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:

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

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
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Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.