President-elect Barack Obama's 135-mile "Whistle Stop Tour" is meant to mirror Abraham Lincoln's planned journey by train from Philadelphia to Washington for his inauguration, plans thwarted by assassination fears that forced Lincoln to keep a much lower profile on his 1861 journey.
Obama's tour begins in Philadelphia, where the president-elect will speak at the 30th Street Station at 10:05 a.m. Saturday before he and his family depart. They will be accompanied by a group of "everyday Americans" who have met Obama or Vice President-elect Joe Biden at some point and told them a compelling story. Members of this group will introduce Obama and Biden at each of the events along the tour.
Invitations for the Philadelphia event have already been distributed to about 250 people, according to Philly.com.
The next stop will be in Wilmington, Del., where the future First Family will pick up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his family. An open-to-the-public event there is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the back of the station, which will open for public access at 9:30 a.m. Biden and Obama will address the crowd. The station will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. because of the event, according to Delaware Online. More logistical details are expected Friday.
The next free-and-open event will be in Baltimore at 4:15 p.m. at the War Memorial Plaza with the gates at Baltimore Street and Guilford Avenue opening at 1 p.m., HometownAnnapolis.com reported.
Officials expect 100,000 to 150,000 people at that event, though the plaza can accommodate only about 20,000 people. The event can be watched live on video screens at the Inner Harbor amphitheater and in front of the National Aquarium, the Washington Post reported.
Weapons, explosives, aerosols, laser pointers, packages, coolers, thermal or glass containers, backpacks, structures, bicycles, and animals other than service dogs are also prohibited. Click here for more details about the event.
Because of the event, the city closed the 100 block of North Gay Street at 8 a.m. Thursday, the Post reported. From 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Interstate 83 will be closed from President Street to North Avenue in both the north and south directions. Orleans Street will be closed from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. from Gay Street to St. Paul Street.
Because of expected heavy traffic and congestion, spectators are advised to use MTA's Metro Subway and Light Rail services. Those who plan to use the local bus or mobility services for travel downtown should expect diversions and delays.
Light Rail will run on its regular Saturday schedule from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with round-trip cash fare is $3.20. The stops closest to the event:
University Center/Baltimore Street
Parking is available at the following stations:
- Hunt Valley (85 spaces)
- Patapsco (216)
- Warren Road (370)
- Baltimore Highlands (50)
- Timonium (851)
- Nursery Road (37)
- Lutherville (286)
- N. Linthicum (347)
- Falls Road (110)
- Cromwell (795)
- Mt. Washington (83)
Parking is also available at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, where riders can board Light Rail.
Metro Subway will run a regular Saturday schedule from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Round-trip cash fare is $3.20. The stations closest to the event are at the Charles Center Metro Station or the Lexington Market Metro Station.
Parking is available at the following stations:
- Owings Mills (3,500 spaces)
- W. Cold Spring (300)
- Old Court (625)
- Mondawmin (175)
- Milford Mill (1,300)
- State Center/Cultural Center (50)
- Reisterstown Plaza (700)
- Rogers Ave. (900)
Before the Whistle-Stop Tour reaches Baltimore, Maryland residents can get a glimpse of his train as it passes through Cecil and Harford counties. Cecil County Department of Emergency Services Chief Richard Brooks is urging residents who want to wave at the train to wait at either the Elkton or Perryville train stations, the Cecil Whig reported. Mary Ann Lisanti, a member of the Harford County Committee to Elect Barack Obama, said the train will make a "rolling stop" in Edgewood, slowing to about 1 mph. It's the only slow down scheduled in Maryland, according to Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari. There will be no parking available at the Edgewood station, which will be closed to vehicular traffic. Harford County officials advise spectators to park at Edgewood High School and take shuttles to the MARC station.
Bridges and overpasses will be off limits to spectators.
People hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama's arrival in D.C. will be out of luck, the Post reported. It is not open to the public.
People are being warned to stay 150 feet away from the tracks and live overhead wires and cautioned not to climb nearby poles or structures, said U.S. Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency is warning people to watch from the southbound side of the tracks and avoid the northbound tracks.
Amtrak warned that trains traveling between Philadelphia and Washington that day could be delayed 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Some trains may have to hold in place for a time and more than a dozen trains will bypass Wilmington while the station is closed for the event there.
Air space over the train and the events along the way will be secured, the Secret Service's Blackford said. Major roads or highways aren't expected to close during the tour, he said, but some overpasses along the route could be secured.
On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard will establish security zones on several rivers along the route and in Baltimore's Inner and Northwest harbors, barring unauthorized vessels. Unauthorized vessels will be barred from zones extending 500 yards around Amtrak lines that cross numerous rivers along the route.
The rail car Obama will ride contains the trappings of a fine hotel or yacht, with painted walls, cherry wood, brass Pullman lamps and modern amenities for a comfortable ride. The Georgia 300, a shiny blue car built in 1930, can hold six to eight people comfortably for Saturday's ride from Philadelphia. The leased car is plush and upholstered with a kitchen and two living areas as well as a bedroom and dinning room.
"It is modernized and upgraded, but it doesn't show that," said Jack Heard, who owns the rail car. "It still displays the grandeur of the 1930s."
The Georgia 300 was used as a support car in 1992 by George H.W. Bush during his campaign.
"I guess they liked the car, and it was tapped again to be used for the Clinton campaign in 1996 as his personal car and it just kept on," Heard said.
Obama is already acquainted with the rail car, which he used in April on a whistle-stop tour from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa.