Crowds in Texas watch Bush's funeral train

Thousands have greeted the train carrying the body of George HW Bush as it travelled though Texas.
Thousands have greeted the train carrying the body of George HW Bush as it travelled though Texas.

The body of former US President George HW Bush has been brought to the burial site at his presidential library in Texas after a funeral at a Houston church where he was remembered by family members who knew him best as "Gampy."

Bush's casket travelled by train from Houston to College Station, Texas, and then carried to the gravesite behind his library by a military honour guard, in a ceremony overseen by his son and former President George W Bush.

Bush, the 41st US president, died last week in Texas at 94. His remains were flown to Texas on Wednesday following a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral attended by President Donald Trump, the four living former presidents and foreign leaders.

"The memorial was a beautiful tribute to President Bush's extraordinary life and a noble legacy to public service," Trump said at a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Thursday. "He was a wonderful man. We will always remember this great statesman and beloved American patriot. He really was very special."

Thursday's funeral service in Houston was held at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush worshipped for more than five decades, and took on a more personal tone with remarks by family members.

George W Bush, who followed his father to the White House after President Bill Clinton's two terms, sat in a front pew near the flag-draped casket and joined in as some 1,000 mourners sang "America the Beautiful."

James Baker, a longtime friend who served as Bush's secretary of state, eulogised the former president as a peacemaker and "a truly beautiful human being."

"He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite eloquent and he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the hard granite of history," Baker said.

Mourners laughed as Baker recalled how Bush would let him know a conversation was over: "'Baker, if you're so smart, why am I president and you're not?'" His voice cracking at moments, Baker said he was at his friend's deathbed last week.

Following the funeral service, Bush's remains were taken by train some 130 km northwest to College Station for the burial alongside his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.

Residents of small towns along the route gathered to wave at the train, a Union Pacific Corp locomotive numbered 4141 and bearing the name "George Bush 41" on the side, as it passed.

Bush, a US Navy aviator who narrowly escaped death when he was shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean during World War Two, was honoured with a 21-plane flyover in a "missing man" formation before he was carried to his gravesite for a private interment.

Bush was president from 1989 to 1993, navigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and expelling former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces from oil-rich Kuwait.

But tributes in recent days have focused on the former Republican president as a man of integrity and kindness who represented an earlier era of civility in American politics.

Australian Associated Press