Eisenhower Funeral Train
The crowd began to gather early on April 1, 1969, waiting for a train bound west to Abilene, Kansas. It was cold and drizzly, but that didn’t prevent thousands of people from paying their final respects to World War II General and former President Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969).
A pilot train arrived first. It was sent about thirty minutes ahead of the funeral train to make sure the tracks were clear and that signals all worked properly. More people gathered until the depots and tracks were lined with crowds numbering in the thousands. When the train appeared, no one rushed the tracks. The crowd was subdued as they watched for the car carrying Eisenhower’s casket. The fourth train car was draped in black with an American flag over it.
The train traveled slowly through the towns, but did not stop until it reached Brownstown, Indiana. There it halted while Julie Nixon Eisenhower (who was the daughter of then-President Richard Nixon and the wife of President Eisenhower's grandson) took a walk to recover from “train sickness.” Three men walked with her to ensure her safety: Doctor Hall, a Secret Service agent, and a man thought to be David Eisenhower, her husband.
The group walked to the drug store to look for a public phone. None was available, so they walked on to the Hillcrest Motel. There they found a phone, but no one on the train knew where they were. After a time, a colonel appeared at the drug store asking where Julie Nixon Eisenhower was. The drug store owner realized who the people were who had been in his store and offered to drive the colonel to the motel where he’d sent the party earlier. Julie and her group got in the car and rode back down to the waiting train.
Brownstown's Depot, now renovated, can be seen at 1200 West Spring Street in Ewing, right on the north edge of town. It now is home to the Brownstown Chamber of Commerce.
The train stopped once more in Indiana, in the town of Washington, where Governor Whitcomb waited to present a wreath of red geraniums and white lilies to Mamie Eisenhower. She did not appear, but Col. Leonard Sims accepted the wreath on her behalf. President Eisenhower is buried in the chapel on his family property in Abilene, Kansas.