ELGIN – To mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination next year, an Illinois man is constructing a full-size replica of the funeral train car that carried the president’s body from Washington, D.C., to his final resting place in Springfield.
David Kloke is leading an effort to recreate the historic funeral procession attended by 3 million Americans who camped by train tracks waiting for the fallen president in 1865. The train car is scheduled for completion by 2015, kicking off a nationwide traveling exhibit tour, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported.
“I like Lincoln. I was always inspired by him,” said Kloke, of Bartlett. “He did a lot more than the slavery issue for this country.”
Kloke is the owner of Kloke Locomotive Works in Elgin, a business that builds historic trains. Planning for the project began about five years ago when Kloke, with the help of about a dozen volunteers, began reviewing drawings and photographs of the original car in his shop.
He says the plan is to have a historic locomotive pull the car from Washington to Baltimore. It then will be trucked to Springfield for display in May. After that, the exhibit tour will begin when the train car travels across the country.
Dubbed “The Lincoln Special,” the original train car was built in 1864 with the intention that it would be an office car for the president. Lincoln never used it, saying it was too fancy during war time. The car burned in a prairie fire in Minnesota in 1911.
Bill Werst, executive director of The Lincoln Train Project, a nonprofit group created to fund the project, says the train will be put on rails and available for visitors to ride. The group has raised more than $100,000 for the project, but needs about $600,000 total. Werst says he is confident they will raise enough money to complete the project.
“It’s an educational project,” he said. “We’re not looking to make money on it. We’re looking to expose as many people as possible to this.”