18 Jan 2009

Obama makes historic train trip to Washington

4:04 pm on 18 January 2009

United States President-elect Barack Obama has arrived in Washington on a special inaugural train four days before he's due to be sworn in as the country's 44th president.

His day-long trip from Philadelphia passed through towns and stations packed with cheering supporters, as he retraced the route Abraham Lincoln took before his inauguration 150 years ago.

Mr Obama told a crowd in Baltimore that the United States is facing very serious times.

Mr Obama will be sworn into office on 20 January - an event expected to draw record crowds.

Speaking just before he boarded the train, Mr Obama said he would be carrying the hopes of ordinary Americans with him on his journey to Washington.

"Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but just the beginning," he said. "Let's seek a better world in our time."

The journey began at Philadelphia's 30th Street station, where Mr Obama, a security detail and a media pack boarded the 80-year-old train.

The train made a stop in Wilmington, Delaware, to pick up Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and his family.

In Wilmington Mr Obama said "America faces its own crossroads - a nation at war, an economy in turmoil, an American Dream that feels like its slipping away."

In Baltimore, Mr Obama recalled the troops at Maryland's Fort McHenry, who had defeated the British during the War of 1812. He said it was "time to take up the cause for which they gave so much".

He added: "The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right."

Mr Obama's train slowed to a crawl at a few spots along the route so he could step out onto the back of his carriage and wave to the crowds that lined the tracks.

Late on Saturday the train rolled into Washington's Union Station - only a short walk from the platform where Mr Obama will take the oath of office.

Before that a number of events are planned to kick off the celebrations.

On Sunday Mr Obama will join several celebrities at an official welcome concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The following day, Monday, is Martin Luther King Day. Mr Obama, Mr Biden and their families will take part in activities in Washington aimed at encouraging others to help their communities.

An unprecedented security operation is under way in Washington ahead of the inauguration, with as many as two million people expected to attend on the day itself.