It would be an opportune time for the man who made about 8,000 round trips on this same route during his tenure as Senator and Deputy Speaker – which earned him the nickname “Amtrak Joe” – and who, there is four years old, left Washington by train on his last day as vice president.
Biden’s groundbreaking team is considering a rail arrival as one of many plans being discussed for the January celebration, Democrats familiar with the planning told CNN. The plan, first reported by Axios, is far from final and there is great uncertainty around any groundbreaking planning given the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats have warned. A spokesperson for Biden’s presidential inaugural committee declined to comment.
Biden’s deep ties to Amtrak and train travel date back to his early days in the US Senate. After losing his wife and daughter in a car crash in 1972, Biden traveled the tracks to and from Washington almost daily to help raise his sons, Hunter and Beau. Biden became one of the biggest supporters of the rail system on Capitol Hill and continued to take the train to Wilmington – albeit less frequently – as vice president.
The roughly 90-minute drive between Wilmington and DC was so central to Biden’s story that the then senator launched his first presidential bid in 1987 at his hometown train station.
He continued, “It is worth infinitely more to me than the fare printed on the ticket. ”
When he began his travels in the 1970s, Biden was a somewhat anonymous senator commuting to work. But during his eight years as vice president, every time he returned to the train he would be flanked by the Secret Service and his reservation would be anonymous for security reasons.
In 2009, as then-President-elect Barack Obama traveled from Philadelphia to Washington by train in an attempt to mirror a similar trip Abraham Lincoln made, Biden jumped aboard in Wilmington for the final stages of the trip.
“It’s not every day that you make your daily commute with the next President of the United States,” Biden said during a layover in Baltimore. “My friends, it’s more than just a train ride. It’s a new start. ”
Amtrak renamed the Wilmington, Delaware station to the “Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station” in 2011 to honor the then vice president.
Flanked by his family at the dedication ceremony, Biden said, “Literally everything good or bad that happened in my career, the first people I met were the people on the train, and the people who work for Amtrak would kiss me. When I was down, when things weren’t going well at all, there were losses in my family, they were the first there for me. ”
A return trip to Washington in January would be a closing moment for Biden, who left Washington in 2017 by train on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“I’ve done over – they actually calculated it, the drivers – 8,200 round trips, over 2 million miles on Amtrak,” Biden told CNN at the time. “Two hundred and fifty nine miles round trip a day, not every day, but an average of 217 days a year. It’s my family, and that’s why I wanted to go home as I came. ”
“Full circle,” Jill Biden interjected.
“Full circle,” Joe Biden said.
At the time, it seemed unlikely that Biden would return to Washington in an elected role. As vice president, he declined to run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, a move that was made in part because of the pain caused by the death of his son Beau Biden in 2015. And while Talks about another presidential election continued among longtime Biden loyalists, there was a feeling among Democrats that the party had pushed him away.
Those Democrats, however, were wrong, and Biden launched his third and ultimately successful presidency in 2019. The day he announced his candidacy, Biden took the train from Washington to Wilmington. And after the first presidential debate in September, he campaigned by train across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
On his last train trip as vice president in 2017, Biden said getting on the rails reminded him that politics is about more than his success and career.
“What I was doing, literally, is you roll around here at night to get home and you look out, you look out the windows and you see the lights on and you think about, I mean sincerely, what is happening in that kitchen table, ”Biden told CNN, pointing to the houses that were passing by. “What are people thinking about, what are their real concerns? ”
When Biden arrived in Delaware that day, he was greeted by a hero: a marching band, friends and family, and a rally where he held back tears.
“You were with me in victory,” Biden said towards the end of his speech. “You were with me in defeat. You all stayed with me.