Joe Biden

‘Amtrak Joe' Biden Is Coming to Philly for Amtrak's 50th. How'd He Get the Nickname?

Biden – nicknamed “Amtrak Joe” – has a long, storied history with America’s railroads. Trains helped shape his political identity

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President Joe Biden is set to make a stop in Philadelphia on Friday to help Amtrak commemorate its 50th anniversary while on a nationwide blitz to push his massive infrastructure plan.

The stop at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is part of what White House officials coined the “Get America Back on Track Tour,” as Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris promote their sweeping $2 trillion American Jobs Plan.

(Back on "track." At the train station.)

Biden's plan would create of millions of jobs, rebuild thousands of miles of roads, expand access to clean water -- and dedicate $80 million to modernize existing transit in the U.S., White House officials said.

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Transit is a issue that's important to Biden. “Amtrak Joe,” as he's sometimes called, has a long history with America’s railroads.

Here's how the now-President became known as Amtrak Joe:

Amtrak Joe used to be a very frequent train rider

In the early years of his political career, then-Senator Biden frequently traveled on Amtrak between Washington, D.C. and his home in Wilmington, Delaware. While on the campaign trail, Biden claimed to have made more than 8,000 roundtrips between the two destinations.

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In September of 1988, then Senator Joe Biden on the metro liner to Washington DC. He was returning to work in the Senate having suffered an aneurysm, which was life threatening. (Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images)

Biden used to ride home from his Senate work to spend time with his young sons, who had been injured and lost their mother and sister in a devastating car crash days before Christmas, 1972.

He was known for befriending passengers and Amtrak workers alike. Anyone who rode the busy Philly-to-Washington route had seen him, and often they had talked to him.

In an essay Biden wrote for Amtrak's Arrive magazine in 2010 -- that was later reprinted by the Huffington Post -- he said the trains connected him both to people he represented and to his family.

"For 36 years, I was able to make most of those birthday parties, to get home to read bedtime stories, to cheer for my children at their soccer games. Simply put, Amtrak gave me -- and countless other Americans -- more time with my family," Biden wrote.

A cool ride to inauguration

When President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden were elected into office, the first and second families traveled to the inauguration in style – in a vintage railcar.

Biden joined the train in Wilmington, Delaware (of course), and before he boarded, he was introduced to the crowd by a longtime Amtrak conductor (of course).

Biden had also planned to roll into his own presidential inauguration by train but canceled the ride after the Capitol was mobbed by rioters days before the big event, citing security concerns.

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President-elect Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill board their train at a station in Wilmington, Delaware, January 17, 2009. They are on a train trip to Washington to kick off several days of inauguration festivities with Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on January 20. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

Supporting transit funding

Biden, who entered the U.S. Senate three years after what became Amtrak was created, has a track record of supporting rail funding as a senator. In 1981, then-President Reagan tried to cut Amtrak funding; Biden was the lone Senate Budget Committee vote against it.

In the late 1990s Biden called the development of the high-speed Acela trains in the Northeast Corridor "the single most important transportation need in America," and in his essay about his love of trains, he pointed out that replacing the Northeast Corridor would require adding seven new lanes to Interstate 95.

Biden frequently connects additional development of transit, especially trains, to his environmental goals. "Amtrak is important not only because it helps our quality of life," Biden said in 1990. "It literally impacts our health."

Next stop: the Biden station

In 2011 when he was vice president under the Obama administration, the Amtrak stop in Wilmington was renamed the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station.

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A view of Amtrak's Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station, an Amtrak train station in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s all in the name

So, where did the nickname “Amtrak Joe” come from and when did people start calling him that?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the name was given to Biden, but the earliest media reports of the moniker date back to 2008.

The name popped up on CNN in August 2008, when CNN's Soledad O'Brien used it.

"Coming up next, more on the Washington insider who is also a proud Delaware outsider. They called him the Amtrak Joe Biden. God, I have seen him on Amtrak a lot," O'Brien said, according to a transcript. 

Due to being a decades-long rider and advocate for Amtrak, the president’s nickname “Amtrak Joe” seems fitting.

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