Salute to Lincoln as Obama rides slow train to inauguration

President-elect Barack Obama will take a slow train to Washington - as his hero Abraham Lincoln did in 1861 - arriving in the US capital just days before he is inaugurated as the country's 44th president.


AFP - Barack Obama warned of "difficult days" ahead before heralding his new era of change Saturday by rolling back the years on a pre-inaugural slow train to Washington.

Shadowed by the sheaf of economic and military crises facing Americans, Obama will ride the rails from Philadelphia, the cradle of US independence to marbled Union Station less than a mile from where he will be sworn in Tuesday.

In is last radio and online address before becoming America's first African American president, Obama marveled at the political rite which will take place before a vast crowd and the eyes of the world.

"For the forty-third time, we will execute the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next," Obama said.

"Difficult days are upon us, and even more difficult days lie ahead. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in great turmoil. And there is so much work that must be done to restore peace and advance prosperity.

"But as we approach this time-honored American tradition, we are reminded that our challenges can be met if we summon the spirit that has sustained our democracy since George Washington took the first oath of office."

"There is much work to be done. But now, all Americans hold within our hands the promise of a new beginning."

The rumbling "whistle stop" journey is part homage to Obama's hero, former president Abraham Lincoln, like Obama a former Illinois legislator who capped a cross-country train ride on the same route heading to his inauguration in 1861.

But whereas Lincoln and subsequent presidents once spent days wending their way across the frigid prairies, Obama, a Blackberry-toting product of the jet age, will trundle along on the railroad for just one day.

He will clamber aboard his train, carrying selected supporters, his Secret Service protectors and a big media pack at Philadelphia's 30th Street station to start his 140 miles (225 kilometers) trek southwest.

The train will first slow to a crawl in the town of Claymont, Delaware to allow Obama greet wellwishers.

First stop: Wilmington, Delaware, where Obama will pick up vice-president-to-be Joseph Biden in the small state, which he served in the US Senate until his resignation on Thursday.

Biden might know every sleeper and inch of track -- each day for his 36 years in Congress he commuted to Washington from his home city, which now offers an unwitting reminder of the economic malaise as a hub of the credit card industry.

With his number two in tow, Obama, in a plush Pullman style-carriage with cherry wood fittings which dates from 1930, will then head to the gritty Maryland city of Baltimore.

His outdoor event, a throwback to his thonged election campaign rallies, is expected to draw a vast crowd to a War Memorial plaza, in a city with a large African American population.

Obama will arrive in Washington amid historic echoes in the early evening, for the last time before his presidency.

Obama will take office after the US Senate set the stage for an early victory for the new president by freeing up the second 350-billion-dollar slice of a financial bailout, leaving the House of Representatives to act next week.

Democratic House leaders also laid out their 825-billion-dollar version of Obama's stimulus plan, which he hopes to drive through Congress in a first jolt to the crisis-mired economy.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice announced that a man had been arrested Friday in Brookhaven, Mississippi, after having made threats to assassinate Obama on Inauguration Day.

The suspect identified as Steven Joseph Christopher made the threat in a posting on the website on January 11, according to the affidavit filed by the Secret Service.

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