Campaign Trains in American Politics
How Whistle-Stopping Politicians Use Trains to Win Our Hearts, Minds, and Votes with Photo Ops, Sound Bites, and Social Media
On typical whistle-stop campaign tours, a train would pull into the depot, where it was met by patriotic music played by a local marching band and an enthusiastic and cheering crowd.
People would gather around the last car on the train, which was usually an observation car that had a platform from which an office seeker or elected official would address audiences.
The sides and back of the railroad car were often decorated with red, white and blue bunting, American flags, or campaign signs and posters.
Eventually, one or more local dignitaries would appear on the back platform to praise the candidate, and then introduce the office seeker to the audience. On cue, the politician would step forward to applause or cheers from the audience. He went on to make a rousing speech, thanking and praising local officials, complimenting residents, and referring to local history or important accomplishments. Then he got down to business, making the case for his election or re-election, lambasting his opponents, and asking for votes.
At the end of the speech, the audience clapped and the band played more music as the candidate stepped down from the platform to circulate among the crowd, shake hands, and perhaps hold or kiss some babies.
After a few minutes of this, the politician would climb back onto the railroad platform and wave goodbye to the crowd. The train then slowly pulled out of the station as the band (if there was one) played and people waved and cheered. Children and dogs would often chase after the train for a few minutes as it made its way down the tracks to the next town.