By Scott D. Trostel
For the Troy Daily News
The original funeral car was built in 1864 by the United States Military Railroads at their shop in Alexandria, Va. It was to have been used by President Lincoln for the first time on April 15, 1865, the day he died. The car was put up for sale by the government while the funeral train was en route to Springfield with his remains. It was eventually purchased by the Union Pacific Railroad, ending its days as a simple day coach. The well worn car was sold a developer and stored near Minneapolis, Minnesota where it was stored in a building that burned in March, 1911 prairie fire.
The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Car named, UNITED STATES, a 48 foot wood-body car, and is highly accurate to the original. Stepping beyond the threshold of the door is a decidedly 19th century environment. From the carpet to the furniture and the curtains, Dave Kloke, and his staff of craftsmen provided countless hours of painstaking work to accurately recreate this historic car. Beyond the door a black coffin rests upon the catafalque. On the coffin lid rests a silver plate identical to the one on Lincoln’s actual coffin. The coffin is one of five accurate reproduction As one begins to look around, overhead, is a striking headliner, ceiling, all done in folded rose fabric with a large folded rosette at either end. Each rosette in the car took two weeks to create with the artist laying on his back just inches from the ceiling for its creation. Hanging from the light yellow clerestory (center ceiling) is one of three brass chandeliers. The three chandeliers were custom made from existing photos and sketches of the original by a California craftsman. The clerestory walls display the state seals on raised plaque for the 36 states of the union in 1865. Beside the coffin, two chairs from the Civil War era stand ready to hold the generals who sat with the remains during the historic journey.
Entering the hall, one notices the dark green wall fabric below the window sills. The balance of the interior is finished in varnished red oak. Window frames are trimmed accordingly with tie-back window curtains. A door to the right contains the bedroom, complete with bed, dresser, pitcher and bowl. Below protective floor covers is hand woven red, white and green wool carpet, reproduced from Civil War era carpet patterns, made by a master weaver for this car.
The hall opens into the third room. In 1865, this room held the coffin and remains of young William “Willie” Lincoln. He too made the funeral journey in death with his father. Contained here is a fold-out writing desk, lounge with gray fabric woven for this piece plus two chairs and accessories. The end doors display reproductions of the builders plate used on the original car. All rod iron on the car was hand made by a blacksmith and is identical to the original. The only items not in the car for the present are the two wood/coal heating stoves.
On the outside, the car is decorated as it was when the original funeral car carried Lincoln’s body, including silver stars braiding and black crape bunting. The four corner post have gold and silver leafing.
The four trucks (sixteen wheels) under the car are similar to those used under the original car and feature cast brass eagles on each journal box lid. The journal pedestals are ornate examples of the pattern maker skills and were made specific to this unique car and painted. This car is operational and does include modern air brakes and steel components in place of the oak used in 1865. Its frame and super-structure are steel.
The car is painted a deep maroon with the seal of the President of the United States accurately recreated on each side of the car.
STEAM LOCOMOTIVE LEVIATHAN
LEVIATHAN, No. 63, is a new reproduction locomotive based on civil war designs. This locomotive style and design was typical of at least 24 locomotives, used to pull the original Lincoln Funeral Train. The LEVIATHAN was built by Dave Kloke at his Elgin, Illinois shop, entering service is 2009. It weighs 88,000 pounds and is of the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement. It is accurately painted with colors matching the original locomotive LEVIATHAN of the Central Pacific Railroad. It has extensive and eye-catching gold leafing on a field of red along the tender sides, typical of that era. This locomotive took ten years to construct and is fully operational.
This is a rare opportunity to step back and experience a significant event of history, recreated by masters of their respective trades and talents.