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Clinton Choo-Choo Chugs Toward Chicago

August 26, 1996

ABOARD THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAIN (AP) _ A sudden lurch sent the observation car of the ``21st Century Express″ swaying, flinging President Clinton against a wall.

He grabbed a reporter’s wrist, steadying both of them, and went right back to work. Hanging out in the last car of his Chicago-bound train, Clinton ignored railroad’s the bumps and grinds Monday to wave at hundreds of Ohio residents gathered along the tracks.

A microphone boomed out his platitudes _ ``Hi, kids.″ ``Thanks for coming.″ ``Thank you.″ And when the urge struck him, he reached up and pulled a lever that sounded the train’s lonesome wail.

``I love this,″ the president told another reporter making the four-day trip to Chicago with him.

Clinton said he has fond memories of train trips as a youth in Arkansas. When he was 4, he travelled from Hope, Ark., to New Orleans to visit his mother, who was in nursing school. As a young boy, he went to St. Louis for a baseball game.

Clinton said he would like to make another train trip during the 1996 campaign, but he’s not sure if he will have enough campaign money.


The view from the double-decker train has been magnificent. Mile after mile, the lush green fields of southern Ohio rolled by Monday, broken up only by patches of people who came to see the president.

_ One boy stood alone in the front yard of his farm house, waving.

_ A women rushed from the barn to greet the train, but was only halfway up a gravel road when the Clinton blew past.

_ A hand-painted sign leaning against a rusted combine read: ``We love you, Bill and Hillary. 4 More Years!″

Clinton recalled a person zooming up the Ohio River on an individual watercraft, a huge American flag trailing in the wind.

``We’ve seen a lot of fascinating things,″ Clinton said.

Though he is averaging 12-hour days on the train, the president is spending his nights in hotels.

His daughter, Chelsea, and a friend are accompanying Clinton until Tuesday, when the 16-year-old heads for the Democratic National Convention.


After several people collapsed in the West Virginia heat during the first event of the trip, Clinton starting urging the huge crowds _ some numbering in the thousands _ to take care of themselves.

``We don’t want anybody to collapse. We’ve got doctors. We’ve got nurses,″ he said in Arlington, Ohio. ``We’ve got plenty of water.″

One women celebrating her 98th birthday looked like she was growing tired so Clinton invited her to the stage and led the crowd in a chorus of, ``Happy Birthday.″

Retta Lafaun Plott said the song was, ``Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Oh, I had the president right in my hands. I love him!″


Clinton was asked if he was giving up the presidential Boeing 747 for the train. ``Wherever practical,″ he said with a laugh. ``I like it a lot.″

He said work on his nomination acceptance speech is going well, but he still has to ``make sure it’s not too long.″


Along the way, Clinton put pen to paper and signed the Democratic Party form to officially seek his party’s nomination.

``I asked him, `Are you certain you want to do this?′ He smiled,″ said presidential spokesman Mike McCurry.

The form will go to Democratic Party secretary Kathleen Vick, McCurry said. Clinton is to claim the nomination Wednesday night.

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