Lincoln Funeral Car Travels Original Route 150 Years Later
Now he belongs to the ages – or maybe to the angels.
At the time of Lincoln’s death, these words are sometimes credited to Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, but whether they are his or not, the words connect Lincoln to his peers and also to those above them.
Warther Museum recently hosted one of the stops for the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train. It traveled from Washington D.C. to Springfield, IL in honor of the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s death. Over 50,000 visitors toured the Lincoln Funeral Car on its journey.
People have always been fascinated with Lincoln’s Funeral since 1865. Ernest Warther carved Lincoln’s funeral train out of ivory to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his death. Therefore, they thought it would be fitting to have the replica of the original, stop by Warther Museum on its journey across America.
The ivory carving was finished in 1975 when Earnest Warther was 80 years old. A hippo’s ivory eye tooth was used because it is the very best grade of ivory. Warther commented, “Nothing but the best for Lincoln” as Lincoln was his hero.
For the 150th Anniversary, outside the museum sat a wooden replica car, which they tried to keep as close as possible to the original. The train car traveled as the trailer of a semi with highway wheels attached.
Dave Kloke of Kloke Locomotive Works in Elgin, IL and a staff of craftsmen were responsible for most of the work on this replica, which took four years to finish. Along the way he had a great deal of help from researchers in construction and history. One of those was a chemist and model train maker, Wayne Wesolowski of University of Arizona. All Wesolowski could find of the original train car was a pencil sized piece of wood. From this the chemist in him determined the original color and type of wood used. He wanted everything to match the original car.
This armored car was compared to Air Force One in regards to security and its design equaled the opulence of railroad cars used by European Royalty. This “Presidential Car” contained three rooms: parlor, stateroom, and sitting room.
Upon entering the car, a 6’8″ casket appeared before your eyes. This long casket was made especially for Lincoln, a tall man for his time. The handles were made by the same company that made the original ones for Lincoln’s coffin. Chairs were for the soldiers to sit as they guarded the coffin during its entire journey.
The presidential bedroom had never been used as President Lincoln felt this Presidential Car was too luxurious when many in the country were living in poverty. This funeral car, draped in black crepe, was one of nine cars in the funeral procession and was always the second to last in line.
Son Willy’s coffin was also on this train even though he had died three years previously. It was in the living room section where it replaced the couch. Lincoln’s wife did not go on this trip as she was too distraught.
This car was never used for anything else or by any other presidents. The following year, it sold for $6850 to Union Pacific Railroad, where it became an officers’ car while building the Transcontinental Railroad. After being displayed at the Worlds Fair in 1904, a grass fire destroyed the train car at Minneapolis in 1911.
One of the main purposes of this excursion was to help young people learn about history. Many local schools took advantage of this unique educational stop in Dover, Ohio to give their students a close look at an oft told story in United States history.
Lincoln would have been pleased as he felt education very important. When speaking to a university he remarked, “A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish and facility for successfully pursuing the yet unsolved ones.”