Most of you missed Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train on its trip from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, IL. (That is to say, all of you.) President Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, mere days after the end of the Civil War. His body was held in state in the White House and Capitol, and then moved to a special train for his final trip home. If you’d been alive in 1865, and lived along the train route, you’d have seen, over a span of three weeks, people camped out along the tracks to get a glimpse of the funeral train, and hundreds of thousands attending large memorials at stops along the way. Bands played, hymns were sung, bonfires were lit, and some people merely watched in silent reverence as the railway procession passed. This “Lincoln Express” train had just been completed the year before and was the only passenger train ever to be manufactured by the U.S. government. It was originally intended as an office car for President Lincoln, but he never got to ride the train while he was alive. The train itself didn’t live for long. It was destroyed in a 1911 prairie fire near Minneapolis, taking with it an indelible piece of American history. Which is where master mechanic David Kloke comes in. Based in Elgin, IL, Kloke is building a full-size replica of the Lincoln Express and hopes to retrace part of the train car's original journey next April. The trip will mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination. Kloke has some serious train-building cred. He’s already built two 19th-century steam locomotive replicas: the Leviathan 63 by Schenectady Locomotive Works and the York N. 17 by Rogers Locomotive Works. And as someone who had always been inspired by Lincoln and his accomplishments as President, he became consumed with the idea of restoring the legendary funeral train. Part of the project’s appeal, as he describes it: Lincoln never got to ride it while he was alive. He thought it was too fancy to ride in during the war. Kloke started the ambitious project five years ago. He spent countless hours reviewing historical drawings and photographs before heading into his shop and beginning the mammoth task, helped by about a dozen volunteers. As of now, the steel frame of the train car has been built. It’s 48 feet long, 13 feet tall, and ultimately will be clad in wood. He’s currently working on installing window frames, and painting them white on the inside and maroon on the outside (their authentic colors). Some of the train’s metal parts took more than a year to make, such as the unique cast-iron pedestals. However, the wheels are from the 1940s and '50s, as 19th-century wheels aren't legal to ride on modern railways. As for the funerary element, the train will contain a replica coffin, with black silk paneling above a strip of red leather on the walls. And as before, there will be two couches and a roll top desk and chair. The replica is set to start its journey on April 21, 2015, traveling about 40 miles from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. Kloke's Leviathan 63 steam locomotive replica will pull the Lincoln funeral car, traveling up to 20 mph. Kloke has designed this train car so it can be hauled behind a semi truck in addition to riding the rails, so there are more expansive plans to exhibit the Lincoln replica in other parts of the country. So definitely stay tuned: this could be your (second) chance. To see highlights of the work in progress, check out this short video.(Image credit: "Engine W. H. Whiton, and President's car, Alexandria, January,1865" / Library of Congress)
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