In early December 2018, hundreds of Houston-area locals lined the railroad near W. Hardy Toll Road to get a glimpse of and salute the historic Union Pacific No. 4141 Engine, a locomotive painted to match Air Force One.
The distinctive, blue and white carrier led the funeral train of President George H.W. Bush as it traveled to College Station, en route to the 41st president’s final resting place next to his beloved first lady, Barbara Bush.
Now, the historic locomotive will have a permanent home, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents announced. On February 4, the board approved a $1 per-year lease, which alotts two acres to expand the grounds of the museum. That space will eventually house an exhibit area for the 4141 locomotive as well as a Marine One helicopter.
These two additions are part of a multi-million dollar expansion being planned by the George & Barbara Bush Presidential Foundation, according to a release. In 2019, Union Pacific announced it would donate the locomotive to the museum. The railroad had surprised Bush in 2005 by painting it to resemble Air Force One in connection with a train exhibit.
Former CEO of Union Pacific Dick Davidson is credited for being instrumental in creating No. 4141 and for jump-starting the fundraising for the museum expansion, a release notes.
Foundation officials note that the goal is to complete the project by 2024 to honor Bush’s 100th birthday. They also note that plans for the locomotive arrival have been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to security precautions, the arrival date will not be publicly announced.
In 2005, Bush said that if No. 4141 Engine had been around during his presidency, “I might have left Air Force One behind.” Bush (or “41” as he was affectionately known in Houston) had recalled fond memories of riding and sleeping on trains as a boy.
Trains also carried Bush to his service as a naval pilot in World War II and back home. They became an unofficial symbol of his presidential campaign in 1988 and 1992 in themed “whistle stop” events.
“It is fitting this significant piece of history will now make its permanent home at the Bush Center at Texas A&M,” said Max Angerholzer, CEO, George & Barbara Bush Foundation, in a statement. “The train meant the world to President Bush. We are grateful to the entire Union Pacific team, especially Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz, for this special gift.”