Society Helps With HBO Video Documenting Passage of RFK’s Funeral Train

Cecil Democrat Photo showing the train passing the Elkton Station.

One Thousand Pictures:  RFK’s Last Journey,” an HBO Documentary tells the story of Robert F. Kennedy’s Funeral Train on its long journey from New York City to Washington D.C. on June 8, 1968.  On that sad day crowds paid their respects as the locomotive and coaches passed slowly down the rails.  This video tells the story of that journey and of America through the photography of Paul Fusco and some of the people who  were there.

The producers, Lichen Films, contacted the Historical Society of Cecil County as they worked on the video, seeking out additional images and people who stood along the Pennsylvania Line.  Images from the Society collection helped supplement the work of Fusco who recorded the entire trip on film for Look Magazine.  In addition to using some local pictures from the collection, the documentarian interviewed McKinley Scott and his son Michael.  Mr. Scott was instrumental in forming the NAACP in Cecil County and two attempts had been made to firebomb the Civil Rights Leaders home a few months before Robert F. Kennedy’s Assassination.

Thousands of people lined the Pennsylvania Railroad Tracks in Cecil County, waiting for the 21 car funeral train carrying the senator’s body to pass through on its trip southward.  The train departed from New York City on time at 1 p.m., and it was scheduled to arrive in the District of Columbia at 5 p.m.  But because millions of people huddled along the line waiting to pay their respects the special was running about four-hour late when it passed through here around 6 p.m.

Hundreds of people were in the vicinity of the Elkton Station when the passenger coach containing the senator’s flag draped coffin passed by the hushed depot.  Members of the Kennedy family were on the rear platform sadly waiving to those huddled along the right-of-way.  An Elkton Police Officer, Marshall Purner, stood guard at the station, helping to make sure the shocked crowd stayed safe as the locomotive rolled slowly 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 station.  Some people in the quiet, respectful crowd carried flags or handmade signs.  All along the road at North East, Charlestown, and Perryville, as well as at the bridges and open spots, residents stood quietly, patiently waiting to pay their respects.

Photographers for the county’s two weekly newspapers, the Cecil Democrat and the Cecil Whig, snapped shots of the train.  Three members of the Kennedy family were on the rear platform, grief obvious on their faces, solemnly acknowledging the Elkton crowd, the Democrat noted.  The papers estimated that there were 2,000 people at Elkton, 1,500 at Perryville and 1,000 at North East and smaller groups at almost every railroad crossing in the county.

We have added the video to the Society’s collection.

kennedy funeral train

Video frame from documentary. Charlestown bids farewell to Bobby.

We have added the HBO Documentary to our collection.

kennedy funeral train june 19768 1a

Cecil Whig Photo at the Elkton Station

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