the candle, took
a piece of cake, opened her gift, gave
her a kiss, and caught the 7: 23 p.m.
going south—and managed to be
there for the 9 p.m. vote.
Amtrak doesn’t just carry us
from one place to another—it
makes things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. For 36 years,
I was able to make most of those
birthday parties, to get home to
read bedtime stories, to cheer for
my children at their soccer games.
Simply put, Amtrak gave me—and
countless other Americans—more time
with my family. That’s worth immeasurably more to me than the fare printed on
A Constant Need
When I took the train every night—and
I still do whenever possible—I always
noticed the lights on in the houses
President Abraham Lincoln’s
funeral train (top right)
leaves Washington, D.C., on
April 21 on an itinerary that
largely retraces the route
taken by President-elect
Lincoln in 1861. America’s
farewell to the president
also marks its introduction
to the Pullman “sleeper” car,
which had been developed
the previous year and served
as the conveyance for the
slain president’s coffin.
The ceremonial “Golden Spike”
(bottom left) joins the Central
Pacific and Union Pacific rail
lines at Promontory Summit,
Utah, on May 10, creating the
first transcontinental railroad.
The driving of the spike by Central Pacific Railroad President
Leland Stanford is captured in
a famous photograph and a
painting by Thomas Hill; it lives
on today in the design on the
Utah state quarter.
In a seminal moment in Ameri-
can labor history, President
Grover Cleveland sends
federal troops to Chicago to
end the strike by the American
Rail Union, led by Eugene
Debs (right), against the
Pullman Palace Car Co.