Forty years ago on Saturday, June 8, 1968, a hot sweltering day, thousands of people lined the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks in Cecil County, waiting for the funeral train carrying Robert F. Kennedy’s (RKF) body to pass through on its trip to Washington, D.C. The coaches carrying the Senator’s coffin on this special run departed from New York City on time at 1 p.m. It was scheduled to arrive in the District of Columbia at 5 p.m., but because of the millions of people huddled along the line waiting to pay their respects the special was running about four hours late.
I was a teenager waiting near the Elkton Station in ’68, and as I recall it was around 6 p.m. when it passed through the county. I remember seeing the flag draped casket through the window as the passenger cars passed by as members of the Kennedy family sadly waved to those huddled along the right-of-way. An Elkton Police Officer, Marshall Purner I believe, was at the station, helping to make sure the shocked crowd stayed safe as the funeral train passed by. It was largely a scene of grief and shock here. The people were stunned, many had tear stained faces and some individuals were holding hands as it became obvious that the train was nearing the depot. Some people in the quiet, respectful crowd carried flags. All along the road at North East, Charlestown, and Perryville, as well as at bridges and others spots, residents stood quietly by to pay their respects. A photographer for the Cecil Democrat, one of our weekly papers, snapped a shot of the rear passenger platform as it passed through here. Three members of the Kennedy family on the rear platform, grief obvious on their faces, acknowledged the Elkton crowd. The newspaper estimated that there were 2,000 people at Elkton, 1,500 at Perryville, 1,000 at North East and smaller groups at almost efvery railroad crossing in the county.
Click here to see another Cecil County photo of RFK’s funeral train passing through Eklton