HOUSTON - Even in a state with ten thousand miles of track, travel by train can seem antique.
But for George Lewis – and a different George – it gave a platform for connection.
Three years since he retired, Lewis dons the vest and hat of Union Pacific. He worked as an attendant, and twice he attended President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
"I was very nervous going into to it because I didn't know what to expect, and when I started talking with him and the First Lady, I got the sense that they were just comfortable people,” Lewis said.
They traveled to College Station, then from Nevada to Oregon around the President's 80th birthday. Lewis loves trains. So, he learned, did the President.
"Back when he was a child, his mother used to travel with him on trains, and that's how he got the love for trains,” Lewis said. "Whenever his demise came, that he would be traveling by train. That was part of his request, I think.”
Thursday in east Texas, President Bush will become the eighth President and first since Dwight Eisenhower to take his final journey by train. He'll take Locomotive 4141, unveiled in his honor 13 years earlier.
"I'm glad he survived as long as he did,” Lewis said.
That ride will be somber. His rides with Lewis contained conversations about faith and service.
"He treated everyone with respect. His love was unlimited,” Lewis said. "He didn't have his nose up in the air, I'll put it that way…he was just down to earth.”
Lewis won't be on Locomotive 4141, but he knew where he'd be Wednesday, watching a service and a President get carried to a car, to be flown on a plane, for his final journey in a fitting vehicle.
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