Where Did "Amtrak Joe," Joe Biden's Nickname, Come From?

What may be Joe Biden's most enduring nickname, Amtrak Joe, began out of family tragedy and morphed into a lifelong support of the railway.

joe biden amtrak, us vice president joe r biden claps while waiting to speak at amtraks joseph r biden, jr, railroad station on august 26, 2016 in wilmington, delaware
(Image credit: Bill Clark)

Former Vice President Joe Biden had gone by a number of nicknames before he officially became Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, but the one that he's probably most known for is "Amtrak Joe." It's been his primary mode of transportation to his work as a politician in Washington, D.C. and back home to Delaware, where he and his current wife reside. It started because of tragedy, but over time he became a huge proponent of trains during his time as a senator and subsequently vice president. It's become an indelible part of his life and work. So how did Joe become "Amtrak Joe," and why is it so significant to understanding who he is?

Biden rode the Amtrak every day after a tragedy.

Biden lost his wife and daughter to a tragic car accident in 1972. He was sworn in to the Senate at his sons' bedsides—they had been critically injured in the crash but subsequently recovered.

joe biden swearing in

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He subsequently began taking the Amtrak to and from Washington, D.C. every single day (the trip's about 90 minutes), so he could be at home with his boys. He did this throughout his career and said it helped him feel closer to his children.

Biden rode the Amtrak every day for 36 years.

Biden's apparently traveled over 2 million miles, the equivalent of four years of his life, on Amtrak. He's a huge advocate for rail travel, facilitating over $2 billion loan in 2016 to help them update trains and stations. He even blogged to Huffington Post about why America needs trains. In it, he talk about the importance of Amtrak to his life. "It has provided me another family entirely—a community of dedicated professionals who have shared the milestones in my life, and who have allowed me to share the milestones in theirs." 

In 2011, the Wilmington Amtrak station was named after him, and at the announcement he explained, "The truth is, I don't deserve this, unless you reward longevity." He added, "Everything, good or bad in my career, the first people I encountered were getting on the train. They were the first ones there for me. I mean, literally. They would say, 'Joe, it's going to be OK.'"

Biden still continues to ride the Amtrak to this day.

The New York Times did a feature in 2008 after Biden was selected as Obama's running mate. The politician's usually quiet ride was bustling and even rowdy as Biden chatted with journalists and members of his entourage. After the 2016 election, Biden was—where else?—quietly seen leaving D.C. headed back to Delaware on the Amtrak.

In traditional fashion, after declaring his candidacy for president, he was seen a few short hours later riding quietly home:

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And he even bumped into presidential hopeful Kamala Harris there while both were campaigning for 2020:

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Although TBD on how often he'll travel this way going forward, depending on how his campaign progresses.

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(Image credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS )
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.